Do you just toss your fruits and vegetables haphazardly in your fridge or countertop bowl? If so, you might be doing yourself a great disservice. Here’s a look at a few things you’ll want to remember the next time you’re unpacking your produce.
- Be careful which fruits and vegetables you store next to one another. Almost all fruits and vegetables produce an invisible and odorless gas called ethylene, a ripening agent, but some produce significantly more than others. Storing produce that gives off high levels of ethylene next to ones that are sensitive to the gas will cause surrounding produce to prematurely ripen and spoil because of the concentrated exposure. Here’s a chart to help you avoid storing ethylene producing fruits/vegetables next to those that have a sensitivity.
- If the chart is too cumbersome, a good rule of thumb is to keep vegetables separate from fruits, since fruits tend to produce more ethylene.
- Some fruits high in ethylene are sensitive to the cold and should not be refrigerated before they are fully ripe as it will affect their flavor (once they’re ripe you can refrigerate them, but for full flavor, you should warm them to room temperature when you’re ready to eat them). Among the popular fruits that fall into this category are bananas (see below for more on these), avocados, plums, kiwis, mangos, pineapple, pears, tomatoes, nectarines and peaches.
- Storing ripe bananas in the fridge will cause their skin to darken as well as cause everything in their vicinity to smell like bananas.
- Apples, cherries and grapes will last significantly longer if refrigerated.
- Washing fruit before storage usually accelerates their deterioration, but for berries you can get around this by washing them in a diluted vinegar bath (1:3 vinegar/water ratio), which helps destroy bacteria and mold spores on the berries. After drying them, store them in a sealable container with the lid a little bit open to allow for air flow.
Tomatoes should always be stored unwashed at room temperature.
- Garlic should be stored in an open basket at room temperature; don’t remove the papery outsides until you’re ready to use them as it protects the garlic.
- If you’re looking to ripen your fruit faster, ethylene can work to your advantage. By placing your unripe fruit together in a closed paper bag (paper, unlike plastic, will allow the fruit to still breathe), you will concentrate the ethylene gas and speed up the ripening process. If you only have one piece of unripe fruit, place it in the paper bag with a ripe piece of fruit.
- While keeping produce frozen for long periods of time won’t generally pose safety concerns, after a while, taste and texture will begin to suffer. Do not keep any fruits or vegetables frozen for more than eight months. It’s also important to keep your freezer at zero degrees or colder to avoid deteriorating food quality.
- Before storing your vegetables, remove ties and rubber bands and trim any leafy ends leaving an inch to keep the vegetable from drying out.
- If you’re storing your vegetables in a bag, make sure it has a few holes to allow for air flow.
- Pack vegetables loosely; the closer they are, the quicker they will spoil.
- While it’s fine to wash leafy greens before refrigerating them, mushrooms should not be washed until right before you’re ready to use them.
Wash and dry herbs before putting them in the fridge; cut off the ends and put them in a glass of water (like flowers).