If you’re like many shoppers, you buy a bounty of beautiful produce each week only to have it go to waste in a matter of days. If you’re tired of tossing good food and money, there is a simple solution – and no, it doesn’t involve more frequent trips to the grocery store. The trick is to know how to properly store each individual item to maximize its freshness outside the store.
First you need to get to know the culprit – ethylene. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, but not really paid it much mind. This is a natural gas given off by fruits and vegetables. Some emit more ethylene than others, speeding up the ripening process of neighboring produce. You need to get to know your produce, so you have a better grasp of what can be stored with what – and what should be separated at all costs. Sunset Foods has done the homework for you, and compiled an A-Z guide to proper handling and storage of every fruit and veggie. See for yourself:
Apples – Do not wash until just before eating. Can be stored on the counter or in the refrigerator. But, they give off a lot of ethylene gas, so don’t store them next to anything else.
Asparagus – Cut off about a half inch from the ends. Put enough water in the bottom of a jar or wide drinking glass to cover the bottoms by about 3/4″. Loosely cover the tops of the stalks with a plastic bag to keep some of the moisture around them. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Avocados – Keep them at room temperature. If you need one to ripen quickly, put it in a brown paper bag with a banana. If it is ripe when you bought it and you need to slow the ripening process, put it in the refrigerator.
Bananas – Produce the most ethylene gas of any fruit. Keep them on the counter, away from other produce. Once they are ripe you can stop the ripening process by putting them in a sealed bag in the refrigerator. The skin will turn black, but the fruit will be fine.
Beans – Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Do not wash until just before eating.
Berries – Never wash berries until just before use. Throw away any berries that are bruised or molding. Store loosely in shallow containers, covered with plastic, in the refrigerator.
Broccoli & Cauliflower – Store in their original wrapping/packaging in the refrigerator. Do not wash until just before eating.
Cabbage – Keep in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag. Do not wash until just before using.
Carrots – Whole carrots need to be washed thoroughly. If they have green tops, cut off all but an inch. Wrap them in a damp paper towel, seal in a plastic bag and store in the crisper drawer. Baby carrots should be transferred to a plastic container, covered in water, and stored in the refrigerator. Be sure to change the water every few days.
Celery – Rinse, loosely wrap in a paper towel, tightly wrap the entire stalk in aluminum foil, and store in the crisper. It will keep fresh and crisp for weeks.
Cherries – Store in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Do not wash until just before eating.
Citrus – Store in the refrigerator for about two weeks or on the counter for about one week.
Corn – If the husks are still on, store loose and uncovered in the refrigerator. If the husks are off, wrap each corncob in foil and store in the crisper drawer. It will keep for one to two days.
Cucumber – Do not wash until just before eating. Store in the refrigerator.
Eggplant – Store in the refrigerator.
Garlic – Store at room temperature. Whole heads will last three to five weeks. Once cloves are separated, they will last about 10 days.
Grapes – Do not wash until just before eating. Store them in the refrigerator, in the plastic bags they come in, or poke holes in a plastic bag to allow for air circulation.
Jalapeno Peppers – Store in a plastic bag, in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
Kiwi Fruit – Store at room temperature until ripe and ready to eat. Will keep for about one week.
Lettuces, Leafy Greens & Spinach – Wash, wrap loosely in paper towels, and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Melons – Store at room temperature until ripe and ready to eat. They will keep for about one week. NOTE: Cut melons can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Mushrooms – Do not wash until just before using. If pre-sliced, store in the refrigerator in their original packaging. They will last for about one week. If whole, store loosely in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator.
Onions – Store in a cool, dry place that has good air circulation. They will keep for two to three months. NOTE: Do NOT store onions with potatoes. If stored near one another, both will spoil faster.
Pears – If they aren’t ripe when purchased, store at room temperature. Once they ripen, store them in the refrigerator. They will keep for about one week.
Peaches, Plums, Nectarines & Apricots – Do not wash until ready to eat. Store at room temperature until ripe, then store in the refrigerator until ready to eat. They will keep from three to five days.
Pineapple – Store at room temperature until ripe and ready to eat. Cut pineapple can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes – Store in a cool, dry, dark place that has good air circulation. They will keep for two to three months. NOTE: Do NOT store onions with potatoes. If stored near one another, both will spoil faster.
Tomatoes – Store in a cool, dry place. Don’t store them in plastic bags as the trapped ethylene will make them ripen more quickly. Tomatoes should not be refrigerated as the cold temperature changes the texture of the flesh making it mushy and mealy, and impairs the flavor of the fruit.
Zucchini – Do not wash until just before eating. Store in the refrigerator.