5 Ways Restaurant Equipment Will Benefit Local Growers
Last updated on September 7th, 2023 at 02:24 pm
Locally grown produce has seen a boom in popularity in the last decade. With a focus on environmentally friendly practices and fresh seasonal menus, restaurants have begun to rely more heavily on local growers for their produce supply.
Locally grown produce is sourced, produced, and consumed in a limited geographical area. This concept supports communities and reduces the environmental impact of food transportation.
Of course, restaurants aren’t the only ones who love fresh produce. Home chefs of any skill level love to buy locally sourced produce.
Buying local allows chefs to get the freshest ingredients possible.
Once fresh produce reaches the kitchen, chefs will use restaurant equipment to prepare it for meals. However, local growers can benefit from using restaurant equipment, too.
In this blog, we will discuss five ways commercial restaurant equipment can boost quality and efficiency for local growers.
1. Sanitizing Your Produce
Generally, locally grown produce holds less bacteria than produce that’s been shipped hundreds of miles to its destination.
However, produce should always be washed before peeling or cutting. Bacteria from the outside of raw produce can transfer to the inside as it’s prepared.
Local growers who plan to process their produce into jams, pickles, or sauces before selling should have a dedicated station for sanitization. Veggie wash stations come in different sizes and configurations to meet many needs.
This one-compartment BK Resources sink is an excellent option for operations of any size.
Paired with this T&S Brass low-flow spray attachment, growers can confidently wash any produce.
You should never sanitize fruits and veggies in the same sink you do dishes in. Installing a separate wash station prevents cross-contamination and the spread of bacteria.
For the freshest produce, sanitize right before prepping, not sooner. Certain fruits or veggies can lose freshness if washed days or weeks before processing.
2. Storing Fresh Produce
Properly stored produce will retain freshness longer. Every fruit and vegetable has an ideal storage environment to stretch the amount of time it remains fresh.
Rather than just tossing everything in the refrigerator or on a shelf until it’s time to sell, consider dialing in to the right storage conditions for fresher produce and a longer shelf life.
Leafy Greens – Keep in an airtight container. To keep your greens crisp and unwilted, avoid washing before storage.
Cabbage, Broccoli, and Cauliflower – Refrigerate loose before cutting. Store in an airtight container once cut to slow oxidization.
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes – Store in a cool, dark place. Keep away from items and appliances that generate heat.
Other Root Vegetables – Beets, Turnips, carrots, and other root veggies should be refrigerated. Remove any leafy green tops. The tops will continue to absorb water from the root vegetable after harvest.
Squashes – Keep away from sunlight in a cool, dry area. Some types of winter squash can stay fresh for months.
Onions and Garlic – Keep away from moisture for the longest preservation. To maintain air circulation, these items should not be held in a plastic bag or airtight container.
Apples – Best stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Keep them at near-freezing temperatures after harvesting to help them maintain their crispness.
Citrus – Keep at room temperature for up to a week. After a week passes, it’s best to refrigerate to keep them fresh for longer.
For more detailed information on produce storage, we recommend this list from the Farmer’s Almanac.
Refrigerated Storage for Local Produce
Local growers can determine the right storage solutions based on the type of produce they grow, and the volume harvested on average.
A smaller operation may find that a reach-in refrigerator like this True two door refrigerator is the perfect amount of refrigerated space.
Larger operations may want to invest in more refrigeration. With a walk-in refrigerator and the right walk-in refrigeration storage, you can store and organize several crops in one space.
This Nor-Lake walk-in refrigerator has over 300 cubic feet of storage space. Commercial refrigerators and freezers come in a wide variety of sizes, so be sure to calculate how much space you’ll need before purchasing!
Store your fresh produce in a Cambro food storage container for an airtight seal. These containers come with storage capacities from 1 to 22 gallons for versatile food storage options.
3. Organization for Produce Storage
When it comes to harvesting and storing fresh produce, organization is key. An organized storage space provides a wide array of benefits to local growers.
By properly labeling and rotating product (first in, first out) you can reduce the amount of produce that may go bad before its sold.
Keep a well-organized stock of fresh produce to manage the flow of product, whether you sell to local restaurants, or at a farmer’s market. Forgotten items and food loss are a costly problem. Solve it with excellent organization in your storage area.
Additionally, any foodservice operation needs a cleaning plan for storage spaces. Take out excess product, wipe down shelving, and sanitize floors to rid the space of bacteria and debris weekly.
It’s important to maintain proper standards for food storage, especially if you’re storing more food products aside from produce.
If you store meat or dairy in the same refrigerator as your produce, follow this hierarchy for food storage to prevent cross-contamination.
4. Processing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Processing is a common method used to extend shelf life for fresh produce. While fruits and vegetables can be sold and enjoyed raw, some local growers choose to further process their foods.
Some of the most common methods of processing fresh produce are:
- Blanching – Regardless of the end application, nearly every fruit or vegetable can benefit from blanching. To blanch, briefly submerge produce in boiling water, then immediately in ice water. This deactivates enzymes that affect flavor, color, and texture. Plus, blanching helps soften the skin of fruits and veggies to make peeling easier.
- Canning – One of the most common ways to process fresh produce. Produce is cut into manageable pieces, packed into cans or glass jars, and subjected to severe heat treatment. Seal containers while hot for a vacuum seal. Safely store canned produce at room temperature for years. Unfortunately, this process lowers nutritional value in produce.
- Freezing – Unlike canning, frozen foods retain their nutritional value well. Blast freezing can help reduce the development of ice crystals in food items to better retain quality and texture. Frozen produce is perfect for use in soups or sauces and has a longer shelf life than raw produce.
- Fermentation and Pickling – Both of these processes use acid to preserve the products. Commonly pickled items include cucumbers, onions, radishes, and cabbages. High acidity levels mean that vegetables need less heat treatment than when traditionally canned to eliminate bacteria.
When processing fresh produce on a larger scale, save time with commercial food preparation equipment.
Adding a food processor like this Robot Coupe continuous feed food processor to your operation can save hours in labor and produce a more uniform finished product. With several different attachment blades you can achieve a variety of cut sizes and shapes in one unit.
5. Packaging Local Produce for Sale
Processed or raw, local growers can extend the life of their produce with high-quality packaging. If you choose to freeze your produce, prevent freezer burn for longer with vacuum sealed packaging.
This Globe vacuum packaging machine quickly packages and seals, allowing you to streamline the packaging process.
If you plan to sell produce by weight, this Globe price computing scale is a great option. Print the product name, description, sell by date, and more to streamline your business at the point of sale.
Incorporating restaurant equipment into the operations of local growers can revolutionize their processes.
Implement effective sanitization techniques, to ensure the safety and quality of your produce.
Proper storage solutions keep fruits and vegetables fresh for extended periods, reducing waste and increasing profitability.
Efficient organization streamlines workflows, enhancing productivity and allowing growers to focus on nurturing their crops.
Add value to your products through processing methods, widening your market opportunities.
Lastly, the incorporation of packaging equipment ensures that your final products are presented attractively and professionally.
Embrace these strategies as a local grower to elevate your operations and thrive in a competitive market.
Looking to make the switch to local produce? Check out our blog on the Benefits and Strategies in Locally Sourcing Ingredients.