Placing your fruits and vegetables in proper storage is the primary key to keeping produce fresh. We all know the look of a sorry bin of wasted strawberries, all sunken, dark and fuzzy.
Some of our produce preservation comes down to planning. It doesn’t pay to purchase produce you can’t use or preserve within a reasonable time.
Certain types of fruits and vegetables do not mix well in storage, as some emit ethylene, a gaseous hormone emitted by plants. Certain foods don’t do well with ethylene around and can spoil faster when stored near your ethylene-producing fruits and veggies inside the same compartment.
Your highest ethylene producers are apricots, cantaloupe, figs, honeydew, bananas, tomatoes, avocadoes, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums.
Store these fruits & veggies in the fridge
In the fruit compartment you can safely store apples, apricots, cantaloupe, figs and honeydew melon.
You should spread your blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries out into single layers to keep them from rotting at contact points where moisture gathers. For the same reason, do not wash them until ready for consumption.
Some of your vegetables will keep best in separate plastic bags. These include broccoli, lettuce, peas, cauliflower, carrots, peas, radishes and corn. Even green onions like to be stored cool and separate in the fridge.
Store this produce in a paper bag
Mushrooms and okra like their own space in paper bags. So do artichokes, asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cherries, grapes, green beans, lima beans, leeks, plums, spinach, summer squash, yellow squash and zucchini. Herbs collected fresh from the garden or purchased at the store are also best stored in paper bags.
Thanks to their hardier constitutions and external structure, some fruits and veggies stay fresh on the countertop. These include basil, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, ginger, grapefruit, jicama, lemons, limes, mangoes, oranges, papayas, peppers, persimmon, pineapple, plantains, pomegranates and watermelon.
Squash and potatoes
Keep acorn squash, butternut squash, pumpkins, spaghetti squash, and winter squash in a cool, dry environment. Same goes for potatoes and sweet potatoes. Always keep onions and potatoes away from each other! They produce gases that make each other spoil.
A special case for apples…
Keep apples out of direct sunlight. They can be stored on the countertop, in an uncovered bowl or inside a bag with air holes. Many people like to store them in the refrigerator so that they stay cold and crisp.
Depending on timing…
Keep avocadoes, nectarines, peaches, pears and plums either on the counter or in the fridge depending on ripeness. Kiwi can be stored in both places as well.
More about ethylene
Understand that ethylene is, by itself, not harmful to your health. It is odorless and tasteless and has no adverse side effects on your body. But it does work as a food ripener and therefore works against keeping produce fresh. When you want food to ripen quicker, you can actually use ethylene to your advantage by pairing ethylene-producing foods with foods that need to ripen.
Keeping produce fresh is more than a convenience for consumption. It is also an important money saver. It is estimated by the United States Department of Agriculture that an American family tosses out about 470 pounds (over 200kg) of food per year. That’s nearly 15 percent of all the food brought into the home, about $600 worth. That’s largely because so much food “goes bad” from neglect or improper storage. If you total it all up, Americans dump about $3 billion worth of food every year.
About the author:
Chris Bekermeier is Vice President, Sales & Marketing of PacMoore in Hammond, IN. PacMoore is a contract manufacturer focused on processing dry ingredients for the food & pharmaceutical industries. Capabilities include blending, spray drying, re-packaging, sifting, & consumer packaging.