You probably know that eating a wide range of fresh fruits and veggies is important. But filling your fridge with produce can quickly lead to food waste, especially if you only go grocery shopping once a week. Before you know it, you’re left with black bananas, slimy spinach, and mushy avocado. With more knowledge and a little planning, though, you can keep produce fresher, longer.
Keep certain produce dry
Most produce stores best in cold, moist (not wet) conditions like a refrigerator. But some produce is susceptible to extreme cold and actually lasts longer when stored at around 55 F in your kitchen or pantry. These items include:
- onions, garlic, and shallots
Remember that even though potatoes and onions taste great together, they don’t store well together. Potatoes release moisture that will quickly spoil onions.
Keep some produce wet
Some fruits and veggies do best when kept wet. Scallions store best upright, roots-down in room-temperature water. Store asparagus like a bouquet of flowers: Trim the ends and set them upright in a glass of water in the refrigerator. Keep whole carrots and celery crisp by storing them in a covered container of water in the refrigerator. Change the water every two to three days to maintain freshness.
You can also use water to perk up wilted herbs or greens. Simply cut the stems and stand them upright in a jar of water.
Separate gassy produce
You know the saying, “One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel”? Well, apples aren’t the only thing that can spoil if stored incorrectly. Apples, bananas, peaches, peppers, and tomatoes can accelerate the ripening process (and quickly lead to spoilage) of any neighboring produce. This happens because these items release ethylene gas. This gas can be useful when you have underripe avocados, but it can quickly lead to spoilage and food waste if it builds up.
Bag it up
Most produce stores best in mesh produce bags. This allows air to circulate but keeps the produce from losing its moisture and drying out. This includes items like grapes, berries, cherries, broccoli, cabbage, and celery. For best results, separate bagged fruits and vegetables into their own crisper drawers.
Wrap it up
Delicate produce, like herbs and some microgreens, need to be wrapped up for storage. Remove any rubber bands or twist ties, gently wash off any dirt, then carefully dry the herbs using a salad spinner or dry, clean dish towels. When dry, wrap them in a dry paper towel and place them in a resealable bag or container.
Use the softest produce first
Make plans to use the softest produce first. Mixed greens, tomatoes, and stone fruit should be used within a few days of being purchased. These items are the quickest to spoil unless you freeze them. Save items like squash, potatoes, onions, and melons for last, because, when stored properly, they can last up to two to three weeks.
Know the zones
Before you put your produce away, consider the temperature zones of your fridge. The top of the refrigerator is the warmest, and the bottom is the coldest. Store any produce that is sensitive to colder temperatures, like cucumbers, squash, eggplant, and peppers, on the highest shelf in the refrigerator. Keep greens, grapes, and other produce in the crisper where you can adjust the humidity as needed.
Give them their space
Like people, sometimes produce just needs some space. When storing produce, make sure you aren’t packing it into drawers or bins. This can damage soft-skinned fruit like peaches or tomatoes. Produce should have enough room for air to flow, evaporating excess moisture and preventing mold growth. Keeping produce out of drawers and bins also makes it more visible, meaning you are more likely to use it before it spoils.
Refrigerate ripe produce
To extend ripeness and flavor, move ripened produce to the refrigerator. These items include avocados, apricots, melons, stone fruit, and bananas. Need to accelerate the ripening process? Place produce in a brown paper bag at room temperature until ripe, then remove and store in the refrigerator.
Freeze for later
Freezing produce is the best way to store it for later usage. If you know you’re not going to use all your produce before it turns bad, freeze it. Frozen fruit, berries, spinach, and kale are great in smoothies. Frozen vegetables are great for making soup, chili, or casserole. When kept in a sealed, airtight container, most produce can last up to three months in the freezer. Need some inspiration? Here are recipes and tips for cooking with frozen foods.