Fed up of fruit and vegetables going off before you can eat it? With the cost of food rising, no one wants to be throwing food away, especially if you choose to spend a little more and buy organic fruit and veg. So we need to know that we‘re storing your fruit and vegetables correctly.
Incorporating more fresh produce into your diet and shopping for it can be fun, especially if you enjoy a morning out at a farmer’s market, choosing a seasonal veg box or exploring your local grocers. But eating those veggies before they go bad can be a challenge!
If you’re trying to expand your palate or experimenting with new fruits and vegetables, then it’s useful to know how to get the most out of them and whether to store these goods in the fridge, on the counter or in a dark space?
Hands up who simply chucks everything in the fridge when you get it home? Improper storage can lead to poor taste and texture and can shorten the life of the produce.
In this post, I will give you some helpful tips and answers to questions like: ‘How do I store fresh herbs?’ ‘Do tomatoes go in the fridge?’ And ‘why are my potatoes sprouting?’ Some of the answers may surprise you!
Which foods to store at room temperature
Which fruits and veggies should sit on your kitchen counter or in a fruit bowl? The ones that are more sensitive to cold temperatures and actually stay fresher when stored at room temperature!
- Bananas, Basil
- Cucumber, Courgettes
- Garlic, Grapefruit, Green Beans
- Lemons, Limes
- Onions, Oranges
- Summer Squash, Sweet Potatoes
- Watermelon, Winter Squash
If you’ve been storing these fruits and veggies in the fridge, then it’s time to take them out. They’re taking up valuable space! Keep them on the counter instead.
Another helpful tip: Storing produce in plain sight will also remind you to eat them!
Which foods to store in the fridge
These types of produce prefer chillier temperatures and will stay fresher for longer if they live in the fridge:
- Apples, Asparagus
- Blueberries, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts
- Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cherries, coriander, Corn
- Dark leafy greens
- Leeks, Lettuce
- Parsley, Peas, Pomegranate
Some fruits and veggies like to travel
Some fruits and veggies are more temperamental and prefer to be stored on the counter until ripe, then moved to the fridge to prolong their life.
Temperamental items include:
- Apricots, Avocados
- Mangoes, Melons
- Papayas, Peaches, Pears, Pineapple, Plums
Give these fruits and veggies some personal space
Determining whether to store your produce in or out of the fridge is only half of the battle. The other factor you have to consider is whether you can store specific fruits and veggies together, or if you should separate them.
As a rule of thumb, keep apples, avocados, stone fruits, pears, bananas, and tomatoes away from other fruits and veggies, especially leafy greens. The ethylene gas that these fruits and veggies release can speed up the ripening process and send it into overdrive.
Ethylene Gas producers include:
- Apricots, Apples, Avocados
- Bananas (unripe)
- Cantaloupe Melon
- Honeydew Melon
- Peaches, Plums
Gas sensitive fruits and veggies include:
- Bananas (ripe), Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts
- Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cucumbers
- Peas, Peppers
- Squash, Sweet Potatoes
How to ripen fruit more quickly
If you want that rock hard avocado to ripen quicker, then place it in a paper bag with a ripe banana! You can do the same with stone fruits like peaches, plums and apricots.
A word on onions
You should keep onions in a dry, dark space, but separated from fellow dark and dry pantry dwellers such as potatoes, winter squash (acorn, butternut, pumpkins), sweet potatoes and watermelon. Why? Because they like to share their scent, and no one wants watermelon tinged with a hint of onion.
Onions that are nestled up against potatoes will cause them to wilt and sprout more quickly than they would if onions weren’t present, so try to keep them apart.
How to keep your avocados green
Avocados contain enzymes that create a brown pigment when exposed to oxygen, which is why your guacamole looks unappetising the day after you make it.
To avoid sliced avocado, or your guacamole going brown, squirt it with a little lemon or lime juice. The citric acid will buy you at least another day of green.
Another option to prevent browning is to keep the avocado stone and place in the centre of your guacamole or store a half-cut avocado with the stone in place.
