Once you’ve gotten yourself settled on how to most cost-effectively purchase your produce, is it game over? Not exactly! While it certainly works to simply squeeze in your fresh produce anywhere it fits (counter, fridge, garage, etc.), it is helpful to understand how to optimally store your precious produce so that nothing goes to waste. How and where we store produce can affect its shelf life and even its nutritional value.
We’ve got many factors to consider when it comes to our fresh fruits and veggies: ideal temperature for each type of produce (whether root vegetables, fresh herbs, salad greens, ripe fruits, etc.) how quickly items start to go bad, which produce will negatively impact nearby produce, and more. We could certainly get very scientific here and discuss specific temperatures, relative humidity, freezing points, and more, but we wanted to give you a basic reference to keep produce fresh longer.
Storing Produce: Which Fresh Fruits & Veggies Should Go Where
Produce to Refrigerate
- Bell peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
Produce best left on the Counter
- Summer squash
- Sweet peppers
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
Produce to Store on the Counter, then Move to the Fridge when Ripe
Produce that Can Be Stored in the Fridge or on the Counter
- Green beans
If you look into storage for the fourth group above, you will find that some people recommend refrigeration for these items, and some do not. Generally, factors to consider regarding storage include how old the produce is when you begin to store it, how quickly you will consume it, the temperatures of your storage options (the fridge, as well as room temperature of your kitchen, garage, etc.), and lastly, how much produce you have and how much storage space you have in which to put everything.
Here are Some Additional Tips for Storing Produce
- Try not to store fruits and vegetables together. Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene gas (produced by some produce during ripening) will cause surrounding vegetables to ripen (and thereby spoil) faster.
- Bananas in particular (especially ripe bananas), apples, and stone fruits ripen quickly and will accelerate the ripening process of any nearby produce. Some produce is also more ethylene sensitive such as many fresh berries and veggies in the Brassica family (i.e. broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale).
- Don’t mix onions and potatoes! The gases from the onions can speed the ripening of your potatoes.
- Many leafy veggies or herbs come in bunches tied with rubber bands or twist ties. Remove these before storage so they can breathe!
- Leave an inch between veggies to keep them from drying out.
- If using a bag for storage, make sure it has air holes or an open top to allow for good airflow. Do not use an airtight container.
- Arrange vegetables loosely in the fridge. Try to keep them spaced apart and in a single layer. Remember, packing them too close together will cause them to ripen/rot faster. For those fruits/veggies that ripen faster especially, utilize the crisper drawer/s in your fridge as they keep excess moisture in check.
- Leafy greens can be washed prior to storage by letting them sit in a sink full of cold water for a few minutes to remove excess dirt/particles. You can also opt to wash when you are ready to use them.
- Moisture is not good for delicate herbs and mushrooms. Wait till your about to use them to wash.
- Keep your fridge clean! Wipe down regularly with a damp paper towel/cloth, deep clean several times per year, and keep an eye on the filters and coils. This helps keep things organized, limits the spread of bacteria, and makes for happier produce.
Let’s be honest though! When things are going the way we want them to go, we end up with so much produce that we just have to store it where we have the space to put it! Do your best and above all, ENJOY THAT BOUNTIFUL PRODUCE!
Thank you, Alan Ritter, for sharing some of your storage tips for keeping produce as fresh as can be. See our post, Ten Steps to Successful Wholesale Produce Shopping, and/or contact Alan ([email protected]) for more information on how to save money on organic wholesale produce in your area.