If you look through all our recipes, you’ll find we use a ton of fresh fruits and vegetables. That's because there's really no better way to get essential vitamins and minerals, nutrients, and hydration every day.
But buying all that produce doesn’t do any good if you find yourself with a bag of slimy spinach or a wrinkled husk of a peach a few days later! The tips below are fast, easy steps you can take to be sure your fruits and veggies last as long as possible and taste their best.
General Storage Tips
- Keep them separated. Some fruits and vegetables produce ethylene, a gas that can cause produce to ripen too quickly. Store ethylene-producers like stone fruit (peaches, avocados, apricots, etc.), bananas, and tomatoes away from apples, lettuce and other leafy greens, asparagus, carrots, eggplant, and broccoli.
- Get rid of the produce bags. Almost no food does well when it’s wrapped in the thin, filmy produce bags from the grocery store. Always remove produce from those bags before storing. To save time when you’re cooking, now is also a great time to wash and dry apples, stone fruit, tomatoes, and veggies like carrots, celery, and broccoli.
Just for Fruit
- Never refrigerate tomatoes. Tomatoes have flavor compounds that break down almost immediately after being exposed to temperatures under 55°F. Since most fridges are set below 40°F, a refrigerated tomato is a bland, tasteless tomato. They do still appreciate being kept cool though, so no direct sunlight or warm temps.
- Store unripe fruit on the counter, ripe fruit in the fridge. That rock-hard nectarine will never get any softer when kept cold. Let fruit ripen at room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator once ripe so it lasts longer. You can actually do the same with bananas. too. Their peels will darken, but it won’t affect the fruit inside.
- Wait to wash berries until just before serving. Otherwise, the extra moisture will cause them to mold. Do wash your berries, though, especially if you didn’t buy organic – rinsing well with tap water can remove as much as 50% of pesticides.1
- Store citrus in a perforated bag or container in the refrigerator. Oranges, lemons, and the like will last up to a month when stored in cold temperatures with room for air to circulate. If you know you’ll be using your citrus within a week, then it’s fine to store it on the counter.
All About Vegetables
- Keep potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions somewhere dry, dark, and cool. That means no refrigerator, where there’s just too much humidity. The extremely cold temps will also cause flavor compounds to break down, much like tomatoes. Instead, opt for separate bins inside a cabinet or pantry. Be sure they can breathe – no plastic containers with airtight lids.
- Wrap celery in aluminum foil and store in the fridge. It sounds strange, but wrapping celery in aluminum foil prevents chemical reactions that cause it to wilt and rot. Wrap in paper towel sheets first, then give it a foil blanket, and it will last weeks in the produce drawer instead of days.
- Swaddle leafy greens and herbs in a towel. Then place in bags filled with air and seal tightly. Moisture is the enemy here, and storing greens wet can make for kale that looks more like a pond monster than a yummy dinner ingredient. Better to wait to wash greens until right before using. And if they look a little wilted come mealtime, plunge them into a bowl of ice water for a minute or two before using them.
- Wipe off mushrooms instead of washing. Submerging mushrooms in water will result in slimy, moldy fungi. Much better to wipe off excess dirt with a damp towel, then transfer mushrooms to a paper bag and store in the produce drawer of the refrigerator.
One last word on the fruit and vegetable front: produce washes like Fit and Veggie Wash have become common in recent years. As we learn more about the pesticides and microbes that live on our food, it makes sense that consumers would look for a better cleaning option. But are expensive washes really worth it?
The science says no. Researchers in two separate studies found that rinsing or soaking with distilled water was just as effective at removing bacteria as any of the produce washes that were tested.2 Some washes also contain corn, which is a big no-no for those eating by the Virgin Diet. You’re better off using the money you might spend on produce wash to choose organic instead.
Have any other questions or tips about keeping your fruits and vegetables fresh? Reach out to me on Facebook! I love to hear from you.
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