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How to Store Fruits and Vegetables to Make Them Last Longer

Learn how to store fruit and vegetables. A few quick tips can help you keep your produce fresher for longer and make your food even healthier and tastier.

How to Store Fruits and Vegetables to Make Them Last Longer

Storing your fruit and vegetables properly can help keep them fresher for longer and cut down on waste. Food made with high-quality ingredients just tastes better, so storing your food well can even make your favorite dishes even tastier.

How to store fruits and vegetables

Different foods have different storage requirements. Some prefer the cool wet environment of the refrigerator, while others need the airflow of the counter or the darkness of a cool drawer or cabinet. Follow these simple guidelines to get the most out of your fresh produce.

Tip 1: Add kitchen towel to your leafy greens

Lettuce and other leafy greens need to be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. A plastic container, bag, or Ziploc are all great options. Before you seal the container add a piece of kitchen towel or a paper napkin to the bag. It'll absorb any excess moisture and keep your lettuce crisp and crunch.

Tip 2: Potatoes and sweet potatoes need a dark spot

Potatoes and sweet potatoes can last really long. Before the days of supply chains and stores, people would grow their potatoes and store them until the next harvest. Keep your potatoes in a cool, dark place. A closed drawer or cupboard is ideal, but even a cardboard box will do the job. They'll turn green if they're exposed to the light and, please remember, green potatoes are poisonous and shouldn't be eaten.

Tip 3: Tomatoes don't actually go in the refrigerator 

It's really common for people to store their tomatoes in the refrigerator. Tomatoes last longer in the refrigerator, but they're at their best on the counter, at room temperature. They'll continue to ripen and sweeten as they stand which really gives you the best from your tomatoes. Tomatoes are actually really pretty, so putting out a bowl of them can be a great decoration. As soon as they're all the way ripe, you can move them to the refrigerator. Or eat them, whichever happens first.

Tip 4: Ripe fruit in the refrigerator

Ripe fruit can be stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to eat it. The cold environment slows down the ripening process and keeps the fruit at that perfectly ripe point for longer. Berries, peaches, pears, mangoes, apples, and plums can all go into the fridge once they're ripe. The same goes for avocados. A ripe avocado will spoil on the counter in a couple of days but can last for more than a week in the fridge.

You might have heard that bananas can't go in the refrigerator, but that's only partially true. Just like other fruit, they'll stop ripening once they're in the refrigerator, but you can store them there once they're ripe. Here's a tip though: overripe bananas can be stored in the freezer and used for smoothies and baking as you need them. Just peel the bananas and toss them into a plastic bag or container in the freezer.

Tip 5: Unripened fruit on the counter

Any fruit that is still hard and unripe can be left on the counter to ripen for a few days. Fruits that commonly need ripening include bananas, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and pears. Fruit kept in the refrigerator takes much longer to ripen and may never reach its full potential. This is an essential part of understanding how to store fruits and vegetables in the fridge, if you put them in too soon, they'll never be as good.

Tip 6: Citrus in the refrigerator (yes really)

Citrus fruits like oranges, clementines, minneolas, lemons, and grapefruit last the longest if you keep them in the refrigerator. These fruits are already ripe when you receive them and should technically be stored in the fridge. That being said, they take up a lot of space and have a really decent shelf life. So, if you prefer, you can keep them at room temperature as long as you plan to eat them within a week or two.

Tip 7: If it's at room temperature, it needs to breath     

Much of the fresh produce that we buy comes wrapped in plastic. It's best to take them out of the plastic as soon as possible and get them into a spot where the air can circulate freely around them. If you leave them in the plastic, they'll 'sweat' and then spoil quicker.

Top tip: if you're low on time and don't have a moment to unpack your fresh produce, just use your finger to poke a hole through the packaging. The extra air will slow down the spoiling process until you have time to move your fruit to a better spot.

Tip 8: Summer squash in the refrigerator

Summer squash like zucchini and patty pans have soft skin which means they spoil quickly. Keep them in the refrigerator to keep them fresh for longer.

Tip 9: Winter squash at room temperature

Winter squash like pumpkins and butternut squash have hard, thick skin. That skin protects them from spoiling which means you can store them at room temperature. How long you can store them varies between varieties, but for most, it's around 2-3 months.

Tip 10: Onions and garlic need air

Onions and garlic need air and do best in a cool dry place. Keep them out of the refrigerator and don't remove their peels until you need to cook them. If they start to sprout, you can still use them, but the longer you leave them the worse their quality will be. If possible, keep your onions and garlic separate from your potatoes and sweet potatoes.

How to store fruits and vegetables in mason jars

If you're trying to avoid plastic, fruits and vegetables can be stored in mason jars instead. Use it as you would any other air-tight container and don't forget to add the kitchen towel for leafy greens.

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