Do you buy fruits and veggies with the best intentions, only to let them languish in the fridge or on the counter before you have a chance to eat them? Maybe you’re not storing some of them correctly. While it's true fruits and vegetables last from about one day to one week stored correctly, you can extend the life of your produce if you follow some simple storing solutions from the experts.
"Do not mix fruits with your vegetables — the reason for this is that fruits tend to exude ethylene (a natural gas that ripens vegetables and fruits) faster as they age which can cause surrounding vegetables (as well as other fruits) to decompose quicker," says Steven Devloo, founder and CEO of Earthworm Technologies. (Bananas are the worse culprits.)
Other tips: Loosely pack produce when storing; don't crowd them or they'll spoil sooner. Keep greens away from root vegetables since they last longer stored separately. And make use of crisper drawers and bins. In today's modern fridges, these compartments mimic the best temps and humidity conditions for storing your harvest.
Here's how to store some of the produce you bring home:
Rules for vegetables
Brussels sprouts: Pick the sprouts off the stem if you've gotten them from the farmers market and place the unwashed sprouts in an open bowl in the refrigerator. Leave the outer tough leaves intact until ready to de-leaf, wash and cook.
Carrots: If they're fresh from the market, snip off their green tops leaving just an inch or two of greenery at the top. If they're from the store, take them out of their plastic bag. Place them in an airtight container with a couple inches of water on the bottom of it. This water bath will keep carrots fresh quite long.
Cauliflower: Store cauliflower in a plastic bag in the crisper or in the lowest section of the refrigerator.
Corn: Store fresh corn on the cob in its husk for one to days before eating. Any longer than that and corn loses its sweetness and also begins to decay.
Cucumbers: The University of California, Davis, determined that cucumbers are sensitive to temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Store them at room temperature to help them last.
Greens: Never wash greens until ready to eat them, otherwise you encourage moisture, which will make them deteriorate faster. Remove any wilted or rotting leaves from the bouquet or head. Always place in the lowest crisper available in your fridge to mimic the cold, moist air they crave. Either wrap them in a tea towel and roll up, or place them in an open container or opened plastic bag with a paper towel over top.
Mushrooms: Store mushrooms from the grocery store in their original packaging. Leftovers can be re-covered in their container with fresh plastic wrap. Loose mushrooms from the farmers market fare better in brown paper bags in the crisper drawer and will last up to a week before getting slimy.
Onions: Onions do best housed in an open basket or bowl on the counter and last a week or two.
Potatoes: Potatoes fare better in a cool, dry, dark environment. Place them in a mesh bag in the back of the pantry, or in a paper sack in a cupboard. You can also store them in a wooden bin on the floor or in the basement; As long as it's dry, they should last for weeks.
Winter squash: Whole winter squash should be stored on the counter in shallow bowls at room temperature until needed.
Rules for fruits
Apples: Apples can keep up to three weeks in the fridge. If you've picked a bounty from an apple orchard or the farmers market, they can store well in a cool, dry, dark space for a few weeks.
Avocado: Place unripe avocados on the counter to ripen within a few days. To speed the process, put the avocado in a paper bag along with either an apple or a banana. The ethylene gas released from the fruit will hasten the ripening process. If your avocado is already ripe, store it in the refrigerator to slow down the process until you use it.
Bananas: Bananas keep fairly well on the countertop for up to five days.
Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits): Citrus fruits can be stored at room temperature but for optimum stay-freshness, they should be stored loosely in the fruit crisper.
Grapes: According to Glad, the plastic wrap manufacturer, you should store unwashed grapes in a bowl in the fridge, covered by plastic wrap with holes poked through for circulation. You can also store them in a large bowl with a paper towel over the top.
Pears: Pears do not ripen on the tree, which is why knowing how to store them is important. A pear is harvested when mature, but not yet ripe. When left at room temperature for 3-5 days, pears slowly ripen from the inside out. Unripe pears should be stored on the counter. To slow down the ripening process, keep your pears in the refrigerator, says Amy Brown with USA Pears, a nonprofit representing 1,600 pear growers in the Pacific Northwest.
Tomatoes: These fruits are best stored at room temperature away from sun and can last a few days on the counter, depending on their ripeness. Since tomatoes can develop a slimy texture after only a few hours in plastic wrap, place a tomato cut side-down on a plate, covering it with a cotton cloth to deter fruit flies, and leave it on the counter. Use within a day.
What about herbs?
Soft stemmed herbs like cilantro, parsley and basil like to be treated like flowers. Snip stems and store in a glass of fresh water, changing water every day or two when cloudy. Use within a few days. Hard stemmed herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano can be placed in a damp paper towel and put in a sealed baggie or plastic wrap. An air-tight container works well, too. They stay fresh a week or two.