f/k/a . . . the archives

November 3, 2008

stop misting my broccoli! (updated)

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,Procrastination Punditry — David Giacalone @ 2:41 pm

..  While all the web pundits are yakking about tomorrow’s Presidential Election, Prof. Yabut wants me to deal with a more personal issue that has been giving him agita for even longer than this interminable political campaign:

The constant misting (spritzing) of produce in America’s supermarkets seems to reduce their at-home “shelf-life” by making them rot, mold, discolor, lose flavor, and go limp, far more quickly than if they were sold in dry bins.  The misting is done to make them appear more fresh at the store (and to replace moisture that is naturally lost after being picked and reduces the size and weight of the items).

Whether it’s broccoli, green beans, bell peppers, or leafy veggies, my friends and relatives from several generations have all noticed that dry (unmisted) produce stays fresh and usable longer at home than misted produce.  Nonetheless, about 90 percent of retailers now use automated misting systems.  (see “Produce in the mist,” Store Equipment & Design, by John Frank, July 2000) The quick demise of misted vegetables is an expensive waste.

The misting increases the cost of items sold by the pound, while forcing customers to waste time and paper towels attempting to dry the produce before refrigerating them.  And, water sitting around in the display bins is a great place for bacteria to thrive.

At my local market, which is part of the Price Chopper chain, you need to don a slicker or bring an umbrella to keep from being soaked by the incessant, high-volume spritzing.

shopping for sweet corn –
the attractive stranger
is very choosy

stop drowning our green beans!

the grocery bag spills –
blueberries . . . r  o  l  l
bananas don’t

….. by dagosan

At a farmer’s market yesterday, I was told by a 5th-generation vegetable farmer whose large, firm, broccoli I was admiring, that she has to take special care this time of year to make sure the frost has evaporated from the inside of the bunches before being picked.  Similarly, websites that give advice on caring for purchased vegetables and them keeping fresh (like here and there) warn not to wash vegetables until you are going to use them; and others suggest placing a paper towel with vegetables in plastic bags, “to absorb excess moisture and retain freshness.”

Such advice seems to confirm my suspicions that excess moisture kills vegetables and store-spritzed veggies have a shorter life expectancy.

[But see, this study, "Cold water mist humidification to preserve the quality of fresh vegetables during retail sale." I don't know whether the observed freshness "during retail sale" continues once brought home by the consumer.  Similarly, I have no idea what these conclusions "on Ascorbic Acid Retention in Broccoli During Cabinet Display" mean post-retail.]

Sure, there are more important issues.  I’d rather have universal health care and peace in Iraq than dry produce.  But, we can’t let bigger issues keep us from attending to the small ones.  At least, not when we’re procrastinating from writing serious punditry.

unaware of the thief’s
eyes, melons
cooling in water

…….. by Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue

afterwords (Nov. 5, 2008; 2 PM): Yesterday afternoon, I sent the following email message to the service reps at my local supermarket, Price Chopper, through their website contact form.  If I receive a reply, I’ll report on it here.

Nov 3, 2008

To: Price Chopper

From: David Giacalone
Subject: misting produce – speeds rotting

Message: For quite awhile, it has seemed to me (and to many others whom I’ve asked about it) that vegetables (e.g., broccoli and green beans) that are misted at your produce displays rot or mold, or become limp and less tasty or attractive, far more quickly than vegetables in bins not being spritzed.

I know you mist them to keep them LOOKING fresh and to replace naturally depleted moisture. Neither of those reasons seems to justify shortening their “shelf-life” once we get them home.

I’ve found many sources on keeping vegetable that advise not washing them before storing them, as well as putting a paper towel with some vegetable to help absorb the extra moisture.

Do you have studies on this subject that would rebut our negative experience with misted vegetables?

update (Nov. 7, 2008):  This afternoon, I received a rather unsatisfactory Consumer Response to the above Complaint from Price Chopper.  To be fair to them, I’m going to post their entire email reply in “Case ID: 166757″:

November 6, 2008

Dear Mr. Giacalone,

Thank you for your recent email.  It is always helpful to hear our customers’ concerns, and to be given a chance to respond to them.

Your comments regarding produce misting have been forwarded to our corporate produce office for review and advisement.  We have been informed that we mist our produce to keep it fresh.  If our produce isn’t moistened it tends to dry out and decay much faster.  This is a common practice and has already been proven, so further testing is not necessary.  Your feedback on this matter is appreciated.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to address your concerns.  It is our intent to provide excellence in all areas of service to our customers.  Your patronage and your comments are very important to us.  Please feel free to contact us at 1-800-666-7667 (option 3), Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5pm, or on our website at www.pricechopper.com.

Sincerely,

Maureen E. Murphy
Manager of Consumer Services
Price Chopper Supermarkets

..  If you came here today just looking for some fresh haiku and senryu, from a gardener who knows how to take poper care of his plants, before and after harvesting, you’re in luck.  Here are some of the newest poems by our dry friend Yu Chang, from the newest issue of Upstate Dim Sum:

a change in the weather
the last katydid
falls silent

first bloom
I empty
a bag of manure

water’s edge –
on each wavelet
your reflection

summer solstice
a milkweed
heavy with blossoms

street vendor–
a circle of friends
chewing squid

mountain lake –
streaks of moonlight
down her back

pressed together
across an empty bowl
a pair of chopsticks

… by Yu ChangUpstate Dim Sum (2008/II)

2 Comments

  1. david,
    this is a subjectthat’s close to my heart…laurice & i were at whole foods on saturday. they too mist as if the produce was sitting in the middle of the mojave desert.

    i picked up a bunch of parsley & had to shake it vigorously to get rid of the ridiculous amount of water it was holding.

    i then picked up a bunch of scallions. had to wipe them off
    on my jeans.

    anyone who’s gone through an elementary school science class knows what an excess of water
    will do to any number of vegetables.

    anyway, this is a cause worth taking up. where do we go from here? how to let people know that cool & dry is far better than wet?
    ed

    sunset
    the deep red
    of an upturned radish

    Comment by ed markowski — November 3, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Ed. We’ll have to brainstorm about our next move. Let’s find some consumer advocates with clout.

    Comment by David Giacalone — November 3, 2008 @ 9:11 pm

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