Fresh Produce isn’t always cheap, so it can be annoying to watch it spoil after only a few days. And since certain fruits and veggies ripen and rot on different time schedules, it can also be challenging to keep track of things. So unless you’re growing your own herbs or have fruit producing trees in the yard, the race against the clock starts as soon as you bring produce home from the market. 

With a little information and proper planning, you can actually keep your produce fresh for a pretty long time. We’ll detail some tips about keeping things fresh, and also go over specifics for the most popular fruits and veggies around.

Tips for Keeping Fruits & Veggies Fresh

Fresh Vegetables

Even though different fruits and vegetables have unique requirements for staying fresh, there are a few general guidelines that works for most everything. The basic tenants are pretty universal.

1. The fresher, the better

This one pretty much goes without saying. You’ll want to get produce that’s been recently harvested to maximize the amount of time you’ll have to eat it. Look for vibrant colors on leafy greens and fruit. Try to avoid blemishes or soft spots on root vegetables, melons and fruits. 

2. Store in cooler conditions and avoid high humidity 

Even if you don’t plan on refrigerating everything, the cooler and drier the storage area, the longer your produce will stay fresh. While a little excess moisture keeps things fresh (and is actually a good thing), too much can begin to encourage mold. 

3. Don’t stack 

This one sounds strange, but it’s true. When fruits and veggies are cramped together, the pressure and lack of airflow can ruin the freshness pretty quickly.

4. Store properly

Don’t feel the need to wash everything under the tap right after you unpack the groceries. Instead, keep your items wrapped or zipped up in plastic bags to keep in some light moisture so they don’t dry up after a few days. Airtight containers work also work well.

5. Don’t pre-cut 

Cut fruits and vegetables can go bad quickly, and also can promote microorganisms and fruit flies if left lying around too long. 

6. Refrigerate ripe fruit

Once fruit is ripe, it should be eaten pretty quickly. The refrigerator is a great place to store ripened fruit if you’re unable to get to it quickly. The cold air staves off spoilage for a decent period of time. And by decent, we mean an extra 2-3 days.

7. Freeze for longer shelf life

While not everything freezes well, ripe fruit and some veggies can be kept up to 3 months in the freezer. Keep in mind that most things should be chopped/peeled/prepped prior to freezing. 

8. Softer veggies should be eaten first

Vegetables that have softer textures, like leafy greens, peppers, and cucumbers have shorter shelf lives. A good rule of thumb is to purchase these when you’ll be using them quickly.  

Firmer root vegetables like potatoes, carrots and cabbage can last a bit longer.

Beware of Ethylene, or Gas Emitting Produce

Peaches

Fruit that is rich in sugar can release gasses that spoil other produce

Ever notice that sugary fruit tends to spoil quickly when closely kept? You wouldn’t be alone. Fruits that continue to ripen after they are picked release high levels of “ethylene”. 

Ethylene is a gas that causes cells of fruit and veggies to begin to ripen and ultimately degrade. The ethylene emitted from fruits that are kept in close quarters to other produce can cause them to ripen and rot more quickly as a result. 

Some savvy chefs actually use fruit that releases more ethylene to speed up the process of fruits that they want to ripen. Simply take a ripe fruit, place in a plastic bag with unripe fruit, and voila! 

But generally speaking – it’s best to store these kinds of fruits in their own spaces. 

Fruits that produce high levels of ethylene:

  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Potatoes

How to Keep Different Types of Vegetables Fresh

Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, & Yams

Store Potatoes

  • Keep in a dark, dry spot.
  • These vegetables should not be refrigerated – cold air causes starch to transform into sugar.
  • Store potatoes in a paper bag, basket, or bowl.
  • Don’t leave them in plastic bags, or sealed containers that can trap moisture which will cause them to spoil.
  • Potatoes be kept for up to a couple of weeks in the right conditions.
  • Yams and Sweet potatoes may have a slightly shorter shelf-life.
  • Very sensitive to Ethylene producing produce, so keep separate.

Onions & Garlic

  • Don’t store in refrigerator. 
  • Keep in dark, cool spot.
  • Avoid keeping around potatoes and starch produce.
  • Moister causes onions & garlic to spoil faster. 
  • Don’t keep in air tight containers or bags.
  • Can last up to 3 months.

Carrots & Root Vegetables 

Fresh Vegetables

  • Trim away the leafy tops.
  • Hydration is important – don’t allow to dry out.
  • Store in a plastic bag, or in an uncovered container with a bit of water.
  • Kept well for long periods of time (2-3 weeks).
  • Not effected by Ethylene.
  • Avoid storing with apples and pears.

