The Ultimate Guide for Smarter Fruit & Vegetable Storage Techniques
Yesterday you reached for a fresh avocado only to find it soft and brown.
It goes in the trash.
“I just stocked up on these two days ago” you mutter!
This morning you bit into an apple that was mushy, and you had to throw out an entire bunch of bananas because they were so brown nobody wanted to eat them - except those pesky little fruit flies.
Does it sometimes feel like fruit and vegetables go bad overnight?
That you throw out more produce than you actually eat?
Spoiled produce can be frustrating, and expensive.
Full Plate Living exists to show you how to add more fruits and vegetables to your meals so you can lose weight and keep it off. Turns out, one of the most frustrating aspects of buying more fruits and vegetables is seeing how quickly it goes bad.
So we created the Ultimate Guide for Smarter Fruit & Vegetable Storage Techniques. In this useful guide, you’ll learn:
- How to keep your produce from going bad so fast
- The 3 rules you should consider before going shopping
- Little known tips & techniques for storing 18 of the most common fruits & vegetables
- 6 helpful guidelines for extending the life of your produce
- How to make good use of extra produce
Let’s get started!
See how to keep your produce from going bad so fast
So what’s the secret for keeping your produce fresh longer?
It all boils down to storing produce in the ideal environment and separating foods that release a lot of ethylene gas (a plant ripening hormone) from produce that is sensitive to the gas. We created an infographic to break down this idea.
The 3 rules you should consider before going shopping
Following these 3 rules will ensure that your fruits and vegetables lasts as long as possible, without it spoiling prematurely.
- Plan produce purchases in advance. An overcrowded refrigerator is inefficient causing your food to spoil faster. So know before you go. How much are you going to eat and how much do you really have room for?
- Store each produce whole in its ideal environment. Just as important as where you store each produce, is what it needs to be separated from.
- Separate high ethylene gas producers from produce sensitive to it. As produce ripens, it releases ethylene gas which causes other produce to spoil faster. We call high ethylene gas producers ripening accelerators. There are 3 ways help slow down the process:
- Purchase an ethylene gas absorber for your refrigerator or fruit bowl.
- Store high ethylene gas producing foods in “green” bags or containers.
- Put more physical space between high ethylene gas produce and produce sensitive to ethylene gas. For example, designated one crisper drawer in the fridge for ripening accelerator produce and one for produce sensitive to ripening.
Little known tips & techniques for storing 18 of the most common fruits & vegetables
When we asked our weekly email readers to share with us their best practices for keeping produce fresh longer, they responded enthusiastically. Here are their tips and advice for keeping common produce fresh.
Apples will last: more than 2 weeks if you refrigerate them.
Where to store: Apples last longer if you refrigerate them. To keep other produce from spoiling, store apples in the designated ripening accelerators drawer of your refrigerator.
Best practices: Keep a few apples in a fruit bowl for easy access when you’re heading out the door.
If you want to save apples that have been sliced, spritz with lemon juice and refrigerate in an airtight container or ziplock bag.
Whole avocados to last: 3-4 days on the counter and 5-7 days refrigerated.
Where to store: Store green avocados at room temperature until they ripen (the fruit will give way slightly when you squeeze it gently). Green avocadoes can take up to 5 days to ripen.
Once ripe, store in the refrigerator and use within a week.
Best practices: Only buy ripe avocados if you plan on using them within a couple days. Otherwise green avocados will last longer.
Because avocados are ripening accelerators, placing them in a brown paper bag will speed up the ripening process.
To store chopped avocado or guacamole, leave the pit in, spritz with some lemon juice, cover with plastic and refrigerate. If you no longer have the pit, use a piece of onion in the sealed avocado container. This will keep the avocado from turning brown for 24 hours.
Watchouts: Leaving ripe avocados on the counter for more than 24 hours will likely make them brown on the inside.
Expect bananas to last: 5-7 days in a hammock; 1-2 weeks if green to begin with
Where to store: The easiest way to help bananas last longer is to buy them their own hammock and store on the counter away from the fruit bowl.
If you don’t have a hammock, wrapping the stem and separating bananas from other fruit will also help them last longer. If your bananas are packaged in bags at the store, remove them from the bags to allow for even ripening.
