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
I also like freezing my own fruit or veggies if I know I won’t eat them quickly enough. I freeze bananas, grapes, and strawberries quite a lot. And I actually buy a lot of frozen veggies in the first place and eat those (I rarely buy fresh broccoli and cauliflower). For cucumbers, I store them in the fridge because I like to eat them cold.
That is always a great option, thanks for sharing!
Whenever I’m unsure about if produce should be refrigerated or not, I just remember how it was stored at the supermarket. While they try to make produce look good, they display it in ways to keep it fresh. You’ll never find refrigerated tomatoes or asparagus in a dry bin at the store.
so simple, SO SMART!
OMG, you’re so right. Why isn’t that a thing people think more? haha
When freezing old bananas, I like to peel them first and then put them whole into a container (if I want them for a recipe that measures them in whole bananas) or sliced for smoothies. Mitigates the yuck factor when having to peel a mushy black thawed banana.
This!! Oh love this so much. We are learning the hard way about thawing our frozen bananas in the peel. So gross.
Nicole, THANK YOU! You’re saving me from my least favorite part of making banana bread. It’s not so much the part of peeling it off but I usually don’t wait til they are thawed completely and so my hands get SO cold. haha
When freezing bananas, I always slice them ahead of time. Works likes a charm.
A lot of good tips! Thanks! Maybe not in accordance with all of your advice- but we eat salads every day at dinner time, and making them can be a daunting task (as in, skip it), but what we do is wash all the lettuce before first use, dry it on paper towels, and keep it in a ziploc bag. It keeps for many days, maybe a week. We do the same with all the veggies for the salad, once they are washed and peeled, such as carrots, and radishes, celery, bell pepper, cucumber. They all keep nicely for several days, washed up and in a ziploc bag. So then, once the batch is washed, it’s very easy and quick to pull them all out every night and assemble salads.
That plan works great as well! I am just not great at making it for dinner every night so kudos to you. 🙂
I hope by “ziplock bag” you mean a silicone stasher bag (or something similar) because those are terrible for the environment
Especially considering you use them “everyday”
They can be reused. Just put a drop of soap & water in it to clean, then air dry. My mom always did that growing up to save $.
You are right. Well, we do use them for a week, but you’re right- I need to find a reusable version.
A great hack for storing garlic: peel the entire bulb of garlic and put the cloves in the freezer. I have been doing that for many years and love it!
So smart! My mom loves to purchase the minced ones in cubes that you store in the freezer, she swears by them.
Also, if you live in a place with high humidity such as south Florida, any foods that are left out will spoil quicker.
Good tip, thank you!
Hey Julie, SUCH a great follow up from yesterday, and thank you so much for the shout out in this post! So fun to see my name in the blog that I have been following since 2014! On the note regarding the tomatoes, in addition to what you said is that by storing them stem side down you’re encouraging to keep that stem (or where the stem used to be) from drying out and creating an opening and shriveling that juicy mater! Sorta like how you store your wine in it’s side to keep the cork wet. This actually goes for eggplant too, in that when choosing an eggplant you want to find the firmest glossiest babe you can and also the greenest looking stem. If you do refrigerate it, it’s nice to add a damp paper towel just around the stem for this reason. I’m into your round-up of storage tools! I also use produce bags like those you linked, bringing them along to the grocery store with me. I will add that for anything for items like chives, oregano, tarragon, etc. I like to dampen a paper towel or lightweight towel, remove any rubber band or twist tie… Read more »
Molly, you are amazing! I love all your knowledge. We should’ve just interviewed you, thank you for all of those tips. 🙂
Awww shucks (kicks dirt)
I love your tips Molly! I think for most people the best way to ensure you EAT your veggies is to do all the prep you can at the outset, so its best to know … the best way to do it. 🙂
Question: do you reuse your pickling liquid? I find I’m making small batches of pickled carrots and cucumbers and finishing them in a few days… but I hate to pour the vin down the drain. I should probably just make bigger batches but I want to hear your opinion in the case of more small batch pickling. Thank you!
Thanks for all the great information, Julie! I’m printing out the whole post.
Thank you Suz, you should print out Molly’s comment above as well! 🙂
I actually find that cabbage goes bad far more quickly when wrapped in plastic. As for greens, I always keep mine in a salad spinner, they’ll keep for weeks!
Oh wow, that’s so great to know! Thank you xx
Yes! I wash the leaves, spin them dry and keep them in the spinner in the fridge.
A cut onion stored with cut avocado will keep said avocado from browning quickly. This is the only thing I’ve found that works!
I am going to trying this, thank you!
