Fridge, Counter or Drawer? Make Fruits and Vegetables Last Longer!

If you’re getting excited about all the spring foods flooding our Thursday night and Saturday morning farmers markets, it’s a great time to think about how to store produce. Let’s make it last as long as possible so we can enjoy every bite!

Here are some tips on properly storing all types of fruits and vegetables. And a few general cues:
Use the veggie and fruit drawers. They are designed to keep the proper temperature and humidity levels for optimum storage.
Rinse your fruits and veggies in cold water before storing, and if possible, store them in a reusable mesh bag so they can breathe. (You can grab a couple at the Managers Booth at the Visalia Farmers Market!)
Don’t pack your fridge too tight with too many items – the air needs to circulate to keep it cold.
Check to see that things aren’t spoiling. If you see something on the verge, use it, or remove it to keep the rest of the items from spoiling.

Put These In the Fridge:

BERRIES

Berries of all kinds require refrigeration. They are more apt to spoilage than other fruits. Be sure to sort through and remove any that are smashed or bruised because when one goes bad, the others will shortly follow. You can soak them in a bowl of cool water mixed with a little white vinegar to help halt any mold. Just be sure to let them air dry completely before storing them. Line a plate or their packing container with paper towels to absorb excess moisture.

MOST VEGETABLES

Green beans, peas, zucchini, yellow summer squash, eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, corn, cucumbers, celery, bell peppers and root vegetables (not potatoes) should be kept chilled.

LEAFY GREENS

Leafy greens can be stored several ways, but there are some shortcuts that will help you eat and not waste them. The most popular is to wash them, put in a salad spinner to dry, then store with a paper towel to absorb moisture. If you go crazy and buy way too many greens (it happens) you can wash them, spin or pat dry and pack into a freezer proof container or bag to use in smoothies or soups.

ROOT VEGETABLES

Root vegetables will keep for a really long time when stored properly. You can keep these in the vegetable drawer of your fridge with most of your produce. If you buy root veggies with their green tops still attached, the greens will keep for 3-5 days. The roots will keep for weeks, if not months, if keep relatively dry and cold. If you have a basement that is really cool, dark and dry, they will keep there too.

HERBS

Most herbs need to be kept in the fridge. Leafy herbs like cilantro and parsley (not basil – we’ll get to that) can be kept in a glass of water, lightly covered. Trim the ends and place the whole bunch in a few inches of water. If you don’t have the space or don’t want to do that, trim the ends and wrap in a damp paper towel.

Keep These on the Counter:

TOMATOES

You probably know that tomatoes should never go in the fridge unless they are cut. Why? The cold temps affect the texture of the tomatoes and turn them mealy. Let them sit at room temperature and you’re good.

BASIL

Basil doesn’t keep for long after it’s been cut. It should be stored on the counter in a temperate area (not too cold or hot), in a glass of water. Refrigeration turns the leaves black, as does excess moisture. To keep it longer, puree in a blender or food processor with a little olive oil or water and freeze in an ice cube tray. You can also turn it into pesto, which keeps for longer.

CITRUS

Citrus is best kept on the counter. It is also easier to juice when they are at room temperature.

SWEET POTATOES

Sweet potatoes and other varieties should never go in the fridge. Their starches convert into sugar and while you may not think that sounds like such a bad thing, I don’t want my mashed potatoes (unless they are orange) to taste sweet. There is also evidence that storing potatoes in the fridge can also cause carcinogens to form.

ONIONS + GARLIC

Onions and garlic should also be stored somewhere cool and dark, not in the fridge. Also, store onions away from potatoes. If there’s a dark corner on your kitchen counter, stores here! If not, stick them in the pantry or basement. The same goes for winter squash.