A couple weeks ago I saw this video on Facebook for a product called Fresh Paper. The video suggested that this product was a powerful new tool in the battle against hunger, because it would give fresh fruits and veggies a longer shelf life. I found Fresh Paper on Amazon, 8 sheets for $8.89 (That’s about $1.11/sheet), and conducted a couple of experiments with the product. I would like to point out that I was not asked to do this review by the manufacturer and I was not given anything, including free product, to write this. I just found the possibilities of an all-natural produce saver intriguing and so I ran my own experiment.
First, I went shopping for groceries on March 25, and I picked up a bag of butter lettuce, a box of organic baby spinach, baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, a box of strawberries, and a box of blueberries.
I washed the butter lettuce in my salad spinner, spun it dry, and tucked a sheet of Fresh Paper between the two parts of the salad spinner.
With the spinach I left it as is and just tucked a sheet of Fresh Paper into the box with the greens.
The hard veggies (baby carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower) I cut into bite sized chunks, rinsed, and put them into my plastic chip and dip storage container. I laid the sheet of Fresh Paper on top, right in the middle. (As you can see in the picture, I wrote on the Fresh Paper sheets so my family wouldn’t throw them away)
For the berries, I set a sheet of Fresh Paper on the shelf in my fridge and put the berry boxes right on top of the Fresh Paper. Those plastic berry boxes are full of holes, and that’s what it looked like the Fresh Paper package was suggesting. I noted at the time that the strawberries were pretty dark red already and looked like they would age quickly.
For a week I peeked at and photographed the veggies and berries every day, taking notes on how they were aging.
The Fresh paper looks like thick pieces of note sized white paper. They are made entirely from a blend of herbs and spices, and they smell a lot like maple syrup. The package says each sheet lasts two weeks, and you can tell when it’s no longer working because the maple smell goes away.
I had two questions for my experiment:
1. Does the Fresh Paper work – will it make my fruits and vegetables stay fresher and last longer?
2. After reading the package and looking at the product I also wondered if the maple scent of the papers would change the flavor of my produce.
The butter lettuce and baby spinach: This was amazing. Usually I can’t go through a whole package of greens before they get wilted and I’m throwing out bad pieces and picking for good ones. This time I had two packages of greens, and both were still in good condition after two weeks. They never began to smell like rot, though I did find just a few leaves that had turned as the weeks progressed. Inside both containers I could smell the maple of the Fresh Paper, but it had no effect on the flavor of the greens. Organic greens are expensive, so I was very satisfied with these results.
The hard veggies: The carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower don’t age nearly as fast as salad greens or berries, so I couldn’t really tell if the Fresh Paper helped or not. At the end of two weeks I chopped up what was left for soup, though it was still in good enough condition to eat raw. In the future I won’t waste a sheet of Fresh Paper on hard veggies because they just don’t age faster than I eat them.
– Blueberries don’t age very quickly, and when they do, they go the direction of drying out, not rotting, so the Fresh Paper didn’t have a lot to offer the blueberries. The best way to deal with they is by removing them from the hole-filled plastic clamshell container they come in, and putting them in something that will protect them from drying out.
– The strawberries were a different deal entirely. I mentioned that I thought they were pretty ripe when I bought the package, and I was right. By day three I removed one strawberry because it was starting to grow mold. By day five I noted “Strawberries aging visibly.” On day six, “Strawberries look bad.” On day seven I performed a salvage operation where I threw away the worst berries, cut away all of the bruising, mold, etc. and washed the cut berries in water with a touch of vinegar and just ate them.
I decided that the berries needed a new/different experiment, so I kept the empty berry container and bought two new boxes of berries (on sale!) that were in much better shape than the first set I worked with. I dumped all the berries into a big bowl and carefully selected three sets of five berries that were all close in size, color, and appearance of quality. One berry quintet was put back into one of the plastic boxes as-is. One set was put into a plastic box with a sheet of Fresh Paper (tucked right inside the box this time). For the third set I tried something I saw on Pinterest, and washed the berries in a solution of water and vinegar and then gently let them dry on a bed of paper towels. Those went into the third plastic bin. The three plastic boxes of berries were stored on the top shelf in my fridge, and I checked on them every day. The berries not used in the experiment were put into a Tupperware bowl with the lid sitting loosely on top, and we ate those berries during the week of the experiment.
What do you think happened? Which group of berries aged best? I expected the as-is berries to fare the worst and start aging first, but they did not. It was actually the vinegar water berries that started visibly aging first. Where my son and I pick berries every summer, they tell us not to wash the berries until we’re ready to use them, and it looks like they’re right. The Fresh Paper and as-is berries caught up, though, and at the end of the week the three sets of experiment berries all looked exactly the same. No benefit to any of those processes. The berries in the Tupperware bowl still looked pretty good. They weren’t part of the experiment but I was shocked to be able to keep enjoying that group while I watched the others rot away. So it seems that the strawberries are not unlike the blueberries. Both are picked before they are ready to be eaten, and they ripen during transport (and/or by spraying them with chemicals that make them ripen, but that’s a whole different blog post). Those berry boxes are designed to aid ripening/aging. Leaving your berries in the boxes is inviting them to continue aging.
In the case of berries, skip the Fresh Paper and just transfer them to a container that is less porous.
Conclusion: Fresh Paper is pretty neat, it does work on some produce, and it didn’t affect the flavor of my veggies or berries. I will buy it again, but I won’t waste sheets of it on hard veggies that age slowly or on berries that seem to age quickly no matter what. I didn’t see enough benefit in those situations to use a $1.11 sheet, and we generally eat those things before they go bad anyway. I think next time I buy bananas I will put a sheet under the bunch and see if I can keep them from aging too fast, because they also go bad before we can finish them.
Any other fruits and veggies you want me to test with the Fresh Paper? How might this all-natural solution affect the world’s hungry? Let’s discuss that in the comments!