The United States is among the leading wasters of food in the world, wasting over 278kgs per year. In this, fresh fruits and vegetables add up to 51% of the wasted food. If you have contributed to this wastage because your produce ripes and rots quicker than you can eat it, you’re not alone (we are raising our hands along with you). Ethylene (a natural gas) released from some fruits and vegetables causes them to ripen quickly. Raw avocado in a rice bag to ripen it quickly – haven’t we all tried this? Temperature, washing, and storage are the other key players in the ripening process. How and when you wash your fruits and vegetables and how and where you store them will help to cut down wastage and make your groceries stay fresh longer every week. It would be nice if store-bought fruits and vegetables came with an instruction manual on how to store them; since they don’t – we have put together our how-to guide on storing fresh fruits and vegetables. Now instead of throwing your purchase into the fridge and hoping for the best, print our cheat sheet and stick them on your fridge to see how to store green onions, cucumbers, asparagus, carrots, celery, eggplant, etc. And those of you who googled “should tomatoes be refrigerated”? don’t be ashamed, we have got you covered. Before we dive straight in, let’s go over some basic dos and don’ts that will keep your produce fresher longer.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Fresh fruits and veggies together make up ~70% of US households’ grocery expenses. In spite of throwing away a majority of produce week over week, families purchase the same amount of groceries every week and don’t take the necessary steps to prevent wastage. If you have thrown away rotten tomatoes this week and wondered if they need to be refrigerated – you’re not alone. Following these simple tips can help save you precious dollars.
Quick Tips for Storing Fruits and Vegetables – Dos and Don’ts
- Don’t stock up produce to last for a week or more. The more fragile fruits and veggies only last about 2-5 days.
- Do remove any fasteners like rubber bands around the vegetables— let the produce breathe! But avoid pulling fruits and vegetables apart and breaking the skin.
- Don’t store the produce in airtight plastic bags, this will speed up decay. Instead, use biodegradable cotton mesh bags for storage as they’re more breathable. Reusable beeswax wraps are great too. Compost any spoiled produce immediately – as literally one rotten apple spoils the barrel.
- (I know you want to, but) Don’t wash the fruits and vegetables already – not until you’re ready to use them. Washing take out the natural protective barriers and brings in moisture, thereby encouraging growth of bacteria and mold.
- Have your noticed the vegetables stored along with fruits ripen quickly? That’s because many fruits emit ethylene gas as they ripen quickly causing produce in close proximity to spoil faster. So do store fruits and vegetables separately.
- For instance, put the greens like kale and spinach in one bin, and fruits like peaches and apples in another. Since greens are very sensitive to ethylene gas, placing the greens with fruits will cause the leaves to turn yellow and rot quickly
- Do remove greens from root vegetables like carrots, turnips, beets and radishes and store them in a cool, dark and dry place. Don’t store potatoes in a fridge as they will develop much higher sugar content.
Where to Store Fruits and Vegetables
Store at Room Temperature
- Green beans
- Lime and Lemon
- Summer Squash
- Onions and Shallots
- Sweet Potatoes
- Winter Squash
Store on the countertop, then move to the fridge when ripe
- Mangoes & Pineapple
- Pears & Papayas
- Peaches & Plums
- Kiwi fruit
Store in the fridge
- Berries & Cherry
- Brussels Sprouts
- Carrots & Beets
- Dark leafy greens
- Turnips & Radishes
- Green Onions
- Artichoke & Celery
How to Store Fruits and Vegetables So They Last Longer
Find out more about how to store your favorite vegetables including Asparagus, Carrots, Green Onions, Eggplants, Cucumbers, Celery, Onions, and Leafy Greens. Also, read the truth about tomatoes – and if they should be refrigerated.
How to Store Asparagus, Celery, and Carrots: Cut the bottom of asparagus, and celery before storing them. Keep their stalks moist by standing them upright in a jar filled with water or store the Asparagus/Celery shoots wrapped up in a moist cloth.
How to Store Green Onions: When properly stored, green onions can stay fresh up to 2 weeks. After you buy them, remove any rubber bands and chop off their root. Line them up and cut them in half. Dry the green onions and wrap the cut parts in separate paper towels and store them in biodegradable cotton mesh bags.
How to Store Leafy Vegetables and Herbs: Leafy greens tend to rot quickly when humidity is high. Make sure they’re not damp or wet and store them in a produce bag inside the fridge. This will help retain their deep green color.
How to Store Whole Fruits and Vegetables (Bell Peppers, Eggplant, etc): Wipe them dry and store them in a produce bag and pop them into your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
How to Store Broccoli: Raw Broccoli needs air circulation – so do not store them inside sealed plastic bags. Mist their unwashed heads, and wrap them loosely in damp paper towels. Then store them in the fridge and use them within 2 to 3 days.
How to Store Berries: Berries are very sensitive to humidity. You could retain the berries in the original plastic box they come in and discard the ones that are rotting. However, if you like to extend their shelf life and keep them fresh for long, try dunking them in a water bath containing one part white vinegar and three parts of water. Dry them as throughly as possible by moving them to a salad spinner lined with paper towels. After drying them, transfer them to a container lined with paper towels, then gently close the lid of the box (do not seal tightly) and pop them into the fridge.
How to keep potatoes fresh: Potatoes love cool, dry and dark place. Best way to store them would be in a bowl, basket or a container and never in a plastic bag or in the fridge. They should be kept away from onions, bananas and apples.
How to store chopped fruits and vegetables: Half cut onions or tomatoes should be covered using a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out inside the fridge.
Should tomatoes be refrigerated: Yes. Tomatoes should be refigerated. If you have unconsumed fully ripe tomatoes that you don’t plan on consuming anytime soon – refigerate them immediately. However, refrigeration of tomatoes brings down its taste units – so rest them outside and bring them to room temperature before cooking. Here’s a good read for tomato lovers.