How many times have we bought a fresh vegetable with every intention on cooking it, we stick it in the crisper drawer in our refrigerator and the text time we pull it out it looks like something else has begun to eat it? It's slimy, wilted or fuzzy. No sweat, we've all been there. But this doesn't have to be you anymore. This blog is about how to store fresh produce so you waste less and they taste better.
Here are the basics:
Get rid of excess moisture: If you are going to store produce in a plastic bag or baggie that is sealed (without air circulation) pat the produce dry first, then add a dry paper towel to the bag to soak up the excess moisture. Cooked vegetables are the exception and can be stored in containers without a paper towel.
Try to store your produce in reusable produce bags instead of plastic bags and baggies. Plastic bags hasten the ripening of your produce. I use mesh reusable bags, I take these to the store and put my produce in them instead of having to transfer them into the reusable bag when I get home. It reduces a step and saves you time (I got mine from Amazon). For cut produce, such as veggie packs for the week, try stasher bags to help keep your produce fresher longer.
Store fresh produce on the counter-top loose. For items that are best stored on the counter-top, be sure to keep them loose, take them out of the packaging and set them in a pretty bowl or on a shelf.
Clean out your produce drawer. Yes, those little bits and stickiness at the bottom of your draw may be making your produce go bad faster.
Store Ethylene Producing and Ethylene Sensitive Foods Separately: Some produce emit a gas called ethylene when they are ripe which speeds the ripening of other produce. Some produce are more sensitive, meaning, they will go bad more quickly if exposed to the ethylene from other ripe produce.
Check out this chart:
Here's a shortcut on storing vegetables:
-Store potatoes and winter squashes in bowl or basket on a shelf or in pantry.
-Store tomatoes, apples, citrus fruit, avocados (until ripe), melons , stone fruit (until ripe) on the counter in a bowl. If storing for more than a week, place on shelf in refrigerator.
-Store grapes and berries on a shelf in the refrigerator.
Tip: Keep a few in a bowl on the counter to make sure your don't forget about them and reach for those when you need a snack or side. -Store potatoes and onions separately, in the pantry
-Store all other produce, as directed below, on shelf or drawer in refrigerator.
Tip: If you cut up your vegetables for meal prep or snacks, seal the bag only 75% of the way to allow air to circulate. I do not cut up my peppers and cucumbers for more than a few days ahead because they tend to get slimy.
Are you detail-oriented? Me too! Here's a more specific list that you can refer to for how to best store your produce. Take care of your produce so it can take care of you!
-Apples: store in bowl on counter for 1 week, for longer storage, place in refrigerator.
-Asparagus: break the ends off (where they naturally break) and stand them up, cut side down in a glass of water.
-Avocado: ripen on the counter until it starts to give when you press it, then place it in the refrigerator until you are ready to enjoy it. Keep away from ethylene-sensitive produce. Once you cut the avocado, to prevent browning, squeeze a little lemon/lime juice and store in baggie with the pit.
-Berries: Place/Leave in air circulating container and place on shelf in refrigerator. Do not rinse until ready to use (they are almost impossible to keep them dry enough and remove any berries that have gone bad. If you must wash them, wash in 10 parts water to 1 part vinegar to prevent molding. Place in breathable container with paper towel to absorb extra moisture.
-Broccoli: in the refrigerator, whole with air circulating or cut, dried and in a container with a paper towel. Keep away from ethylene-producing foods.
-Brussel sprouts: in refrigerator, dry and air-circulating bag
-Carrots: in the refrigerator, remove the greens and submerge in water in the refrigerator.
-Cauliflower: in the refrigerator, whole with air circulating or cut, dried and in a container with a paper towel. Keep away from ethylene-producing foods.
- Celery: wrap with paper towel and place in air circulating container or chop into stalks and keep them in a sealed container submerged under water.
-Citrus fruit: on counter for up to 1 week or refrigerator if getting too ripe or for storing more than 1 week.
-Cucumber: in refrigerator
-Eggplant: in refrigerator
Grapes: in refrigerator in breathable container/mesh bag where air can circulation
Green beans: in refrigerator
Green onions: in refrigerator
Herbs: best to place in jar with water, cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator (treat them as cut flowers).
Mango or papaya: on countertop until ripe, then refrigerator
Melon: store whole melon the counter until ripe, then transfer to the refrigerator. If it is cut, place in sealed container in fridge.
Mushrooms: Store in container with lid, with a dry paper towel in the bottom of the container to soak up extra moisture.
Onions/garlic/shallots: store in cool, dark place. Do not store next to ethylene-sensitive produce or potatoes, it will make them sprout.
Parsnips and Turnips: in refrigerator.
Peppers: Store whole in refrigerator. If you cut them up, use within 3-4 days.
Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes: store in cool, dry place, never next to onions because they will make them sprout. I store my potatoes and winter squashes together in a big bowl/basket.
Salad greens: store wrapped in dry paper towel in mesh bag or container in refrigerator. If washing, be sure to thoroughly dry and store with another dry paper towel.
Stone fruit (apricots, peaches, plums, cherries): store on countertop until ripe, then place on shelf or paper bag in refrigerator.
Tomatoes: store loose on countertop, but not next to ethylene-sensitive foods.
Winter squashes (acorn, butternut, spaghetti): store on countertop.
Zucchini and summer squash: in refrigerator.
How to get started: Don't get overwhelmed. Start with 1-2 produce that you struggle to keep fresh and apply the tips above. Once you get in a habit of storing it that way, pick the next 2 produce to upgrade their storage for longer shelf life and better taste. The number one tip I have for making sure you eat your fresh produce before it goes bad is to have it visable where see it such as on your countertop or on a shelf (instead of a drawer) in your refrigerator. This may even mean that you have to chunk or stop buying other more processed foods to make room for all your fresh produce, what a blessing in disguise!
I've found that the single best tip is to store them in mesh bags (found mine on Amazon) instead of plastic bags in the refrigerator. If you have to use plastic, place a paper towel in the bag and make sure it stays open to circulate air (don't tie a knot in it).
Back to you: Which produce do you struggle with to keep fresh and now are going to try store differently?