Food storage is the art of keeping food for some time before consumption. It is quite different from food preservation which is the art of keeping food for a longer period before consumption. In most cases, food preservation may involve the addition of other substances e.g. chemicals or changing the form of the food stuff to another food through processing. However, food ‘storage’ and ‘preservation’ are often erroneously used interchangeably.
The choice of storage to used is influenced by the following factors
- The nature of the foodstuff.
- The facilities available in the house
- The length of storage required
- The ultimate use of the foodstuff.
Methods of Food Storage
There are two broad methods of food storage and they are:
Long before the advent of modern technology, our fore-fathers has been storing their food by different methods. In fact some of the methods are still being practiced today. The method of storage is however determined by the nature of the food. For example, meat and fish products are usually stored in wire cages or strung on wood or metal bars and displayed over the fireplace. The heat emanating from the fireplace during cooking especially in the morning and evening, is used to heat the meat or fish and hence able to keep it until ready for use. Dried fish or meats are also kept dry containers with lids. With respect to cereal grains, there are different traditional methods for storing them. These includes:
- Storage in huts: Placed in platforms built over a hearth. The heat generated from the fire helps in drying the cereal and keeping it warm thus making it uncomfortable for pests and insects. Maize is the cereal usually stored in this form.
- Local silos or cribs: These are round mud buildings with a roof, usually of palm fronds, and raised a little from the ground. Sometimes planks or wood can be used in erecting the cribs. The grains are now stored inside the cribs.
- Gourds or Pots: Usually shelled cereals or legumes are stored in gourds or pots with a cover. At times some dried peppers are added to the grains inside the gourds or pots. The pepper, through the aroma emitted, assists in suffocating any insects that might find their way into the container
- Burying underneath the ground: Sometimes grains are kept inside the pits. These pits are usually fumigated with red pepper.
Improved or Modern Methods
As a result of the advancement in technology and science, more sophicated methods of storing foodstuffs have been developed. The most important piece of household storing equipment is the refrigerator. The refrigerator is capable of creating a very cold environment which is uncomfortable for most destructive organisms. The refrigerator is very common within our community today. By keeping our foodstuffs in the refrigerator, they can be stored for a reasonable length of time before use. The freezer compartment in the refrigerator can be used to store our foodstuffs, like meat and fish, for longer periods than the chilling section.
Grains e.g, maize can also be stored in specially built structures called ‘silos’. These silos are made in such a way that the inside temperature and humidity are not affected by varying external climatic conditions. With silos, grains can be stored for a longer period of time.