Many of us take time each week to research recipes, budget for ingredients and, if we’re really on top of it, shop the local farmers market for the freshest finds. (Eating well takes planning, people!) And when it finally comes time to cook up a delicious culinary creation, the absolute worst thing is opening the refrigerator only to find your produce has spoiled. Cue the guilt for throwing away food and money, not to mention there goes my Sunday recipe I was looking forward to making (and eating).
Instead of a self imposed guilt trip, avoid soggy and spoiled produce using these seven storage tips so your fruits and vegetables will stay crisper and riper for longer.
1. Know which foods stay out of the fridge
Foods like garlic, onions and potatoes thrive in a cool, dark storage spot (i.e. your kitchen pantry). However, these same foods don’t enjoy too much of a chill, so keep them out of the fridge where temperatures can dip too low for their liking.
2. Don’t wash refrigerated produce right away
Refrigerated produce, like mushrooms, don’t enjoy being washed until they are ready to be used. Instead, seal them in a container (like a paper bag or produce bag) and place in the fridge before you decide to use, and subsequently wash.
For example, place peppers in a paper bag or produce bag, then place in the refrigerator. This will help them stay crisper for a couple of weeks until you decide to use them for your favorite recipe like stuffed peppers.
Looking for exact timelines on how long specific produce lasts? Check out this guide by Real Simple.
3. Dry your greens
Britni DeLeon, Co-Founder of FARE says, “Washing produce, especially greens, not only cleans off any dirt and leaves them ready for eating, but it also rehydrates the leaves which helps them stay crisp in the fridge.”
When it comes to storing your greens, DeLeon recommends laying them on a paper towel or thin kitchen towel and rolling them burrito-style to absorb any excess moisture. Then, store in a large airtight container or ziplock bag.
“We also love these terry cloth bags for keeping veggies crisp without plastic,” she shares.
It may seem odd, but this same rule applies to berries and grapes. Both of these fruits have a tendency to quickly mold due to moisture build-up around each individual fruit, so just like your greens, follow the same guidelines with berries and grapes.
4. Keep these fruits and veggies on the countertop
Certain fruits like citrus fruit and stone fruit do just fine when being stored at room temperature. Instead of displaying them in a fruit bowl, however, simply let the fruit ripen on the counter to resist any mold growth. Then, pop the produce in the fridge so it lasts longer.
5. Know ethylene produce
Ethylene is a gas created by certain produce that act as a maturing agent and speeds up the ripening process. Certain fruits and vegetables, like apples, apricots, cantaloupe and honeydew, are best kept in the refrigerator to keep them fresh longer, but separate them from your gorgeous greens because the ethylene will wilt your future salad.
On the other hand, if you want to speed up the ripening process of some produce, place it in a sealed bag with an ethylene producing fruit or vegetable. Some good options include apples, apricots and avocados.
Many ethylene emitters such as bananas, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums and tomatoes are best kept on the kitchen countertop away from other produce (including each other). However, once they are ripe, you can place them in the fridge to lengthen their shelf life.
6. Separate bananas from the bunch
It may sound bananas (ha, see what I did there), but separate bananas from one another. This simple step will slow the ripening process. (See point above).
7. Use produce bags
Store fruits and vegetables in breathable produce bags so they are able to absorb air and any extra moisture. When fresh produce is stored in sealed bags, it breaks down quicker. This is due to the ethylene gas released by the produce itself, so store produce in specific produce bags or small, individual paper bags.