Cucumbers

  • Individually wrap dry cucumbers in a paper towel, place in a plastic bag.
  • Cucumbers are very susceptible to ethylene gas, so it’s important to keep them separated. 
  • Don’t store in airtight conditions.
  • Refrigerate for freshness.
  • Can last 1-2 weeks.

Leafy Greens

Lettuce

  • Wash lettuce and leafy greens before you plan to use them, not before storing.
  • Excess moisture can cause lettuces to rot.
  • Seal in zip lock bags to maximize freshness.
  • Stores up to 1 week for lettuce.
  • Kale and escarole up to 2 weeks.

Cabbage

  • Refrigerate for freshness.
  • Cut cabbage should be sealed in airtight containers.
  • Whole heads of cabbage can be stored without a bag.
  • Stays fresh up to 2 weeks

Radishes, Beats, & Parsnip

Fresh Radishes

  • Refrigerate for freshness. 
  • Store in an airtight container.
  • Keep leafy green top attached for prolonged storage time.
  • Can be stored up to 3 weeks.

How to Keep Different Types of Fruit Fresh

Tomatoes

  • Store in a dark place away from sunlight.
  • Do not refrigerate until ripe.
  • Don’t store tomatoes clumped together – separately works best.
  • Place the tomatoes stem side down until ripe.
  • Once the tomatoes to ripen, they can be moved to the fridge.
  • Can keep up to 3-5 days.

Mangos 

Mangos

  • Store at room temperature.
  • Generally take a while to ripen once purchased.
  • Once ripe, can be refrigerated.
  • Keep away from other fruits since mangos are very sensitive to ethylene. 
  • Once ripe, can be kept for up to 5 days. 

 

Bananas & Plantains

  • Store at room temperature until ripe.
  • Overripe bananas can be used for baking or other recipes. 
  • To speed up the ripening process, keep bananas in a sealed container or zip lock bag.
  • Bananas produce a ton of ethylene, so keep away from other fruits you don’t wish to be effected.
  • Usually can be kept once rip for 3-5 days.

Citrus

Fresh Citrus

  • Can be stored at room temperature for about a week.
  • Refrigerate to extend freshness.
  • Oranges & grapefruits are not sensitive to ethylene. 
  • Lemons & limes are sensitive to ethylene. 
  • Oranges can be kept up to 2 weeks.
  • Lemons and limes up to 3 weeks.

Avocado

  • Avocados don’t start ripening until they are picked.
  • Store at room temperature.
  • Cooler temperatures don’t allow avocados to ripen correctly. 
  • Produce high levels of ethylene, is best to store separately from other produce. 
  • Can speed up the ripening process by storing in a bag. 
  • Keep up to 3 days. 

Apples & Pears

Fresh Apples

  • Keep apples refrigerated. 
  • Store apples in a plastic bag.
  • Apples can become mealy if left at room temperature.
  • Storage life for apples can be up to 8 weeks.
  • Pears should be stored at room temperature.
  • Move pears into the fridge once ripe. 
  • Storage life for pears can be up to 2 weeks.

Grapes

  • Store in the refrigerator.
  • Grapes need air flow, which is they are placed in plastic bags with holes at the grocery.
  • Keep grapes in original bagging once stored.
  • Place in a compartment in the fridge.
  • Wash when ready to eat; moisture causes mold on grapes
  • Grapes take on the flavors and smells around them, so store separately.  
  • Last 1-2 weeks.

How to Store Fruits and Vegetables Chart

For a more exhaustive list of storage temperatures, ethylene know how, and storage life, check out this comprehensive list. 

