Are you wasting food because it rots quicker than you manage to eat it? We’re guilty of this too, that’s why we’ve put together a thorough guide on how to store fruits and vegetables for longer. Storing food the right way can really make a difference to your produce’s expiry date and your pocket.
It’s happened to all of us at some point — we go to our local farmer’s market or grocery store and buy in bulk at a good price, excited at the endless cooking options ahead of us. We then patiently wait for our fruit and veggies to ripen, but before we know it, they’ve gone mouldy! Do you end up asking yourself, so where should I store apples again? Do eggplants go in the refrigerator on the countertop?
Wouldn’t it be useful to have this all summarized in one place? Funny you should ask, we’ve compiled such a list for your reading pleasure. But first, let’s get to grips with why produce goes bad to begin with.
The maturing process
It’s important to understand why our food rots and the importance of suitable vegetable storage. One of the biggest culprits is ethylene: a natural gas that’s released from fruit and veg that speeds up the ripening (or rotting!) process.
It can be a conducive gas when it comes to ripening fruit like avocado quickly, but if you want your tomatoes to stay nice and firm, it’s best to steer clear of it (think about the “one bad apple” saying). So as a general rule, try to keep your produce separate unless you’ve strategically planned to expedite the ripening of certain fruit or veg ahead of time.
Biggest offenders: Avocados, apples, pears, melon, stone fruits, bananas, and tomatoes.
Most susceptible: Delicate leafy greens and eggplant.
Other factors that play a role in the maturing of a piece of fruit or veg are — temperature, whether you wash it or not, as well as how and where you store it.
Fridge: As a rule of thumb, don’t wash produce you plan to refrigerate — keep it them either in its original packaging or loosely wrapped in a plastic bag.
Countertop: Assuming they’re ripe, store fruit and veggies at room temperature, freeing them of packaging and leaving them loose.
Ready to get some useful tips on how to store fruits and vegetables? We’ve gone for the most common fruit and veg that you’re likely to bring back from your shopping trip.
How to store vegetables
When storing veggies, it’s important to remember to loosen them from any ties or rubber bands, and to trim leafy ends. If you’re keeping veggies in a bag, make sure that it’s perforated to allow for air flow, especially if you’re wondering how to store vegetables in the fridge.
Contrary to what you may think, the best place to store eggplant isn’t in the fridge, but at room temperature! It’s best to keep it in a cool place, away from direct sunlight. Avoid sealing it in any plastic, as it will spoil quicker.
When unwashed, it’s best to keep fresh beans in Tupperware or a plastic bag in the crisper. If you want to freeze them, simply rinse the beans in cool water, drain and cut the ends off, ready to be cooked.
Onions should be kept in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight. They’re prone to sharing their pungent smell with other food they come into contact with (especially when cut). Also, try to keep them away from potatoes, because they might trigger them to sprout quicker.
As a general rule, root vegetables like garlic, potatoes, pumpkins, and beets should be kept at room temperature in a basket made from natural fiber or wire mesh. Place the basket in a cool, dry and dark place.
It’s best not to store a zucchini if you’ve already cut it. Store it unwashed in a perforated or loose plastic bag on your countertop if your kitchen doesn’t get too warm. Otherwise, put it in the fridge.
It’s best to consume fresh broccoli as soon as possible because it doesn’t keep for long. To make sure it stays as fresh as can be, wrap it loosely in a damp kitchen towel and refrigerate it. Broccoli doesn’t like to be sealed in a container or a plastic bag. The same goes for cauliflower.
If you buy them on the stalk, you can take them off, but try to keep the outer leaves intact. Store them in an open container or bowl in the fridge. The leaves will end up wilting, but the inner part of the sprout will stay fresh.
Cut cabbage should be wrapped tightly in plastic or in a sealable plastic bag if it’s still whole. Keep it in the crisper drawer in the fridge.
If the green stalks are still attached, trim them off, then place the carrots in a container of water in the fridge to keep them fresh and crunchy for as long as possible.
There’s some debate as to whether it’s best to store cucumber at room temperature or not, but this would depend on how warm your kitchen is. If it’s cool or air-conditioned, you can go for the countertop. Otherwise, store cucumber in the crisper compartment. Keeping it wrapped in plastic minimizes the amount of moisture, which slows down the spoiling process.