Best practices: Wrapping the crown of the banana bunch with plastic wrap will also help them stay fresh. Be sure to rewrap anytime you remove a banana from the bunch.
Watchouts: Once bananas turn spotty, they become homes to pesky little fruit flies.
You can put bananas in the refrigerator to slow down ripening. Though the skin may turn a dark brown, they will still be good on the inside.
Expect fresh berries to last: 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
Where to store: Keep berries in their original container and refrigerate. Flip the container every day to rotate the fruit that’s on the top and bottom. Check and remove any berries that are starting to spoil.
Best practices: Give your berries a vinegar bath to eliminate mold and the growth of bacteria. Fill a bowl with 1 cup vinegar and 3 cups water. Add berries and gently swirl them around. Rinse under gentle running water. Use a paper towel to dry them completely before placing them in a paper towel-lined container in the fridge.
Watchouts: Because berries are so fragile, they are often spoiled before you even get home. Check each container of berries carefully prior to purchasing. You may have to open it up to see the fruit underneath the label on the box.
Broccoli thrives in a plastic bag inside the crisper drawer of the fridge with other foods that are sensitive to ethylene gas.
Expect broccoli to last: 3-4 days in the refrigerator
Where to store: Keep broccoli wrapped in the plastic packaging in came in and place inside the crisper drawer with other produce that is sensitive to ethylene gas.
Best practices: Wash broccoli right before you use it, not ahead of time.
Expect whole carrots to last: 2+ weeks in the refrigerator.
Where to store: leave your carrots in their bag and place in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
Best practices: Cut off any green tops that your carrots might still have, otherwise they will go limp faster. You can cook the carrot tops the same way as you do other greens...or add it to pesto and chop into a vegetable stew.
If the carrots are chopped, submerge them in a sealed container of water, and refrigerate. Be sure to consume these carrots before whole ones, since they will spoil faster.
Expect celery to last: 2+ weeks in the refrigerator.
Where to store: Celery thrives in refrigerator drawer designed for foods that are sensitive to ethylene gas, stored away from ripening accelerator foods like apples.
Best practices: Cut the ends off celery and wrap it in a paper towel then plastic wrap or aluminum foil before storing in the refrigerator.
Expect cherries and grapes to last: 5-7 days in the refrigerator
Where to store: Combat mold by storing cherries and grapes unwashed in a vented plastic bag in the refrigerator. When ready to eat, be sure to wash throughly, as both of these are highly contaminated with pesticides. Try the vinegar bath used on the berries above for a good cleaning.
Watchouts: One bad piece can spoil the whole bunch, so check the bags every few days and throw away any pieces that have mold starting to grow on them.
Expect citrus to last to last: 2+ weeks in the refrigerator or countertop.
Where to store: Citrus fruit is one of the least temperamental produce. They thrive in the refrigerator, however, if it’s getting overcrowded, they will do fine on the countertop as well.
Watchouts: Be sure the fruitbowl is not contaminated with mold from previous fruits to help citrus last longer.
Expect corn to last: 3-4 days in the refrigerator
Where to store: Store full ears of corn with the husk still on in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Watchouts: Keep your corn from going dry and flavorless by eating it as soon as possible.
Greens: lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, etc.
Expect greens to last: 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Where to store: Greens thrive in the crisper drawer designated for produce sensitive to ethylene gas.
Best practices: Treat greens like flowers. Don’t wash or cut, until you’re ready to use them. Wrap the bunch of greens in a paper towel or thin cloth towel to help them stay moist but also absorb extra water. Wrap some plastic wrap around the paper towel to keep the bunch together.
Extend the life of lettuce or kale by wrapping foil around them.
Loose greens can be kept in a bag with a folded paper towel placed inside. Replace the towel every couple of days.
Watchouts: If greens start to wilt, either cook, or freeze immediately so you avoid throwing them in the bin.
Expect them to last: 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator
Where to store: Herbs need to be cool, so they need to be stored in the refrigerator.
Best practices: Put water in a cup and submerge your herbs in it, like a bunch of wildflowers before placing in the refrigerator.
You can also treat them like greens if you don’t have enough space - wrap a layer of paper towels around them and place in a ziplock bag.
Watchouts: Herbs can start to yellow and eventually mold. If you have a lot of herbs on hand and know you won’t be using them for months, chop them up and place desired amount in your ice cube tray with some olive oil.
