A Complete Guide to Keeping Fruits and Veggies Fresh
Do you know that proper food storage prevents spoilage, saving you hundreds?
You bring home fresh fruits and vegetables, stash them in the refrigerator and then wonder what happened to make them shrivel, rot or go limp a few days later. Much of the time, the culprit is the way you’re storing them.
The Natural Resources Defense Council claims that the average American family of four throws away almost 25% of the food and beverages they buy which accounts for $1,365 to $2,275 per annum.
Have in mind that there’s more to storing fresh produce than you might think. In order to prevent spoilage, certain foods shouldn’t be stored together at all, while others that we normally keep in the fridge should actually be left on the countertop. To keep your produce optimally fresh (and cut down on food waste), there are several things to remember.
- First, fruits and vegetables don’t play well together. So don’t store them together in a refrigerator drawer or next to each other on the counter or in the pantry. Why? Many fruits produce ethylene gas, which acts like a ripening hormone and can speed spoilage.
- Second, don’t clean produce until you’re ready to use it. Washing fruits or vegetables before storing them makes them more likely to spoil, because dampness encourages bacteria growth, says food research scientist Amanda Deering of Purdue University.
- Vegetables need to breathe. Poke holes in the plastic bags you store them in, or keep them in reusable mesh bags. An airtight plastic bag is the worst choice for storing vegetables, according to Barry Swanson, professor emeritus of food science at Washington State University. Also, don’t pack veggies tightly together, either; they need space for air circulation or they’ll spoil faster.
- There’s nothing as inviting as a big bowl of crisp apples on the kitchen counter. To keep those apples crisp and all countertop-stored produce fresh, store them out of direct sunlight, either directly on the countertop, in an uncovered bowl, or inside a perforated plastic bag.
- When storing herbs (and interestingly, asparagus, too), snip off the ends, store upright in a glass of water (like flowers in a vase) and cover with a plastic bag.
A handy chart to guide you what to store where:
Some facts about ethylene
Ethylene is an odorless, harmless and tasteless gas produced naturally by most fruits, such as tomatoes, bananas, peaches, and avocados, and it promotes ripening. Most tomatoes today are picked green and transported unripe to protect them from bruising and spoilage. When ethylene-producing foods are kept close to ethylene-sensitive foods, especially in a confined space (like a bag or drawer), the gas will speed up the ripening process of the other produce. Knowing this can be quite beneficial in case you want to speed up the ripening process of an unripe fruit (for example, by putting an apple in a bag with an unripe avocado). But if you want your already-ripe foods to last longer, don’t forget to store them away from ethylene-producing foods (as shown in the chart above).