The monsoon season is always welcomed by each of us with open arms as it brings relief from the scorching summer heat. Places like Goa and Kerala are at their best during the monsoons with greenery sprouting all around. There are others which are under the threat of flooding. The rainy season does bring with it cool breezes and cooler temperatures but it also brings with it a host of problems especially with the food items getting spoilt very frequently.
The high level of humidity causes a deterioration and spoilage of food. It is often seen that the food gets spoilt mainly because of the presence of micro-organisms, insects and pests, worms and rats. Micro-organisms such as bacteria, yeast and moulds are the main culprits for food spoilage as this humid climate is ideal for their growth. Preservation of food increases the shelf-life of the foods and ensures its supply when you need it. A little care and proper food storage can prevent food spoilage and help you sail through the monsoon season comfortably so that you can enjoy good food during the rainy season.
Storing whole grains and pulses: Keeping whole grains and pulses fresh poses a lot of problems during the monsoons. They are more prone to getting spoilt in this weather. To prevent them from spoilage here are few tips that can keep them fresh and tasty.
- Microwave pulses in a glass container for 2-3 minutes cool them and store in an airtight container.
- Put the pulses in a heavy bottomed vessel and turn them frequently so that they get roasted a little bit. This will take at least 5-7 minutes. Store them after cooling.
- Do not microwave or roast pulses that are likely to be used for sprouting – for example whole moong dal. Simply keep the packets in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage due to high levels of humidity.
- Add boric powder to foods that will be used for sprouting later. But do remember to wash them repeatedly to remove boric powder completely.
- A handful of dried neem leaves and dried turmeric added to rice and whole grains will prevent them from spoilage. Boric powder can also be added to the stored rice.
- Bay leaves added to the ground flour will keep it free from moisture.
- Refrigerate kidney beans, chick-peas (cholae) and Kabuli matar or add boric powder to keep them in good condition for usage.
Food items like semolina (suji), dalia and besan need special attention during the monsoons. Spores of fungi and bacteria find the rainy season a perfect time to multiply and infect food items. Roast these food items dry for 5-7 minutes or simply microwave them for 2-3 minutes (turn them after one minute to prevent them from overheating) to remove moisture. Store them in air- tight containers. They can be kept outside but if you refrigerate these food items, they can be kept fresh for a longer time.
Removing moisture by microwaving and refrigerating prevents microbial growth and prevents food from getting spoilt.
Storing spices: Spices form an integral part of all Indian kitchens and lend a special taste to the Indian cuisine. Keeping them fresh during the rains is the most difficult part. Follow the following tips to keep the spices fresh for usage:
- Add salt to the sun-dried tamarind (imli) and keep it in an airtight container.
- Microwave whole red chilies for less than a minute to prevent spoilage.
- Very often during this time of the season you find an off-white layer on the surface of the red chili powder.
- This is fungal growth and can be very dangerous if ingested. To prevent this, add a few cloves to the red chili powder. This will keep it fresh and prevent clumping due to high humidity.
- Add dried bay leaves to spices like black pepper, cardamom, cumin seeds and coriander seeds.
- The high humidity leads to clumping of the salt. To prevent this, simply add a few cloves to the salt. This will ensure free-flowing salt.
- Store the ground masalas in airtight containers in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage. You can put them in the freezing chamber. They will stay fresh longer.
Extending the life of vegetables: Wrap the vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, beans, carrots and capsicum in newspaper and then put them in plastic bags or zip-lock bags. Newspaper will absorb the moisture and keep the vegetables fresh. Do remember to change the newspaper after three days so that the vegetables stay fresh longer.
Green vegetables like spinach, salad leaves, fenugreek (methi), coriander and mint should be kept in the refrigerator in airtight containers.
Place newspaper in the container before putting in the green veggies. Keep another sheet of newspaper on top of the vegetables to keep them fresh. These greens can be kept fresh for a week if stored properly.
Sun-dried fenugreek and mint leaves can be stored longer.
Storing sugar and salty eats: Sugar is hit very badly by the high moisture in the atmosphere during the monsoons. If you leave the sugar container open for a few minutes you find lumps of sugar instead of free-flowing sugar. A few cloves added to the stored sugar can prevent clumping together during the rainy season.
Biscuits and salty crunchy eats: like wafers, potato chips and other eats become soggy very fast. Keep the opened packets in the fridge to prevent them from getting soggy and enjoy the crispy eats later.
Use these simple and handy tips to keep food fresh so that you can enjoy your favourite cuisine during the monsoons.