Tips to Keep Your Produce Fresh Longer

Photo courtesy Lake Tahoe Markets

Keep Your Produce Fresh Longer

Has receiving a weekly Market Bag full of fresh produce shifted your priorities to concentrating on using up the fragile, fresh produce quickly, and storing the rest as smartly as possible so it lasts?

Not all vegetables are alike, which means there is no single best way to store them all.  Fresh greens like lettuce cannot be handled the same way as root vegetables like potatoes or carrots. Additionally, certain practices, like peeling or washing, can lengthen or shorten their life, depending on various factors. Storing certain vegetables together can also affect how long they last. For instance, vegetables should be stored in a different part of the fridge than fruit.

No matter what produce you have, below are a few tips to ensure that the produce you receive stays edible as long as possible.

A little humidity is a good thing for produce, but wet is bad news.  Some moisture will keep produce perky; too much moisture can promote mold or mushiness.  Make sure you thoroughly dry anything you are washing before putting it away.

There are a few exceptions to this rule:  scallions like to be stored upright, roots down, in water at room temperature – and they will keep growing that way forever as long as you freshen the water every now and then.  Think of leafy greens, such as chard and kale like a bouquet of flowers.  Trim the ends, set in a glass of water, and watch them drink it up and become refreshed and perky before storing.  Placing whole carrots in a covered container of water for storage will keep them firm; same for halved stalks of celery.  Change the water every two or three days.

Herbs can be kept in cool places or hung upside down to dry for future use.

A plastic bag will help prevent the moisture in your veg from evaporating, which means the stuff that usually goes limp after a few days won’t. It works for hardy greens, too: Remove the thick stems, then tuck into a plastic bag or reusable lidded container.

Start by removing any twist-ties or rubber bands from your herb bunch.  Wrap in a thin towel before storing in a zip-top bag or reusable produce bag in the refrigerator. Less prep work later and it will stay crisp and fresh for several days.

Some veggies stay fresh longest in a cool or room-temperature location, away from moisture, heat, and light. In some cases, this might be a kitchen cupboard (not situated directly next to your oven), or it might mean a dedicated pantry. The ideal temperature for your pantry is between 50 and 70 F (although 50 to 60 F is better).

Winter Squashes store in dry cool places.

By the way, the reason for keeping your pantry dark is that if these veggies are exposed to light, they think they’re outside and will start to sprout.  Pantry items will keep for at least a week in your pantry, and even longer, like a month or longer, if the temperature remains between 50 and 60 F.

Note that although you should store your onions and your potatoes in the pantry, don’t store them next to each other. Potatoes sprout faster if they are stored near onions.
Does your refrigerator have crisper drawers? Most do, and some of them even allow you to adjust the humidity, generally by opening (less humidity) and closing (more humidity) small air vents on the drawers. And while the low humidity setting is best for some fruits, when it comes to veggies you should opt for high humidity (in other words, close the vents). The temperature in your fridge should be between 33 and 40 F.

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While there are myriad fruits, such as stone fruits, citrus, and bananas that should be stored on the countertop, the only vegetable you should keep there are tomatoes.
What’s that? You’ve heard that tomatoes are technically a fruit? Indeed they are. And, technically, so are peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, corn, and eggplant. But since tomatoes are prepared and served like other vegetables, rather than the way we use fruits like apples, bananas, and pears, we’re including them here.  In any case, keep your tomatoes on the countertop, out of direct sunlight. The fridge will turn their texture grainy.

Storing your fresh produce properly to prolong their life is quick and easy – and oh, so rewarding!  Bon apetite!!!

Article Courtesy Lake Tahoe Markets

Photos not credited by Aaron Aveiro

Aaron Aveiro