Dark leafy greens
When it comes to storing vegetables in the fridge, dark leafy greens can be a little trickier as they wilt easily. To keep them fresh for longer, wrap leafy greens in a damp kitchen towel and keep them unwashed in a plastic bag with holes.
If you’ve bought pre-wrapped mushrooms from, keep them in their original packaging in the refrigerator. If you’ve opened the pack, but have mushrooms leftover, wrap them in plastic wrap again and poke some holes for air flow.
If you’re lucky enough to have wild mushrooms, store them in a paper bag instead. Keeping them in the crisper means the mushrooms won’t dry out. Don’t worry if they shrivel up a bit; they’re still good for cooking.
How to store fruit
By now you must feel like you’re getting to grips when it comes to how to store fruits and vegetables, but we’ve got a couple more surprises up our sleeves. Stone fruit (apart from cherries) like avocados, apricots, melons, and mangoes continue to ripen when left at room temperature, which can be a good thing. Fruit like berries, citrus and grapes will just deteriorate if not refrigerated.
Bananas will be at their best when kept in a fruit bowl at room temperature. Be careful not to store them close to fruit that’s already ripe. Once the banana has ripened to your liking, feel free to store it in the fridge. If the skin turns black, don’t fret, the flesh should still be fine!
Oranges are best stored unwashed as any moisture on the skin could potentially lead to mold and decay. Store oranges at room temperature, in a net or open bowl, and away from direct sunlight. You can also keep them in the fridge.
Tomatoes are unquestionably best kept on the countertop at room temperature as they develop flavor as they ripen. If you want to store your tomatoes for longer, you can preserve them in the fridge, but make sure to remove them a day before you want to eat them — the enzymes will reactivate and boost the flavor.
Countertop to fridge
Avocados, like bananas, are best left to ripen on the countertop and then placed in the fridge, or if they’re already ripe, pop them in the fridge right away. If you want to speed up the ripening process, put the avocados in a paper bag.
Kiwis will also continue to ripen after picking. If they aren’t ripe yet, keep them on the kitchen counter for a few days before placing them in the refrigerator.
If your mango needs to ripen, leave it on your countertop for a few days until it’s soft and sweet. Like avocados, you can use the paper bag trick to ripen them faster. Once it’s to your liking, transfer it to the fridge.
Melons can be left outside until they’ve reached their peak, at which point you can put them in the refrigerator. Try to keep cut melons with the seeds in as this will maintain freshness. It’s also helpful to wrap the remainder in plastic, so it stays moist and doesn’t absorb the smell of other foods. The same goes for watermelon.
Keep them on your kitchen counter until they reach your desired ripeness, then place them in the fridge once they’re on point. If you want them to ripen faster, you can also put them in a brown paper bag.
Pears are usually picked unripe as they don’t gain much from being left to ripen on the tree. You can store them at room temperature until they become soft to the touch, at which point they can be kept in the refrigerator.
Apples are best kept at around 30-35°F in a humid environment, which is why the crisper drawer is the right place for them, preferably on damp kitchen paper. Apples benefit from being stored in the fridge as quickly as possible – if you have one that’s bruised or has any soft spots on it, don’t keep it with the others as it will spoil them too. Set it aside to eat as soon as possible.
Berries aren’t cheap, which is all the more reason to store them properly. You may think that washing them beforehand will speed their deterioration, but in fact, it can increase their longevity. Add them to a diluted vinegar bath (one cup vinegar and three cups water), then spin them dry and lay them on a kitchen towel until completely dry. Store them in a lined container with a loose lid.
Did you know that lemons stored in the refrigerator last four times longer than those stored at room temperature? That’s a whole month in the fridge, compared with just one week when kept on your countertop!
When buying grapes, try to go for ones that are even in color and still attached to the stem. It’s best to store grapes in a perforated plastic or paper bag in the fridge for them to stay firm.
Now that you’re up to speed on how to store fruits and vegetables, how about whipping up some yummy recipes with your favorite produce? We’ve got some new delicious recipes like Pumpkin Lasagna, Chili Lime Cauliflower Tacos, Lemon Coconut Protein Bites, and Turmeric Vanilla Mango Smoothie. Try them now when you sign up for 8fit Pro!