Time and time again I have felt the twinge of disappointment when reaching for the open bag of lettuce, that I swear I bought only two days ago, to find it in a gooey state. TMI? Sorry. This past year I decided enough is enough and made it my goal to research how to store produce the right way. Thanks to our good friend the internet, I now know some really great tips and tricks to keep produce alive and well ’til it goes down my mouth hole. Now, most of you probably know your stuff and could teach me a thing or two and I am ready/willing to learn from all of our knowledgable readers on how to keep fruits and veggies fresh (especially nowadays when we are all cooking more than ever). But first, let me share all the ins and outs of the produce hacks that I’ve come across…
General Do’s & Don’ts
- DO: Consider finding out what produce is in season before your next trip to the grocery store c. Then create your next week or two worth of recipes around those items. Not only will you typically use the majority of what you buy by already knowing what you are going to make for your meals but in general produce that is in season will stay fresh longer.
- DON’T: Wash your produce until ready to use and when you do, make sure to dry it thoroughly.
- DO: Wait to chop any veggies until you are prepping your meal.
- DO: Use produce bags, especially the ones that are more breathable, for storing your fruits and vegetables. They are able to absorb the moisture and air which will slow down your produce from breaking down quickly like they would in a sealed bag.
- DON’T: Store all your produce in the same place. Some produce such as tomatoes, bananas, apples, avocados, kiwis, and honeydew are ethylene-producing which can make other fruits and veggies that are sensitive to ethylene ripen quicker like broccoli, carrots, lettuce and potatoes.
- DO: Consider what temperate produce needs to be stored at. For cold-season produce, 32-35 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal and for warm-season it’s more in the 45-55 degree range. If you don’t have temp control bins then average it out for about 40 degrees or below.
- DO: Put any produce that is pre-cut / packaged in the fridge.
- DO: Add A little bit of lemon juice on your cut up apples, avocados (guac, anyone?) to help to stall them from turning brown.
- DO: Use glass container to keep your produce lasting longer (it stays fresher because glass is non-porous). Another benefit is that your food won’t stain the containers versus a plastic one. Or try out these silicone bags that Emily just purchased that helps save on important fridge space.
- Hearty Greens like kale, collard greens and chard will typically last longer than their iceberg counterparts.
- If you can, wait to wash your greens until you use them. But if it’s out of habit then make sure to pat them dry with a paper towel or dishcloth and store in an open container in the fridge like a large wide mouth mason jar.
- Best way to store those hearty leafy greens is to cut an inch or two off the ends and put them in a vessel with a little water at the bottom to keep them hydrated for about up to two weeks.
- Here are some other veggies to try out this trick: broccoli, celery, & bok choy.
- You can also store them in your crisper drawer sealed in a silicone bag with little air or the bottom lined with a paper towel. This can help to keep them fresh for up to a week or two.
- Put a paper towel in an open bag of lettuce, this one was a major game changer for me! The towel will wick away any moisture to keep it crisp.
- Cabbage thrives in a very cold and moist environment so your crisper drawer is a great place for it to be stored to help trap in the humidity. Keeping it in the plastic produce bag untied can help to keep it fresh for a couple of months. Now, I have never made it past a couple of weeks since I either end up just using the cabbage in meals or make sauerkraut with my leftovers. If you haven’t tried making sauerkraut yourself then I highly suggest giving it a go. If you need a step by step with some helpful tips check out this article.
- Broccoli is a veggie that typically won’t last long so be sure to put it high on your meal prep list. To extend it’s shelf life try misting your broccoli heads and loosely wrap them in damp paper towels to store. It’s important to not store them in a sealed bag as they need air circulation to keep fresh.
- Cauliflower heads will last about 2 weeks in your crisper drawer, be sure to just wrap it loosely in the plastic bag and not tied shut.
- Brussel Sprouts that are still on the stalk will keep longer than the individuals. Simply keep your whole brussel sprouts in a sealed bag in your crisper for about a week shelf life.
- Wrap your celery in aluminum foil.
- Fully submerge your root veggies like carrots or radishes in water. A glass container with a lid, like this one, will work best plus it’s easy to check on them to make sure they are still fresh.
- Some roots such as ginger and turmeric actually do better in the freezer territory than fridge or counter country.
- Regrow your green onions by taking the leftover ends (at least 2-3″) and put them in a cup of water to leave in the sunshine for about a week. Once they start to regrow then if you can, replant them. I have heard that they don’t hold as much nutrients once regrown. Does anyone have info on this?
- Store your asparagus in a tall vessel so they won’t topple over. Start by trimming off about an inch from the bottoms and place them in a inch or two of water. You can also take your plastic produce bag to put over the top to “seal” it.
Potatoes, Onions & Garlic:
- Potatoes are best to be store in a dark ventilated container such as a paper bag, cardboard box or lidded wicker basket. Refrigerating your potatoes will turn the starch into sugar and ain’t nobody got time for that. Are we still making that reference? I did also read about a trick to make them last for up to six months by using a pair of old pantyhose…Please share in the comments if anyone has any experience with this method. I am very interested to hear all about it.
- Onions have a similar desire to that of the potato. They too like a dark ventilated environment but be sure not to store them together since they both can produce moisture which one will end up spoiling the other too quickly.
- Garlic is tagging along on this as well. That is why having a garlic keeper on your countertop is the ideal solution or throw them together in a woven basket in a cabinet with your onions and shallots but again far away from those potatoes.