How to stop your leafy greens wilting
Do you find that spinach and lettuce wilts too quickly? The most important thing to keep in mind is to keep the leaves dry! The best method for washing and storing leafy greens is to separate the leaves from the head and soak them in cold water for about five minutes, then transfer to a salad spinner to dry.
If you don’t have a salad spinner, you can use a large clean and dry dishcloth to gather and wrap leaves in, then gently bounce and shake excess water off. Transfer the greens to another dry towel to dry off completely. Storing wet leaves can turn your greens into a mushy mess almost overnight.
Once you’ve got your greens rinsed and dried, line a container with paper towels and place them inside. The hard sides of the container will help protect the tender leaves from getting crushed, and the paper towels will absorb excess moisture.
Give berries the royal treatment
Berries are delicate and hate to be wet. I’ve found that the best way to wash them is to fill a large bowl with cold water and add a few tablespoons of white, or apple cider vinegar (don’t worry, you won’t taste it). Gently let the berries go for a swim, then transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to dry. Keep them in a strainer, or storage vessel that allows air to filter through, including the clamshell containers they usually come in.
Whatever you do, don’t put them in a sealed container, the trapped moisture will make them go off faster.
Use those drawers in your fridge!
Crisper drawers in your refrigerator have different levels of humidity from the rest of your fridge – which can help optimize freshness. While these drawers may seem like the perfect place to store odds and ends or a six-pack of beer, using them for fresh produce can keep your fruits and veggies fresher for much longer.
In some refrigerators, you’ll be able to adjust the humidity setting for each drawer. If this is the case, you’ll want to store thin-skinned or leafy vegetables such as asparagus, fresh herbs, and greens, that are prone to wilting or losing moisture quickly in the high-humidity drawer.
Store high ethylene-producing fruits in low humidity drawers because an open vent will allow the ethylene to escape.
If you don’t have humidity controls, try to separate your produce by ethylene production.
Produce to keep in the pantry
Never refrigerate potatoes (unless they are salad ones), onions, squash or garlic. The cold temperatures will change the texture and flavour of your foods.
With potatoes, the cold temperatures will turn starch into sugar more quickly, leaving you with a grittier, sweeter potato that you probably want.
Storing tomatoes in the fridge can also change their texture and cause them to lose flavour, so opt to keep them on the counter or in your pantry instead.
What about fresh herbs?
With the exception of basil, fresh herbs like to be stored in the fridge with a damp (but not soaking wet) paper towel to keep them fresh. If you wish, you can also store them like a little mini bouquet of flowers by trimming an inch off the stem, placing them in a jar of water, covering them loosely with plastic and sticking them in the fridge.
Do the same for basil, but keep it on your counter. It prefers to stay warm and also has a tendency to pick up on the smells of things around it.
A word on mushrooms
Mushrooms bought in a supermarket normally come in plastic packaging and a common mistake is to keep and store them in this. The plastic traps moisture and causes the mushrooms to get mouldy and slimy – they are fungi after all!
Next time you bring mushrooms home, take them out of their plastic and put them into an open paper bag, or line a bowl with paper towels and place in the fridge. Mushrooms need that extra air circulation!
Water loving vegetables
Carrots and asparagus both dry out quickly, so they can do with a little extra moisture. If you buy carrots with the leaves still attached, cut them off, as they’ll continue to pull nutrients from root. Next, put them in a container filled with water, seal it with plastic wrap, and store it in the fridge.
Asparagus likes to stay hydrated too, so store the stalks as you would flowers, upright with the cut ends submerged in a bowl or cup, then place it in the fridge.
How to stop your potatoes from sprouting
You need to keep your potatoes in a dry, dark, well-ventilated place. If they are dirty, or you have purchased them in a paper bag, then leave them that way until you go to eat them.
You can also keep them in a netted bag, wicker basket or carboard box. Never store them in plastic, do not wash them first and keep them away from onions.
However, new and salad potatoes prefer to be kept in the fridge.
I really hope this article has helped shed some light on what to do with your fruit and veg once you get it home. Just don’t forget to eat it!