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.
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Tips for Keeping Fruits & Veggies Fresh
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.
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
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:
How to Keep Different Types of Vegetables Fresh
Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, & Yams
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
IDEAL STORAGE TEMPERATURE
4-5 five days until ripe
3-4 days until ripe
Beans, green or snap
10-14 days = bunched1-3 months = topped
Early cabbages = 3-6 weeksLate cabbages = 5-6 months