| The bio-intensive approach to small-scale household food production |
|Handling of garden produce|
Vegetables and fruits have a short shelf life and have to be handled immediately after harvest. Leaving them unattended in one place will induce sprouting and rotting. Before storage, the commodity should be washed with chlorinated water, rinsed and air-dried.
Ways of Prolonging Shelf-life of Fruits and Vegetables
1. Sprinkling with water
Sprinkling water twice a day on some vegetables like winged beans (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus) and fruits like rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) minimizes weight loss.
A disadvantage is that the free moisture hastens the growth and multiplication of microorganisms. Make sure that there is time for moisture to dry before sprinkling again.
2. Wrapping with fresh leaves
Leaves such as banana (Muss a sapientum) and gabi (Colocasia esculenta) are good wrappers to keep a small amount of fruits and vegetables fresh for a few more days. Winged beans wrapped in fresh leaves can last for one-and-a-half to two weeks. Unwrapped ones only last for three days.
Banana leaves have to be slightly wilted over a fire to prevent them from cracking while in use. Leaves have to be changed before shrivelling and losing their protective property. Gabi leaves easily rot, so these should be changed before rotting occurs.
3. Drip Coolers
A wet cloth can serve as a short-term storage for fruits and vegetables. One method is to cover the commodity with wet a cloth. Another method is to place a basin of water on top of a table and let a piece of cloth drop from the basin to the floor enclosing all the sides of the table. Beneath the table is the produce placed on a piece of banana leaf, newspaper or burlap. The cloth acts as wick, draining water from basin to the produce and forming a "curtain" around the produce.
4. Storage in Moist Sawdust
Wash produce to be stored, preferably with chlorox to achieve longer storage life. Use 1 liter of water with 1 tablespoon of chlorox. Air-dry to remove excess water. Use this solution to moisten the sawdust.
Use clean and pure sawdust. If it has been used before, sterilize it by sun-drying. Remove splinters to prevent them from injuring the commodities.
Moisten a kilo of sawdust with I liter of water. This can store I kilogram of tomatoes (Lycopersicon lycopersicum) or eggplants (Solanum melongena).
Mix sawdust and water thoroughly. Put it in a container or on clean floor in a cool, ventilated area. Bury the vegetables in the moist sawdust on a layer-by-layer arrangement. The first layer consists of sawdust, then a layer of vegetables, a cover of sawdust and so on. Each layer of vegetables should be left covered with medium-thick, moist sawdust.
Eggplant stored in this medium are good for more than a week under ordinary conditions.
Other commodities like potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), tomatoes, sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) and mangoes (Mangifera indica) can be stored for short periods.
Storage in sawdust inhibits loss in weight as well as shrivelling. Sawdust, however, can be a source of infection if it comes in contact with any spoiled product.
Storage in sawdust is not applicable for leafy vegetables because it is difficult to remove sawdust particles from the leaves.
5. Clamp storage
Storing produce in piled layers of straw is used by onion growers. This is known as clamp storage. Crops such as potatoes, sweet potato, cassava (Manihot esculenta) and other root crops are also stored in this manner, sometimes as a curing method. Curing is a wound-healing process to prevent entry of microorganisms.
Straw and grasses are common materials used. Layers of these materials are alternated with layers of produce until a convenient height is reached.
For onions (Alliurn cepa), a bamboo air duct (called breather) is provided to prolong storage life. This is made of longitudinally-cut bamboo slats tied together to form a tube with spaces between slats. It could also be a whole bamboo with nodes removed and hoses made along the sides at certain intervals. The breather is inserted vertically into the pile so that heat of respiration will escape. Protect the clamp against the rain, However, do not cover the clamp with plastic film, especially under full sunlight. to prevent rotting.
6. Storage in Clay
Moistened clay jars are good places for storing some fruits and vegetables. The use of the clay jar is based on the fact that water evaporating from the area cools the immediate surroundings and increases the moisture in the air.
Vegetables like cabbages (Brassica oleracea var. capitata), eggplants, tomatoes, pole sitao (Vigna sesquipedalis) or winged bean can be stored in clay jars for a week. Clay jars can be moistened or kept cool in many ways:
a. One method is to pour water over the covered jar enough to wet it. This provides the water for evaporation. Repeat the process when the sides of jar dry.
b. Another method is to seat a jar in a pan containing a small amount of water to provide a continuous supply of moisture that will seep up the sides of the jar and evaporate. Because free water accumulates at the bottom of the jar, a platform, made of banana stalks, sticks or any material that can support the commodities, should be provided to avoid the stored commodities from getting wet.
c. Jars can also be buried halfway in moist sand or soil in a cool shady place to provide the necessary coolness. This method works well with mangoes and cabbages. Ants find the cool jars a nice place to live in, so watch out for their invasion.
d. For big jars, there is a difficulty of getting water to rise from the bottom up the sides. This can be remedied by putting sacks or cloth over the covered clay jar and placing an inverted bottle of water on top, so the water drips slowly through the cloth or sack.
ASEAN-PHTRC. 1981. Village Level Handling of Fruits and Vegetables; Traditional Practices and Technological Innovations. ASEAN-PHTRC Extenstion Bull. No. 1