Rethinking the Refrigerator: How to use nature to store food and save money
By Laura Hogg More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the NatuREport Blog Series
Last Thanksgiving, my family encountered a crisis. In a truly spectacular example of bad timing, we discovered after dinner – while packing up the substantial leftovers – that our refrigerator had decided to call it quits.
Panic ensued. We scrambled around the house, making rapid-fire decisions about what could be stored in the freezer, what could survive in the pantry, and what should be thrown out. “What am I supposed to do with these sweet potatoes?” “Will these mushrooms last the night without going bad?” “Does this mean we get to eat the whole pie now?”
And amidst the chaos, I realized: in many ways, without my refrigerator, I am absolutely clueless about food.
A lost skill
For thousands of years, people were forced to come up with clever solutions to keep their food fresh. These days, we all bow to the almighty fridge. “We hand over the responsibility of taking care of food to the technology, to the refrigerator,” says Korean designer Jihyun Ryou. “We don’t understand how to treat it.”
Ryou is on a mission: in her words, to “save food from the refrigerator.” She is the creator of a project by the same name, which showcases her solutions for storing foods outside the fridge. On the surface, her clean, elegant designs look modern, but her point is that they’re precisely the opposite: they’re getting back to our roots. “My design looks at re-introducing and re-evaluating traditional oral knowledge of food, which is closer to nature,” she says.
Unfortunately, Ryou’s designs aren’t available commercially. However, many of her ideas are simple enough to replicate at home! Here are a few you can try:
#1: Store apples with potatoes
Ever heard the phrase “one rotten apple spoils the barrel”? It turns out that’s true. Like many fruits, apples emit something called ethylene gas as they ripen, causing produce around them to spoil faster – especially in the confines of a closed refrigerator.
Potatoes, however, love ethylene. When exposed to it, they won’t sprout, meaning that they stay fresh longer so you don’t have to buy more. It’s a match made in produce heaven!
Ryou’s design may be made from expensive wood, but there’s no reason you can’t make this on the cheap! Simply take an old box and cut circles in the top so that an average-sized apple would stick out halfway. Use the inside of the box to store potatoes, cutting doors on one side of the box for easy storage and removal.
#2: Store root veggies upright in sand
Most vegetables grow vertically, so it stands to reason that they would stay fresher if stored that way. According to Ryou, “Keeping roots in a vertical position allows the organism to save energy and remain fresh for a longer time. This shelf gives a place for them to stand easily, using sand. At the same time, sand helps to keep the proper humidity.”
In a true marriage of practicality and design, you can repurpose a pitcher or large vase as a home for carrots and parsnips! If you really love your root veggies, you might even consider using an aquarium or terrarium to house them all.
#3: Store fruit and veggies with water
While the fridge is awfully convenient for storing food, it’s really not the best environment for many types of produce. Refrigerators are essentially devoid of the moisture that fruit and veggies crave. The solution? Store your produce near water!
Ryou’s pretty, holey plate-and-bowl combo is admittedly more elegant, but the same effect can easily be achieved with a colander and a bowl of water. If you’re looking to eat healthier, take note: studies have shown that fruit gets eaten faster when stored in brightly colored bowls.
For more information about Ryou’s project, check out her website.