A Quick Ask The Audience…
I have a cucumber conundrum that I am hoping that one of you might be able to solve. To fridge or not to fridge, there are so many conflicting ideas on where the best place to store them is and I’d love some guidance from a pro aka you.
Is it a Fruit or a Veggie?
- Beginning with one that blew my mind. While in the culinary world it is considered a veggie, eggplant is actually classified as a fruit. Better yet, it’s considered a berry because of its small edible seeds. Let’s all take that in for a moment. Now how should we store this big berry? Try keeping it out of the fridge for a change at room temperature in a dry spot away from direct sunlight and other fruits.
- If you’re only using half of your avocado then leave the side with the pit still attached to keep it fresh till the next day. To ripen them for your next meal, store in a brown paper bag or wrap in newspaper for a day or two.
- Keep those tomatoes in a bowl on your countertop out of direct sunlight, never in the fridge or in a plastic container until they are cut. Also, if they are stored stem side down then they will have better circulation to stay fresh longer. (Thank you for this tip on yesterday’s post from our reader and pro chef, Molly)
- Bell peppers will stay crisp for a few weeks when placed in a paper or produce bag and stored in the fridge.
Ethylene Producing Fruits:
- Apples and Bananas are two of those fruits that will give off ethylene ripening your other fruits and veggies, so “You gotta keep ’em separated” 😉
- Other famous ethylene emitters are: avocados, peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, pears, and plumbs. So buy yourself a cute 3-tier hanging basket like this one Emily just clicked ‘add to cart’ for her Mountain House Kitchen to lengthen their shelf life.
- Separate your bananas to store not only from other fruit but from the bunch. Then take some plastic wrap and put it around each individual stem. This will help to prevent the ethylene gas from escaping and slow down the ripening process.
- Once they do ripen, throw them into the fridge or if they turn brown sooner than expected, go ahead and freeze them to make some smoothies or delicious banana bread later. The longer they are frozen and almost black looking the sweeter and better the banana bread. If you’re in need of a recipe try this one or this vegan option.
Is it just me or are we starting to see a trend that most fruits like to be alone??
- Wash your berries in a vinegar bath. Pour 1/2 cup white vinegar to 2-1/2 cups of water into a bowl and soak them for a few minutes. Be sure to quickly rinse them after in cold water to remove some of the vinegar. Dry them completely and store them in a perforated bowl or one that is lined with a paper towel at the bottom to wick away excess moisture in the fridge.
- Grapes should also get a rinse and stored on a paper towel to prevent them from molding due to moisture build-up. They do best in an open container in the fridge. Bonus is that it looks a bit more pleasing to the eye in a pretty bowl when searching for an afternoon snack.
- Keep all of your citrus together and out of the fridge. They can even thrive best just sitting on the counter itself rather than in a bowl but if you’d like to wrangle them together go ceramic or marble rather than wood.
- All stone fruit can be kept out on the counter till they are fully ripe then transfer them into the fridge once they are ready to eat to keep them fresh longer and sweeter.
- Peaches are a little tricky. If they are unripe then you want them to be loosely stored and not in an airtight container, a paper bag is best. Leaving them out at room temp but be sure to check the bag often and don’t let them over-ripen (mold). For your ripe peaches rinse them in cool water, then dry and place in a silicone bag in the fridge. When you want to eat one, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature to get them as sweet as can be.
- Store your pineapple with the top cut off and in the fridge upside down. Is this where the term upside-down pineapple cake originated from?? If you are looking to regrow your pineapple and have a garden then take that cut off top, simply replant it, water and wait for it to grow.
- Your herbs like cilantro and basil can be placed in a tall glass with a little bit of water then wrapped with a plastic produce bag and sealed with a rubber band. Place them in a cool but not cold spot of the fridge.
- There are other herbs like rosemary, thyme, and chives that like to be in the warmest part of the fridge and very loosely wrapped in plastic.
- One thing that fungi is not a fan of is a bath so skip the step of washing this produce. They are the low maintenance of all the bunch and just want to live in a brown paper bag in a dry, cool area or in the fridge.
And now for a lil’ round up of all those produce storage items to fingers crossed help prevent tossing out any fruit and veggies in the next coming weeks. And if you have to we even included a beautiful compost bin that may or may not be sitting in my cart waiting for me to purchase. 🙂
1. Net Produce Bags | 2. Ceramic Storage Bowl | 3. Drying Rack | 4. Woven 3-Tier Basket | 5. Beeswax Wraps | 6. Herb Storage | 7. Silicone Food Savers | 8. Berry Basket | 9. Veggie Storage Bags | 10. Potato & Onion Woven Lidded Basket | 11. Silicone Storage Bags | 12. 3-Tier Hanging Basket | 13. Vacuum Sealer Starter Kit | 14. Reusable Food Wraps | 15. Banana Holder | 16. Garlic Keeper | 17. Veggie Bags | 18. Root Veggie Storage | 19. Wire 3-Tier Basket| 20. Food Huggers | 21. Salad Spinner | 22. Compost Bin | 23. Herb Storage (set of 2)| 24. Potato & Onion Woven Basket
That’s all the tips and tricks that I have up my sleeve in the produce department for today. Feel free to share all your fruit and veggie secrets with us all in the comments below. And I am by no means an expert in this realm so if there is anything that you find to work better than the info above I will take no offense to some constructive criticism, just keep is peachy. You were kidding yourself if you thought I couldn’t resist throwing in at least one food pun in a produce post. See you in the comments. xx
Opening Photo Credits: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: About Those Integrated Appliances in the Mountain House Kitchen