How to Store Food in the Monsoons
While the perfect time to enjoy many seasonal specialities, the monsoons also bring their fair share of food woes, with spoilage being the most common. Spoilage is often due to microbial growth (bacteria and moulds), food going soggy due to the humidity and the abundance of pests which seem to run amok. But by exercising a little care and storing food correctly, we can prevent food from being wasted or ruined in these ways…
Keep them Dry
Here are a few tips for correctly storing some of the commonly spoiled foodstuffs:
- Grains such as wheat and rice must be stored in airtight containers. Keep worms away from rice by tying camphor pieces in a cloth before placing in the rice jar. Adding a few neem leaves to rice and wheat is also helpful. Dry roast semolina (rawa / sooji) and broken wheat (dalia) and store in the refrigerator.
- Sun-dry or dry roast all your pulses before storing them in airtight jars. You can also microwave them for 2-3 minutes, cool completely and then store. However, if you’ll be sprouting the pulses (such as moong, chickpeas etc.), do not roast or microwave them. Store them in the refrigerator after sprinkling some boric powder. Do remember to wash them thoroughly before use.
- For ground flour (atta), place a few bay leaves in the container. This absorbs the moisture and prevents the flour from spoiling.
- Sugar and salt tend to become sticky during the rains. Store them in a dry place, preferably in glass containers. Add a few cloves or some grains of raw rice to the container to absorb moisture.
- Spices also require special care. Sun-dry or microwave chillies before storing. Add salt to dried tamarind (imli). Add a few cloves to chilli powder to prevent it from clumping. Place bay leaves amongst spices such as pepper, cardamom, cumin etc. Store all ground masalas in the refrigerator.
- Bread also spoils very quickly during the monsoons. Preferably buy smaller packs and finish it off in a day or two. If you must store bread, wrap it properly and keep in the refrigerator. Toast it well before consuming. Always check each slice for any growth of mould or fungus.
While eating fresh fruits and vegetables is important, it’s advised to avoid raw foods during the monsoons.
Vegetables and fruits rot faster during the rains, so it’s necessary to keep them dry and store correctly. Carefully wash veggies such as cauliflower, cabbage, capsicum, spinach, coriander etc., wrap them in newspapers and seal in zip lock bags, before placing in the refrigerator. The newspaper soaks up moisture and keeps the veggies fresh.
Store fruits in the refrigerator, ideally whole. Wrap cut fruits in cling film and refrigerate. Dry fruits must be kept in zip lock bags and ideally in the freezer.
Rain or Shine
And finally, a few general tips for storing food, come rain or sunshine:
- Cool down and refrigerate leftovers immediately (within 90 minutes) and consume the same day. Reheat and re-serve leftovers just once.
- Do not overfill the refrigerator and allow the air to circulate.
- Ensure that your refrigerator is set to the optimum temperature (below 5°C).
- Compartmentalise your food to prevent contamination.
- Store raw meat, poultry and seafood in a separate area, preferably on the lower shelf, so that they don’t drip onto other foods.