Expect melons to last: 5-7 days whole, 3-4 days once cut
Where to store: Melons should be left to ripen on the counter. You’ll know they’re ready to be moved into the refrigerator when their stem end is a little soft or they have a fragrant smell.
Once cut, store leftover fruit in an airtight container in the fridge.
Watchouts: Cut melons will spoil faster if they’re sitting in a lot of juice.
Expect onions and potatoes to last: 2+ weeks
Where to store: You can extend the life of both potatoes and onions by storing them separately. They both need to be stored in a dark, cool, dry and well ventilated area, such as a pantry, drawer, or closet. You can separate them by placing them in paper bags, never plastic ones.
Best practices: One easy way to separate the two is to store onions in old pantyhose with a knot between each and hang them. This will keep them fresh for up to 8 months.
Chopped or sliced onions can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.
Watchouts: Sprouting shortens the life of both onions and potatoes, but they are still good for a couple of days after sprouting has started. Check for firmness. If the produce is still firm it is still safe to eat.
Expect peaches to last: 1-2 weeks at room temperature.
Where to store: Store them at room temperature until their fragrant smell becomes pronounced, then transfer to the fridge.
Watchouts: Some peaches can already be spoiling at the store. Be sure the fruit you buy is firm and smells like a peach.
Expect pears to last: 5-7 days on the counter and refrigerator
Where to store: You can store pears at room temperature for 2-3 days then transfer to the refrigerator away from ripening accelerating fruit like apples to prolong the ripening process.
Watchouts: Store apples and pears away from each other, as apples will make pears spoil much faster.
Expect pineapple to last: 3-4 days in the fridge
Where to store: Pineapple should be stored in the refrigerator with the green leafy tops cut off.
Best practices: If you store the pineapple upside down, you’ll redistribute the sugar so the really sweet part isn’t just at the bottom of the fruit.
Expect tomatoes to last: 5-7 days on the counter
Where to store: Tomatoes thrive in the coolest part of the room. Leave them unwrapped and be sure they’re not exposed to direct sunlight. They need some room to breathe and don’t do well when extra moisture builds up, so make sure they’re not overcrowded.
Watchouts: Once a tomato starts to go bad, remove it from the bunch and clean the container they’re stored in to ensure the mold doesn’t transfer to the other fruit.
6 helpful guidelines for extending the life of your produce
Sometimes extending the life of your produce is as simple as making sure its environment is as clean as possible - from cutting off wilting parts of the produce to making sure no mold is on the container the produce is stored in.
- Clean produce storage areas with soap and water to remove mold or any other items that might spoil new foods.
- Line refrigerator drawers with paper towels or kitchen towels to absorb any extra moisture.
- Utilize plastic or paper bags to separate produce in the refrigerator.
- Give your fruit a good wash or even a vinegar dip.
- Store produce whole, and wash right before using. If you end up chopping something, store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Remove bad parts (like a wilted lettuce leaf, or spoiled grape) or whole foods (like apples) that have been spoiled.
How to make good use of extra produce
When you find yourself with too much ripe produce, dice it up and freeze.
You’ll have an easy to grab ingredient for next time you’re cooking.
Best produce for freezing:
- Greens like kale and spinach are great for sautees, soups, and smoothies. Clean, cut and place in ziplock with all air pressed out.
- Bananas, strawberries, peaches, pineapple, mango are great to top oatmeal or use in smoothies and ice cream. Clean, slice and store in ziplock bags with all air pressed out.
- Blackberries, raspberries, cherries, grapes taste wonderful in smoothies, ice cream, or cold snacking. Clean, remove pits (for cherries) and place in ziplock bag with all air pressed out.
- Carrots, beets, onions, peas, celery, mushrooms, bell peppers are ideal for soups, stews and sautes. Clean, dice, and store in ziplock bag with all air pressed out.
- Herbs are handy for flavoring cooked dishes. Chop and place desired amount in ice cube tray with olive oil.
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Full Plate Living is like a diet but different because it’s a method for losing weight that empowers you to eat more whole foods like blueberries, bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, broccoli and beans.
We wrote this post to address one of the most annoying obstacles people face when trying to eat more fresh produce. If you’d like to join the 100,000+ subscribers who receive articles like this every week, sign up here to join.