Ingenuity in the Galley

A boat-work brainstorm results in the perfect solution for storing fresh fruits and veggies in small spaces on board. From "People and Food" in our February 2009 issue

fresh food storage 368

Clever storage ideas make cucumber salads possible.Pattie Bittel

We were working aboard Tevai, our LaFitte 44, to prepare her for extended cruising in the Caribbean. I surveyed the space available for food storage, then announced, with all the authority I could muster, "We need a place to put fruits and veggies."

My husband, Tim, frowned, sensing that the issue was inarguable. "How about the dry bin?" he suggested idly, focusing intently on his screwdriver.

"Nope," I responded flatly. "Not enough ventilation. Things will rot and stink." Imagining a bin of rotting potatoes, Tim grew thoughtful. "How about a hammock in the port window well?" I suggested, already knowing the answer.

"The fruits would get bashed to bits in there," he protested. The image of fruit pulp drooling down the porthole silenced us both.

"What about the narrow cabinet next to the window well?" I asked.
"No way," said Tim. "Not enough space. You couldn't fit anything in there." This was good; he was picturing himself at sea, hungry for fresh fruits and veggies, and looking for them on board. I knew he was hooked into helping me resolve this tricky problem.

The solution came about a week later as I lifted the screen to exit the companionway. I held the vinyl, woven-polyester mesh in my hand, noticing that it was quite strong but pliable, moisture resistant, and was wonderfully porous, being designed to let in a breeze. We had a well-ventilated galley cabinet without shelves, and we'd talked about installing a shelf there to make use of the space. I had a brainstorm. "What if we made a 'bin' out of vinyl mesh? It's perfect, and it could be fitted to our cabinet space," I said. Tim pulled his head out of the engine compartment. "We could attach it with snaps," he offered, content that the project would not be expensive or onerous.

I measured the space and decided three compartments would be just right. After all, onions shouldn't be stored with potatoes-each give off gases that speed spoilage in the other-but apples will retard the sprouting of potatoes. The compartments make it easier to find what you're looking for. I calculated the proper height of the sides to keep things from rolling out while leaving room to store and retrieve them. Three snaps would be strong enough to support each side, and the front could be held by one snap in the middle. We gave the dimensions to our canvas maker, who fabricated it quickly and inexpensively.

We've been sailing now for over a year with this setup, and it's worked beautifully. The mesh bin unsnaps easily for cleaning. It cradles my produce and keeps it from knocking against the cabinet walls. Bananas and tomatoes ripen well. Potatoes and onions wait there separately and patiently. Other produce can be parked there temporarily, awaiting the fridge or frying pan. In the tropics, produce is often sold green, making this an ideal solution to maximizing produce capacity. And if I'm low on veggies, I can put dry stores in there instead.
I'm reminded of this versatile and user-friendly solution to the challenge of finding a place for onboard produce every time I remove the ingredients from the bin to prepare this tangy, cooling cucumber concoction, one of our favorite hot-weather salads.

Tangy Cucumber Salad
1 large cucumber
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 small onion
Slice the cucumber paper-thin. Sprinkle with salt and sugar. Add
vinegar and celery seed. Mix. Slice onion thinly; fold in. Chill and serve.