July 6, 2015

A Veggie-By-Veggie Look At Produce Storage

Fresh Vegetables, Fruits and other foodstuffs.

Fresh Vegetables, Fruits and other foodstuffs.

Have you ever stashed a bunch of produce in your fridge’s veggie crisper only to find out the items have all gone bad within a day or two? The process of ripening and then rotting is sped up by some aspects of this storage method. Instead of tossing all your fruits and vegetables into the same bin, try these storage ideas so they keep longer:

Not everything belongs in the fridge
Some fruits and veggies should stay on the countertop so they can ripen properly. Others emit a gas called ethylene which can speed up the ripening process of other produce around them. Fruits in particular give off this gas and should always be kept separate from vegetables. If you have two crisper drawers, designate one for fruits and the other for vegetables.

  • Leave out: avocados, mangoes, pears, melons, apples, tomatoes, asparagus, celery, eggplant, garlic, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, zucchini and both summer and winter squash, nectarines, plums.
  • Refrigerate: leafy greens like lettuce and spinach, carrots, snap peas, rhubarb, radishes, herbs, green beans, leeks, cauliflower, broccoli, beets.

Some produce that you leave out to ripen can be stashed in the fridge once it’s ready to eat. This will slow the ripening process so you have a little more time to eat it. This includes mangoes, pears, nectarines, bananas and plums. Overripe bananas are great for use in banana bread – just stick them in the freezer, peel and all, and take them out to thaw a bit before you start making the dough.

Make some adjustments before storing
When you purchase something from a farmer’s market or grocery store for your Colorado culinary school homework, don’t just toss it in the produce drawer of your refrigerator and think it will stay fresh. There are a few simple adjustments that you can make that will encourage your fruits and veggies to last longer. Here are some to consider:

  • Remove all rubber bands and twist ties. These often hold together herbs, asparagus, leafy greens and other items. They can cause the produce to go bad faster. Once removed, cut the ends off a bit as if you were doing so to the stems of a bouquet of flowers. This will help the produce to stay fresh.
  • Put them in water. Store asparagus, celery, fennel, kale, chard, collards and leeks upright in a cup or bowl of water. You don’t want the veggies to be floating in a lot of water, as that can actually speed up the ripening process and lead to rotting faster. Instead, be sure the ends are in the water for an inch or so. Changing the water daily will also help to extend their lives.
  • Not everything should be washed. Eggplant, for example, should not be washed until right before you eat it. Washing this vegetable before storing it can actually make it go bad faster. Lettuce from the grocery store that is clean-looking can be rinsed right before you eat it, but don’t do so before stashing it in the fridge as it will retain that moisture and likely rot at a quicker rate. Farmer’s market lettuce, however, is often a bit dirty and should be rinsed and then spun dry or laid out to dry before you store it in the fridge. Berries should be washed before they are stored, but cherries are better rinsed right before you eat them.

If you open the crisper drawer to find your lettuce is rotting or an avocado has sat out on the counter for a bit too long, consider adding these items to your compost for some healthy vitamins and minerals.