Vegetables and fruits that last long in proper storage sure can help keep you on track when you’re trying to eat cleaner and healthier.
Plus, it’s just good sense when looking at it from a food waste and spoilage perspective: Americans waste about 150,000 tons of food every day. That’s the equivalent of about a pound of food per day, per person. And even more alarming: much of this waste includes fresh produce.1
This is all the more reason why it is imperative to learn how to correctly store and prep fruits and veggies, while also figuring out how to extend their shelf life.
Fresh produce contains essential vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health, yet a short shelf life makes it harder to reap the benefits. You may start the week with a well-stocked fridge full of fresh fruits and veggies, only to find later in the week that you’ve missed that perfectly ripe and crisp window. Your produce is now solidly in the brown-and-slimy stage.
The good thing is, it’s easy enough to learn which fruits and vegetables are hardier than others. Some types of produce will last longer. Knowing which fruits and veggies have the longest shelf life may help you make more informed choices when planning your menu. Also, there are a lot of helpful tips and household hints that can help extend the shelf life of your farmer’s market haul.
The Secret To Storing Fruits And Vegetables: Separate Them
Don’t be in a hurry to shove your week’s worth of greens and smoothie ingredients into your crisper. Each fruit and vegetable behaves differently under varying temperatures and storage conditions. It has to do with the amount of ethylene gas the fruit or vegetable naturally produces as it ripens.
Now, ethylene gas is a chemical compound that can speed up ripening and affect the shelf life of produce stored too closely together. This is why it’s important to know which fruits and veggies to store apart.2
These are the items that produce the most buildup of ethylene gas and shouldn’t be stored too closely with other fresh fruits and vegetables:
It’s a good rule of thumb to make sure you have ample space to let your produce “breathe” — stuffing them too close together will just make them all go bad much faster.
To Chill Or Not To Chill? Which Fruits And Vegetables To Keep At Room Temperature
You don’t have to worry about losing refrigerator space when storing certain fruits and vegetables. As it turns out, some produce is okay stored at room temperature for a few days, provided its in a cool dry place.
These common pantry staples are good in fruit bowl or basket in a cupboard or sideboard, as long as they’re out of direct sunlight:
Note: Once any of the fruits and veggies mentioned above have fully ripened, refrigerating them is ideal.
Citrus fruits (lemons, limes, tangerines, and oranges) are also okay out in a fruit bowl for about a week. But if you’re not planning on consuming them any time soon, they can be refrigerated in a fine mesh bag.5
Controlling Excess Moisture Is Key
When it comes to refrigerating fruits and vegetables, science says it’s about relative humidity. Check your refrigerator drawers to see if you can adjust the temperature and humidity levels. Generally, you want to keep leafy greens (think kale and lettuce) which are prone to wilting in a higher-humidity zone. Store your hardier produce prone to rot (like winter squash and carrots) in lower humidity. By controlling the moisture levels in your refrigerator, you might be able to prolong the pristine condition and flavor of your produce.6
You can also keep your pre-washed salad mixes in the plastic bag they came in, as these do a pretty good job controlling moisture. If you’re repacking your leafy vegetables and other washed and pre-cut vegetables into smaller portions, choose clear plastic containers lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess moisture. Check the damp paper towel frequently and replace it when it gets too wet.7
How To Keep Avocados, Berries, Cucumbers And Other Popular Fruits And Vegetables For A Long Time
Here are some shelf life-prolonging storage hacks you can try for your favorite fresh produce. If you find yourself with a surplus of these common staples, here’s how you can help make sure they don’t go bad on you before you use them up.
Wash and dry them very well, as moisture on the berries can encourage mold growth. Consider running them through a vinegar wash before refrigerating or freezing.
Cut off the green stems, wash and dry your carrots thoroughly. Store them in a container with water to help keep them from drying out in the refrigerator. Alternatively, store them in the fridge wrapped in bubble wrap.
If you’re slicing your avocados, as opposed to keeping them whole out in the counter, make sure to spritz some fresh lemon juice on the exposed flesh before storing it in the fridge. This helps prevent browning.
Leave your bananas in a bunch if you want them to ripen faster, but if you’re hoping to keep them from ripening too quickly, separate each banana and wrap each stem in a piece of plastic wrap. Bananas can also be refrigerated. And don’t get turned off by the browning of the skin; the flesh inside will be fine.8
To help keep cucumbers crunchy, wash and dry them well. Then wrap them in a piece of paper towel. Toss into a plastic bag and store in a cool part of the fridge.9
Finding Vegetables And Fruits That Last Long: Shop Smart
If you truly want to cut down on food waste, planning and preparation are necessary. Consider staggering your trips to the grocery store each week, so you aren’t stockpiling a ton of fresh ingredients. On the off chance, you get too busy to cook during the week, you won’t have to worry as much about spoilage.
Also, plan your meals ahead of time. This way, you can choose recipes featuring what’s in season, and you’re guaranteed the best flavor and nutritional content with your recipes.
Eating healthy sustainably will certainly be more fulfilling once you perfect your fresh produce storage strategy.