Shopping at your local farmers market and buying right from the grower is one of the best ways to add more fruits and vegetables to a healthy diet. But you can’t enjoy the benefits of fresh, local foods when you’re throwing away more overripe or withered produce than you’re eating each week. There has to be a better way to store produce properly to ensure it stays fresher, longer!
Americans typically throw away about 15% of the fruit and 20% of the vegetables they purchase. Here are our tips for the best way to store produce to avoid food waste.
Should I Wash Fruits & Vegetables Immediately?
Common sense might lead you to believe that washing all your produce at once makes it easier when it comes time to eat it. However, if you wash your produce before storing it, the excess moisture can actually speed up the decay process. Instead, wash your berries, cucumbers, broccoli, and other produce just before eating them.
There is one exception. Lettuce and other greens can be washed before you store them. For maximum freshness, wash your lettuce and pat dry (or use a salad spinner). Then wrap the greens in paper towels and store in a plastic bag.
Where Should I Store Produce?
Storing Produce in the Refrigerator
Most produce stays at peak freshness when stored in the produce drawers of your refrigerator (set to 40F or below). Place your produce in plastic bags with holes, for adequate air flow. Be careful not to cram too much produce in your drawer. Packing items in too tightly can cause your food to rot faster.
These fruits and vegetables do best in cold temperatures:
- Green beans
- Lettuce & greens
- Summer squash
In addition, any cut, chopped, or peeled produce should be stored in your refrigerator.
Produce on Your Countertops
There are some fruits that are cold-sensitive and do better at room temperature. When storing produce on your countertop, remove it from its plastic bag and set it in a location that’s away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture.
In some instances, you can let produce continue to ripen on your countertop and then refrigerate for a few more days.
These fruits can be stored on your countertop:
Fruit & Veggie Storage in the Pantry
Kept in a cool, dark, dry cupboard or panty, some produce items can last up to a month or more. You can store the following produce in your pantry:
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter (hard) squash
Certain Fruits & Vegetables Need to be Separated
There are some instances where you need to separate your fruits and vegetables. Many fruits release high amounts of Ethylene gas, which rapidly increases the ripening process. When these high-Ethylene fruits are stored near gas-sensitive vegetables, the gas they release may cause those vegetables to over-ripen.
There are times, however, when you can put Ethylene gas to work for you! When you need to quickly ripen a banana, avocado, peach, or other gas-producing fruit, place it in a paper bag and allow the trapped gases to speed up the ripening process.