Produce bags—yay or nay?

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My little garden has been quite the little producer. Here’s a shot after a heavy round of harvesting. I took away about two-thirds of those big leafy greens on the right and it still looks abundant, doesn’t it? Amazing.

With all this production I’ve had to quickly come up to speed on preservation strategies. For super abundant crops like the turnip and beet greens I blanch, vacuum pack and freeze a little more than half of the harvest. I’m always shocked that it ends up being about 10 percent of the original volume. On the other hand, those little bricks of vacuum-packed green don’t overwhelm my freezer either and that’s a good thing considering that it’s currently full of 40 pounds of elk meat.

For other crops like lettuce, mesclun, and chard I wash, dry and wrap them in paper towels for storage in the fridge.

Here’s what my fridge look like right now:

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It’s packed. Prior to my little garden I used to bring home my store bought greens, wash ’em, wrap them in paper towels and store them in ziplock bags. Frequently, I would just wash the ziplock out and reuse it later, but not always. I was starting to feel a little wasteful, plus I was worried that the ziplocks don’t really allow the vegetables to breathe.

So, I bought these little reusable mesh produce bags by 3B Bags. You get 3 bags for $8. I found them at the Container Store, but I think they’re sold all over the place. I love ’em. They’re light weight and see-through, which makes sorting your produce super easy.

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But they’re also made of thin nylon and although they’re washable I didn’t think they’ were going to live long in my hard working kitchen and laundry. The other thing is that for some items, the mesh it a little too breathable. It’s terrific for tomatoes on the counter top, but greens don’t like quite that much exposure to air because it’ll cause them to wilt faster. Even though I always wrap them in paper towels first I noticed a faster rate of wilt than when I stored them in ziplocks.

Turns out with all the garden production I needed A LOT of baggies, so I decided to make my own and see if I could get better preservation rates along with saving a few bucks. I wanted them to be a little sturdier, but still breathable so I chose a medium-weight muslin for $3 a yard. One yard yielded nine bags: Six bags were about 12×15″, and three bags were extra long at 14×20″.

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Here’s the extra long baggie …

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… perfect for long greens like chard.

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Because I’m a girl who loves a little bling, I dressed up the baggies with a little ric rac trim, $1 per pak. Adding the ric rac almost doubled my cost, but I thought the happy colors were worth it.

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One pack of ric rac accessorized 3 bags. I used the tiny scraps to monogram a couple of bags, which you can see in the extra long bag of chard above.

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Their construction was pretty simple: I folded them at the bottom, sewed up the sides, turning in and binding the seams twice for extra strength, and then flipped the top inside to hold a thin elastic cord. I just tied the cord in a little knot and voila, done!

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For $8 (includes fabric, ric rac and elastic cord), I got nine produce bags.

They easily stand up to machine washing. And hallelujah, my greens keep as well as when I used ziplocks. It works! And not just that, it works fabulously!

The only thing that I don’t love is that they’re opaque and I can’t instantly see the contents. However, they are thin enough that I can still read a stickynote stuck inside the bag. Heh, I’m a little OCD. Even when I stored things in ziplocks I always tucked a stickynote in the bag labeled with the contents: arugula, spinach, etc. This still works if I label with a Sharpie marker.

I’ve heard that people use these bags when they go to the farmers’ market or even the grocery store with the advantage that a) you don’t waste plastic bags and b) keeps you organized from the get go.

Even if you just use them like I do, in the fridge only, they’re extremely effective at preserving produce and that’s a YAY! for me cause I did not work my buns off in the garden only to have any of that beautiful produce go to waste.

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