PRODUCE TYPEIDEAL STORAGE TEMPERATUREETHYLENE PRODUCTIONETHYLENE SENSITIVITYSTORAGE LIFE
Apples30-35 °FHighYes8 weeks
Apricots31-32 °FHighYes1-3 weeks
Artichokes34-38 °FNoNo5-7 days
Asparagus32-35 °FNoYes2-3 weeks
Avocados, ripe41-55 °FHighYes3 days
Avocados, unripe36-40 °FLowYes (High)4-5 five days until ripe
Bananas, green59-68 °FLowYes3-4 days until ripe
Bananas, ripe56-58 °FMediumNo3-7 days
Basil51-59 °FNoYes1-2 weeks
Beans, green or snap41-45 °FNoYes7-10 days
Beans, sprouts32 °FLowYes (Low)7-9 days
Beets32-40 °FNoYes10-14 days = bunched1-3 months = topped
Blackberries31-32 °FVery LowNo3-6 days
Blueberries33-34 °FVery LowNo1-2 weeks
Bok Choy32-35 °FNoYes3-4 days
Broccoli32 °FNoYes21-28 days
Brussels Sprouts32 °FVery LowYes3-5 weeks
Cabbages32 °FNoYes (High)Early cabbages = 3-6 weeksLate cabbages = 5-6 months
Cantaloupe36-41 °FYesYes12-15 days
Carrots32 °FVery LowYes (High)10-14 days = bunched7-9 months = mature roots3-4 weeks = fresh cut
Cauliflower32 °FNoYes (High)4 weeks
Celery32 °FNoYes (High)2-3 months
Cherries30-32 °FVery LowNo4-10 days
Chicory32-35 °FNoNo3-5 days
Coconuts32-25 °FNoNo2-3 weeks
Collards32-36 °FNoYes5-7 days
Corn, sweet32-34 °FNoNo5-7 days
Cranberries36-40 °FNoNo2-4 months
Cucumbers50-55 °FVery LowYes10-14 days
Currants34 °FLowYes (Low)1-2 weeks
Eggplant50-54 °FNoYes (High)14 days
Figs30-32 °FLowYes5-7 days
Fresh, Whole Garlic30-32 °FNoNo3-6 months
Ginger Root54-57 °FNoNo4-6 weeks
Grapefruit55-60 °FVery LowNo6 weeks
Grapes30-32 °FVery LowYes1-2 weeks
Green Peas32-40 °FNoYes2 Weeks
Greens, leafy32 °FNoYes (High)7-14 days
Guavas42-50 °FMediumYes15 days
Herbs32-35 °FNoYes2-3 weeks
Horseradish30-32 °FYes (Very Low)Low4-6 months
Jicama55-59 °FVery LowNo2-4 months
Kale32 °FNoYes (High)1-2 weeks
Kiwi32-35 °FHigh when ripe, low when unripeVery sensitive when unripe, sensitive once ripe1-4 weeks once ripe
Leeks32 °FNoYes5-14 days
Lemons54-57 °FVery LowYes (Low)3-6 weeks
Lettuce, Crisphead32 °FNoYes (High)2-3 weeks
Lettuce, Romaine32 °FVery LowYes (High)2 weeks
Limes50-55 °FNoYes1 month
Lychees35-50 °FVery LowYes (Very Low)5-7 days
Mangos50-55 °FMediumYes5 days
Melons, Honey Dew45-50 °FMediumYes12-15 days
Mushrooms32-35 °FVery LowNo5-7 days
Nectarines31-45 °FHighNo2-4 weeks
Okra45-50 °FVery LowYes1 week
Onions32 °FNoNo2 months
Oranges38-46 °FVery LowNo10 days
Papayas45-55 °FMediumYes5-7 days
Parsley32 °FNoYes2 weeks
Parsnips32-40 °FNoYes2 weeks
Peaches30.5-32 °FHighYes3-5 days
Pear, Bartlett30-32 °FHighYes5-12 days
Peas, green32 °FNoYes3-5 days
Peppers, hot chili41-45 °FYesMost varieties are sensitive, Jalapenos are not.3-5 weeks
Peppers, bell41-45 °FYes (Low)Low3-5 weeks
Persimmons30-34 °FLowYes (High)1-2 weeks
Pineapples45-55 °FVery LowNo4-5 days
Plums30.5-32 °FHighYes3-5 days once ripe
Pomegranates41-50 °FVery LowNo2 months
Potatoes42-50 °FVery LowNo2-3 months
Pumpkins50-59 °FVery LowYes2-4 months
Radicchio32 °FLowYes3-4 weeks
Radish32 °FNoYes7-14 days = with tops21-28 days = without tops
Raspberries31-32 °FVery LowNo1-7 days
Rhubarb32-40 °FNoNo2-4 weeks
Rutabagas32-35 °FVery LowYes (Low)4-6 weeks
Salad Mixes32-35 °FNoYes7-10 days when unopened
Spinach32 °FNoYes (High)3-7 days
Sprouts32 °FNoYes5-9 days
Squashes, summer41-50 °FVery LowYes5-7 days
Strawberries31-33 °FVery LowNo3-7 days
Sweet Potatoes55-59 °FVery LowYes6-10 months
Tangerines41-46 °FNoYes2-6 weeks
Tomatoes44-50 °FYesYes3-5 days
Turnips32-40 °FNoYes4-5 months
Watercress32 °FNoYes5 days
Watermelon50-59 °FVery LowYes (High)14 days