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Why does charcoal extend the life of veggies and fruits
Specific kinds of charcoal adsorb this gas, allowing produce to last longer and remain more nutritious.
Compounds that extend the life of produce in this way are called ethylene scavengers.
The food industry has studied this field extensively, because:
- Produce needs to look its best for it to be purchased by buyers.
- The more our food systems become globalized (think: long term storage), instead of small and local, the more they need to ensure produce and other food items will last before distribution.
(Of course, buying small and local is better! Or, growing our own …) 🙂
How Charcoal Packets fit into your busy kitchen, a little homestead or farm life
And that last comment (growing our own) is what enticed me into making my own DIY Charcoal Packets!:
With a big garden this year that includes zucchini and apples, I want to keep these items fresh without canning or freezing for as long as possible.
And, I can’t resist extending the life of our bananas, either!
So whether it’s something as ordinary as your fruit bowl – or something that comes only once a year, like a big yield of locally grown produce, DIY Charcoal Packets are fast to make and really make a difference.
Materials you need for DIY Charcoal Packets
Gather the following 2 simple ingredients to make your DIY Charcoal Packets to Make Veggies Last Longer in the Fridge:
- Cheesecloth Bags— Or use plain cheesecloth, if you prefer, which is a better value (because you’ll have a lot of leftovers for another use), but more work to gather and seal around the charcoal.
- For basic home use, I find the Cheesecloth Bags to be a much better choice. They’re much easier than folding and sealing big sheets of cheesecloth. (Specifically, the product I link to provides enough bags to make 8 sachets, which is more than most of us need. Money-wise, that works out to $1 per sachet.)
- Best bulk hardwood activated charcoal <– I only recommend this product. Only choose hardwood charcoal.
Many charcoals on today’s market are derived from coconut shell, and these do not work as well: “the effectiveness of the adsorption … depends on the … porous structure of the charcoal.” (1)
How long do Charcoal Packets work
I don’t yet have personal experience to share on the topic because I just started using and seeing the benefits of activated charcoal for produce myself, but theoretically, and based on similar products and studies:
Activated charcoal packets can work as long as 2 years by periodically exposing them to direct sunlight for several hours. Exposure to sunlight recharges them whenever you feel them slowing down or no longer working. The porous nature of charcoal clears out with sunlight exposure and allows it to adsorb again.
I share more on how to do this in the DIY “recipe” below.
If your packets get damp or wet
If your cheesecloth packets ever feel damp or get wet, place in a dehydrator for about two hours, or until they’re dry again. See the recipe itself below for more details on this or alternatives.
DIY Charcoal Packets for Making Veggies & Fruit Last Longer in Fridge (or at room temp)
- small scoop or measuring spoon
- plate or paper napkin
- Place three cheesecloth baggies one inside the other, so the sachet is 3 baggies-thick. You may find this easiest by folding each one in half lengthwise and slipping it into the next bag, and then unfolding it. Repeat until all three bags are fit inside each other.
- When first opening the bulk bag of charcoal, be aware that some may spill out. You can wear latex gloves, or just know that some of the fine powder will get on your fingers and under your nails and be a little hard to wash off. Charcoal can also stain clothing.Clear a work space so if spills happen, it won't be a problem. You may wish to place the 3-fold sachet onto a paper napkin or plate. Very fine charcoal sediment will likely come through the bag as you prepare it, but only the tiniest amount.
- Use a small scoop, measuring cup or tablespoon to carefully transfer charcoal into innermost bag.
- Tie the innermost bag first, then tuck it down a bit.
- Next, tie the second bag, sealing it up.
- And finally, tie the outermost bag.
- Place sachet in the produce drawer of your fridge, on the counter with your bananas, in cold storage with apples, next to winter squash, in your fruit bowl, or wherever you want to extend the shelf life of your produce.
- Repeat the process, and make multiple bags, if you'd like to use them around the house for various needs. (These sachets also reduce odors.)
- If you find they work less well over time: Set them in the hot sun for two hours to refresh the porousness of the charcoal. If there's no hot sun, store them away until summer (after dehydrating; see note below), make new bags, and then refresh any older ones when the weather improves. OR, I use my sun lamp (find the Fiji model here) for this purpose, or you could even use a tanning bed or reptile lamp.If your Charcoal Packet gets damp or wet: Place the entire packet into your dehydrator until it dries out again, about 2 hours on the highest setting, depending on your dehydrator. Some machines may require longer. Or in the summer, place out in the hot sun to dry out.If you don't have a dehydrator, and there's no hot sun, use your oven on its lowest heat, with the door propped open, or place packet in warm oven after use (when it's off), with the door propped open. Some people use a wooden spoon handle so the oven door is open just enough to allow circulation, without cooling the oven down too much.
If you don’t want to make your own
Yes, there is a product you can buy, if you don’t want to make DIY Charcoal Packets for Making Veggies Last Longer in the Fridge.
It’s here. This product shares, “extend vegetables’ shelf life by lowering the level of the plant gas thus to help keep your food fresh.”
The only reasons I don’t prefer the product are:
- It’s easy and cheaper to make my own.
- The store bought product is made with lots of plastic, and I really try to avoid plastic products whenever I can.
But, the product gets great reviews, if you’d rather.
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You might also enjoy:
- How to Detox with Activated Charcoal and Apple Cider Vinegar
- How to Take a Detox Bath: from Charcoal to Magnesium
- Tips on How to Keep Your Produce Fresh — includes which veggies to store in the fridge and which ones not to.
- The 5 Best Remedies for Stomach Aches
- How & Why to Drink Bentonite Clay