Huge fan of “live lettuce.” It comes in a plastic pod with the roots still attached as it was grown hydroponically (in water). Lasts far longer than lettuce that has been chopped off from its roots.
In our area, it’s a head of butter lettuce. Not bitter; yum.
You can use half for one person, or whole for two. Best thing of all, in the right seasons you can plant the root base with its cut off top and grow new lettuce leaves!!! I never wait long enough grow a whole head, just snip off to add to other salad stuff or arrange around an avocado half. Last year, one of them produced for about six months before winter came.
I’m storing red potatoes in plastic bins covered with sawdust. Hoping that is a winner. Hubby and I are very immune compromised so hoping to hold out at home alone for as long as we can.
Thanks for all the tips! Lots I didn’t know.
Amazing tips! Thanks 🙂
Thank you for putting this all in one place! Some of these tips I knew, but others are new to me. Super helpful!
Happy to help, it was so fun to learn some as well! xx
Thanks for the discussion and for continuing to provide us with useful content. You guys are the best!
A new one I learned this month: you can keep lemons and limes fresh and ready to use for 3-4 weeks by putting them in a ziploc bag in the fridge (with air squeezed out)! So cool!
Also, am I the only person washing every single fruit and veggie as it comes into the house?! The “Don’t wash produce until you use it” tip from the beginning of post doesn’t seem doable in the time of coronavirus…
In fact, I got a little paranoid about “Wot if people sneeze on the frezh produce?”, so I looked up CDC advice (and others).
The advice corroborated that we should be washing our produce when we get it home, with soap and water (I use a tiny bit of dish washing liquid, coz it’s safe for dishes we eat off, right?), then rinsing, then thoroughly drying or air drying, vefore storing.
I do this now and it works perfectly. They last at least as long if not longer.
We’re also trying to buy things that come in their own packaging…NATURAL PACKAGING, like cabbage, bananas, avocado, etc.
We tend not to peel, beca … nutrients! So a second wash prior to preparing meals doesn’t hurt.
I learned some new tricks too and added the article to fav’s. Thank you! ?
Warning about leaving citrus sitting on your counter tops: I recently left an uncut lemon on my marble counter top overnight and it etched the surface.
I left whole peaches on the counter wrapper in a paper towel and they etched my counter in the pattern of the paper towel!
Put your potatoes with one apple in a dark place with a tea towel or other cloth covering them. It strops them from sprouting
#22 is a kitchen collector for food waste, not technically a compost bin. You’ll still need to purchase a composter or create your own bin (either an outdoor bin if you’ve got the space, or you can even buy a digester or start your own worm bin for indoors!) I run a program for our City on how to start composting food waste in your own backyard and LOTS of cities are starting these programs! Y’all in LA can attend classes given by LA Sanitation if you’re interested, or the book Composting for a new generation is an awesome resource.
A tip that works really well for pre-bagged spinach and kale (and I’m sure many other greens): put a dry paper towel into the open bag before you reseal it. I just clip it with a chip clip with the paper towel inside. It wicks the moisture and keeps the greens fresh for way longer. Just replace it once it gets too wet!
I leave it partially open and semi-clipped shut out in the open fridge area, nit in the veggie drawer and it keeps way longer.
Yes, we are still making that reference. I’ll probably take it with me to my grave
I like to wrap my washed veggies, like lettuce and celery in tea towels and store them in the fridge that way. I’m trying to cut down on my paper towel and plastic bag use and find that doing this helps.
A tip I picked from Alton Brown and his classic show Good Eats is how to crisp up limp lettuce. Submerge the leaves in cool or cold water. I use the bowl of my salad spinner. Then add about a quarter cup of white vinegar, and about two cups of ice to get the water very cold. Let it sit for about ten minutes, then drain well and spin. I don’t remember the exact science behind it, but the vinegar does something to the cellular structure of the lettuce to get it crispy as a possible. I do this every time I wash lettuce now, as a habit. It really does work though, I have saved lettuce that I thought was inedible with this trick.
On the scallion/green onions/spring onions question regarding nutrients… While you can regrow them in water alone, all plants need essential nutrients to continue to grow or grow larger. If you want to get a few more growth cycles out of the scallions/green onions/spring onions, I would suggest sprouting them in the water and then planting them in soil (potted, from a well turned compost, etc.). Then they have a greater potential to grow bigger (and be harvested more often) because they have access to essential macro- and micro-nutrients in the soil. If soil-growing is not possible, to keep them growing and fresh, change the water daily.
A horticulturist and lover of scallions/green onions/spring onions
P.S. Flowers are highly susceptible to ethylene, so keep them away from bananas, apples, avocados, etc. lest they lose all of their petals. It absolutely kills me when grocery stores have their floral section near to their produce section!