Have you ever found a puddle of mysterious green goo at the back of the fridge? I’m not sure I should admit it, but I recently bought a bunch of spinach and completely forgot about it until it became a puddle. And, I really hate to waste food, especially with winter prices for vegetables and fruit. Here are some ideas to store vegetables and fruit to keep them fresh.
On the kitchen counter:
- For cucumbers, remove the plastic and wipe the cucumber off. Wrap it in a paper or clean cloth towel, and use it within a few days. Once you cut it, store it in the fridge for up to two days.
- Bananas and plantains will ripen on the counter. Put them in a loose paper bag to speed up ripening. Buy bananas at different stages of ripening so you have some ready to eat at different times.
- Tomatoes store well on the counter for a few days. If you aren’t able to use them up, try chopping and freezing them to use later in stew, soup or tomato sauce. Storing tomatoes in the fridge changes their taste and texture.
- Tangerines, oranges, lemons, and limes stored in a loose open bag on the counter will keep for up to one week.
- Unripe fruit like avocado, kiwi, mango, pears, papaya, cantaloupe, honeydew melon and stone fruit like apricots and peaches will ripen in a loose paper bag on the counter. They will ripen faster if you add a ripe banana or apple to the bag. Check them every day to see if they are ready to eat – they should be a bit soft and smell a bit sweet. Once ripe, store in the fridge for up to a few days.
In the fridge:
Try to store vegetables separately from fruit in different parts of your fridge to help keep vegetables fresh. Many fruits have a natural compound called ethylene, which can help them ripen but cause vegetables to wilt and decay faster. Vegetables and fruit will also stay fresh longer if they are loosely packed.
Fridges often have one or two crisper drawers. A crisper drawer without any controls or vents is a high humidity drawer. If you have more than one drawer, the drawers may have vents or slides. A drawer with a vent or slide can be used either as a high humidity drawer (with the vent closed or the slide at high) or a low humidity drawer (with the vent open or the slide at low).
High humidity drawers are great for storing vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, leafy greens like spinach, chard and kale, cucumbers, peppers and carrots. The moisture helps reduce wilting.
Fruit stays freshest on the fridge shelf or in the second crisper drawer, with the slide on low or the vent open for low humidity. Keep ripe fruit in a loose bag. Fruit will keep for a few days to a week stored like this. If you cut fruit, cover it, put it back in the fridge and use it within one or two days.
Here are some fruit and vegetable storage tips for the fridge:
- Apples store up to two months in a mesh or perforated plastic bag.
- Berries like local strawberries and raspberries keep for one or two days when loosely covered. Imported strawberries will keep a few days longer. If possible, store berries loosely in shallow containers to prevent crushing. If you have too many berries, rinse them and put in the freezer before they go bad. Frozen berries are great in yogurt, fruit crisps and smoothies.
- Tangerines, oranges, lemons and limes keep up to one month in the fridge in a loose, open bag.
- Acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkins and turnips can be keep uncovered in the fridge for a week or two.
- New potatoes keep for about a week in the fridge. Russet type or mature potatoes will taste sweet when cooked if they are stored in the fridge.
In the cupboard (or other cool, dark, dry and ventilated space):
- Russet type potatoes, winter squash, sweet potato, yam, rutabaga, and onions will last for a week or two.
- Garlic can keep for a month or more.
- Onions keep for a three or four weeks in a mesh bag, paper bag or a bag with holes. Try not to store onions and garlic near the potatoes, as the potatoes will sprout and rot faster.
If your kitchen cupboards are full, consider storing these veggies in your garage (as long as it’s enclosed and insulated) or basement (as long as it’s dry!).
Make a healthy choice. Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit. Properly storing fruit and vegetables can go a long way to make your meals taste better, save you money and reduce food waste.
What tips do you have to keep produce fresh longer?