For many families, it’s important to keep a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables around the house for snacks, meal planning, and eventually spending time together gathered around the dining room table, enjoying a home cooked meal.

Now that you know how to pick produce like a pro, it’s a good time to refresh yourself on how to properly store it. Kids love having delicious fruit available for a quick snack, and parents enjoy watching their family make smart food choices.

With fresh foods, though, we’re always racing the clock. Fruits and vegetables don’t last forever—but you can take steps to make sure they stay fresh as long as possible.

Storage Basics

One of the most important rules in fresh produce storage is to only wash and cut what you’re ready to eat. A sliced piece of fruit will always spoil at a much faster rate than a whole fruit that has been properly stored.

A great habit to adopt for proper produce storage is to inspect and remove any damaged, bruised, or rotting produce from the packaging. Occasionally (especially when buying bulk bags of fruit such as apples or oranges), a piece can go bad and hide within the bunch. Remove these before storage to keep the edible fruit from potentially being ruined.

After your produce makes it home, it’s a good idea to avoid storing it in the door of your refrigerator. This placement puts temperature sensitive fresh foods at risk for spoiling faster than normal due to the fluctuating temperature when the door is opened and closed throughout the day.

Storage Guidelines  

There are so many fruits and vegetables at our fingertips year round that makes knowing the right way to protect and store food an important part of modern healthy living.

Americans throw away roughly 19% of the vegetables and 14% of the fruits that they buy. Let’s change that. The following list will guide you through the best practices of produce storage for popular fruits, vegetables, and common herbs.

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Fruits:

  • Apples: Ripe apples can be kept in the fridge for up to three weeks.
  • Apricots: Ripening apricots is simple and only requires one thing: a paper bag. Keep your fruit in the bag until they soften up and begin smelling sweet. Once ripe, apricots can be stored for up to five days in the fridge.
  • Bananas: Bananas will stay fresh for five days on the counter. Grabbed green bananas? Speed up the ripening process by placing them inside of a closed plastic bag. Bananas produce ethylene gas, which is the key to ripening quickly within the bag. To make your bananas last longer (slow the ripening process), put plastic wrap around the crown of the bunch. If you’ve ever seen bananas wrapped this way, now you know why! For those extra-ripe, brown bananas, save them in the freezer for a rainy baking day.
  • Blackberries: Before storing berries, find and remove any pieces that show signs of breakdown or bruising. Next, lay your berries in a single layer on a paper towel in the fridge for up to 2 days.
  • Blueberries: Like blackberries, find and remove any damaged berries before storing them in the fridge for up to one week. Blueberries have an impressive shelf life for a berry. Plus, blueberries are incredible for our health.
  • Cantaloupe: A whole, uncut melon can stay in the fridge for five days. If cut, cantaloupe can be saved for up to three days. To ripen, keep it at room temperature in a paper bag. Health tip: before cutting your cantaloupe, thoroughly wash the outer rind to prevent the spread of bacteria.
  • Cherries: These fruit are one of the more delicate types, and must be eaten quickly. Cherries should be stored in an open bag or bowl in the fridge and eaten within three days.
  • Clementines: Perfect for school lunches, these beauties stay fresh for five days when kept in the fridge.
  • Cranberries: These red berries are quite impressive with a refrigerated storage life of one month…not that they ever last that long!
  • Grapes: Grapes should be stored in the fridge and eaten within three days. Storage in the fridge is possible for up to one week if they are in a bowl or well-ventilated bag.
  • Grapefruit: Let ripen for up to one week on the counter. Store for up to three weeks in the fridge once your desired ripeness is achieved.
  • Honeydew: If whole, it can be stored in the fridge for five days. After the melon has been cut, it’s best eaten within three days.
  • Jimaca: Keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
  • Kiwis: Store for up to four days in the fridge.
  • Lemons: Store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Lemons have a great storage life and are a super staple for many families.
  • Limes: Store in the fridge for up to three weeks. Another kitchen super staple!
  • Mangoes: Ripen your mango by placing it in a paper bag at room temperature until it becomes softer. Store in the fridge for up to four days.
  • Nectarines: Ripen on your counter at room temperature in a paper bag until soft; store in the fridge for up to five days.
  • Oranges: Keep on your countertop for up to three days, or in the fridge for two weeks.
  • Peaches: Ripen them at room temperature in a paper bag until soft and sweet smelling, then store in the fridge for up to five days. Peaches are also great for peeling, slicing, and freezing for future use.  
  • Pears: Ripen at room temperature using the paper bag method until soft and store in your fridge for up to five days.
  • Pineapple: Keep whole pineapples on the kitchen counter for five days. Once cut, keep in the fridge for up to three days.
  • Plums: Ripen at room temperature until soft and the skin has a nice powdery coating. Store in the fridge for up to five days.
  • Pomegranates: This sturdy fruit lasts for three weeks in the fridge when whole. Once cut, the refrigerated seeds stay fresh for three days.
  • Tomatoes: Keep tomatoes at room temperature and away from direct sunlight. It is important to not store these in plastic, which traps moisture and can lead to the fruit rotting or becoming moldy.
  • Raspberries: Using the single layer paper towel method, raspberries stay fresh for up to three days in the fridge. Be sure to find and remove any heavily damaged or bruised berries before storing.
  • Strawberries: Remove any damaged fruit and store in the fridge for up to three days. Tip: don’t wash strawberries until you’re ready to eat them!
  • Tangerines: Can be stored in the fridge for one week. Heads up: kids are drawn to this fruit, and it’s a perfect addition to homemade school lunches.  
  • Watermelon: Store the whole (uncut) melon in the fridge for up to one week. Once cut, it can be kept for two days. If your whole watermelon doesn’t fit in your fridge, no problem—simply keep it in a cool place.

