Oh yay, produce day…

I can’t speak for all of the keepers, but I do know there are at least some of my fellow co-workers who don’t particularly enjoy produce day.  Produce day falls on Wednesday, when our new Lead Keeper, Aaron, goes to several different stores and buys an amazing array of food for the animals.  Then, of course, all the food must be put away making sure to place the older stuff on top so that it gets used first. While putting the food away, it gives us a chance to go through all of our food and compost anything that’s starting to go bad.  Our animals only get the freshest and yummiest produce! The lemurs also have their grocery list for the week set aside separately from the rest of the produce so that it can be specially cleaned and then placed in its own refrigerator for “lemur use only”.

Along with all this lovely produce, we have lots and lots… and lots… of greens. Some of the greens change from week to week depending on what Aaron can find on sale, but the staples that we always have are collards, mustards, turnip greens, romaine lettuce, green and/or red leaf lettuce, cilantro, parsley, kale, spinach, and cabbage. The other greens that we always have at least some of at all times are chard, carrot tops, bok choy, celery leaves, dandelion greens, mint, broccoli leaves, beet greens, escarole, watercress, baby spring mix, basil, endive, radicchio, and chicory. Whew! And for anyone out there who has had animals that require lots of fresh greens, like bunnies, you probably know the importance of your produce being as dry as possible before you put it in the fridge! The dryer we can get the greens, the longer they will stay good. And for as much produce as we buy in a year, it’s essential that we use as much of it as possible and not allow it to brown, mold, or get slimy. Therefore, we have devised an extremely advanced and technical method for drying our greens. Towels!

We take the greens and lay them out in a single layer on towels or old museum shirts, and then we place another towel on top of that layer and do it all over again. What we end up with is layers of greens in between towels, and it’s actually quite effective at drying the greens with little work from us! (And we also can just hang the towels up to dry so they can be used again the following week!) We get the greens laid out before lunch, and then let them sit through lunch before we put them away in the afternoon. The time-consuming part comes when all the greens must be put away. They all get placed in separate tupperwares and layered much like with the towels, but instead we use paper towels. This helps absorb any of the remaining moisture from the greens. I personally enjoy doing greens, but some keepers do not. Check out the pictures below!

Lead Keeper Aaron places some mustard greens on shirts to be dried. More shirts will go on top of them when he's finished laying them out.
Her's a layer of turnip greens that Aaron already laid out under the mustards.
And there's collard greens under the layer of turnips!
Mmmm... looks like the bunnies will be enjoying carrot tops this week!
This is what our greens fridge looks like BEFORE all the new stuff is put away. When we are finished, this fridge will be packed full with tupperwares.
All the tupperwares are easily labeled, and the older stuff is assigned to be used first.
Layers between paper towels helps with the remaining moisture. These greens are over a week old and they still look perfect!
This fridge is just for our apples, oranges, corn, avacado, and eggs!
Lots and lots of produce! Broccoli, cauliflower, grapes, squash, zucchini, peppers, peaches, plums, pears, tomatoes, kiwi, bananas, green beans, sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, beets, radishes, and melons are all kept in here!

4 responses to Oh yay, produce day…

  1. Natalie says:

    I actually really love this system. I might implement it at Piedmont Wildlife Center, even if the only one to appreciate its brilliance would be Walter the bearded dragon lizard (I’ve found that snakes & raptors aren’t too fond of greens, dry or otherwise).

  2. Marilyn says:

    I hope it works well for you, Natalie! And Karyn, I’m glad the system is popular around the WORLD!;)

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