We’ll kick the month off by not only giving fruits and veggies “star status” on our plates but also learning how to get the most life out of them by storing them correctly.
Does this sound familiar: You bring home fresh fruits and vegetables, stash them in the refrigerator, and then wonder what the heck happened to make them shrivel, rot, or go limp a few days later. Much of the time, the culprit is the way you’re storing them. To keep your produce fresher longer, remember:
- Fruits and vegetables don’t play well together. So don’t store them together in a refrigerator drawer or next to each other on the counter or in the pantry. Why? Many fruits produce ethylene gas, which acts like a ripening hormone and can speed spoilage.
- Vegetables need to breathe. Poke holes in the plastic bags you store them in, or keep them in reusable mesh bags. An airtight plastic bag is the worst choice for storing vegetables, according to Barry Swanson, Professor Emeritus of Food Science at Washington State University. And don’t pack veggies tightly together, either; they need space for air circulation or they’ll spoil faster.
- Don’t clean produce until you’re ready to use it. Washing fruits or vegetables before storing them makes them more likely to spoil, because dampness encourages bacteria growth, says food research scientist Amanda Deering of Purdue University.
POTATOES, TOMATOES, ONIONS
Keep in a cool, dry place, but not in the fridge. The cold will ruin their flavor.
Cook’s Illustrated tested four ways of storing asparagus; the best one, hands down, was to trim a half inch off the end of the stalks and then stand them up in a small amount of water (covered loosely with a plastic bag) in the refrigerator, like a bouquet. They stay fresh for about four days. Re-trim the ends before using.
Oranges, tangerines, lemons, and limes will do fine for up to a week in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight, but you can lengthen their lives by storing them in the fridge in a mesh or perforated plastic bag.
First, trim off any green tops; they draw out moisture and cause carrots to go limp pretty quickly. Trimmed, unpeeled carrots can be refrigerated in an unsealed zip-top bag in the crisper drawer for about two weeks. Trimmed carrots (such as baby-cut carrots or carrot sticks) will last longer when kept submerged in a tightly covered container filled with water. Change the water frequently, Deering advises.
They hate to be cold. Anything below 50 degrees will cause them to spoil faster, according to researchers at the University of California at Davis. If you must refrigerate them, do it for no more than three days. Cucumbers are also sensitive to ethylene gas, so keep them away from bananas, melons, and tomatoes.
To keep it crisp, refrigerate it wrapped tightly in aluminum foil, not plastic wrap, so the ethylene gas it produces can escape. Re-wrap tightly after each use. Store celery sticks like carrot sticks: submerged in water in a tightly covered container.
Break up the bunch, as charming as it might look. Then wrap each stem in plastic wrap. That will reduce the emission of ethylene gas, and the bananas will ripen more slowly. Once a banana reaches the desired amount of ripeness, you can refrigerate it; the cold will keep it from ripening further.
Fruits & Veggies—More Matters. www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.
National Health Finder. www.healthfinder.gov.
Sagon, Candy. “Ten fruits and vegetables you’re storing wrong.” Washington Post. October 21, 2014. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/ten-fruits-and-vegetables-youre-storing-wrong/2014/10/21/a7d8adb6-4b44-11e4-891d-713f052086a0_story.html
Shy, Leta. “Make Your Fresh Produce Last Longer With These 13 Tricks.” PopSugar. August 22, 2015. https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/How-Keep-Fruits-Vegetables-Fresh-8633030
Young, Dr. Lisa. “Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables.” Huffington Post. July 12, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-lisa-young/healthy-food_b_1665279.html