Vegetables:

A photo by Sonja Langford. unsplash.com/photos/H5k8PoC1BBc

  • Bell Peppers: Since green peppers will stay fresh for roughly two days in the fridge, consider buying  them close to the time you plan to use them in your next recipe. a Red, yellow, and orange peppers offer more leniency in their refrigerated shelf-life and can be kept for up to five days.
  • Broccoli: Store uncut (whole) in the fridge for up to one week.
  • Cabbage (Green and Red): Cabbage is a mighty veggie and stays fresh and ready to eat for up to a week in the fridge.
  • Carrots: Carrots are also sturdy and can be stored for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
  • Corn (Unshucked): Corn is best on the day it is purchased, but can be kept for up to three days in the fridge.
  • Cucumbers: This kitchen essential stays fresh for up to five days in the fridge.
  • Eggplant: This hearty vegetable is perfect for warm fall dinners. Don’t worry about not cooking it right away because eggplants stay great for five days in the fridge.
  • Garlic: Keep garlic in your pantry with plenty of space for air to circulate, and it’ll stay fresh for up to two months.
  • Kale: Store kale in the refrigerator for up to three days.
  • Lettuce (Bagged & Clamshells): Store in the fridge and remember to follow the expiration/use by date no matter how fresh the leaves look as bacteria can develop once the package is opened.
  • Lettuce (Head): Store in the fridge for up to five days. Iceberg lettuce can chill for up to two weeks! No pun intended.
  • Mushrooms: Place inside the fridge within a paper bag for up to one week.
  • Onions: Whole onions will last up to two months in your pantry as long as there’s plenty of air circulating around them. Once cut, store in the fridge for up to four days.
  • Potatoes (Red, Russet, Yukon Gold, others): Store potatoes in your pantry for up to three weeks and as long as they get plenty of air moving around them, they’ll hold up just fine.  
  • Radishes: When stored in your fridge, these are best used within three days. Sometimes two weeks is possible with proper keeping. Tip: to prolong freshness, remove the leaves prior to storage.
  • Sweet Potatoes / Yams: Leave in your pantry for a maximum of two weeks in a paper bag.
  • Tomatoes: Place your tomatoes on the counter for storage. To ripen, place in a paper bag until your tomatoes are soft enough for your liking.
  • Turnips: Keep turnips in the fridge for two weeks. Tip: separate the roots from the leaves, storing the leaves separately in a plastic bag. The leaves will stay fresh for three days.

Herbs (Leafy):

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  • Basil, Cilantro, Chives, Tarragon: Three days refrigerated.
  • Parsley, Mint: Five days refrigerated.
    Tip for storing leafy herbs: wrap the bunch in a damp paper towel before bagging and keeping in the fridge. For long term storage, learn how to properly freeze your herbs and extend their lifespan.

Herbs (Woody):

  • Rosemary, Thyme: Store in your fridge for up to two weeks.

When ripening produce at room temperature, be sure to remove it from any packaging and leave it loose or in a produce bowl. Once your produce is ripe, it can be transferred to the fridge to preserve the existing flavors and consistency for a few more days.

Fresh produce gives us many important parts of what we need to feed our families great meals made from fresh, quality ingredients.

Remember, produce isn’t meant to be stored for a long time! Save yourself money, time, and wasted food by purchasing only what you’re planning on using within a few days.

Buying smart and storing smart are essential to successfully incorporating fresh produce into your everyday life.

Have you been making any produce storage mistakes or have more questions? Tweet us and tell your story @hgofarms.

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