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A Guide to Storing Fresh Produce

July 17, 2018
Photo Credit: Scott Snyder

You go to the grocery store and load up on fresh produce. Maybe you even have a meal plan for what to do with everything. Then, a few days later, you go to grab something and it’s wilted/sprouting/rotten. So aggravating! Not to mention expensive. So, what went wrong?

When it comes to your fresh produce, how and where you store it matters. We hit up Chicago-based registered dietitian Maggie Michalczyk for her tips on keeping produce at its best for as long as possible.

1. Store certain fruits and vegetables on the counter.

“The first thing you should do when you unpack all you grocery haul is set aside the fruits and vegetables that do not need to go in to fridge,” Michalczyk says. These include:

  • bananas
  • persimmons
  • pomegranates
  • lemons
  • limes
  • oranges
  • grapefruit
  • watermelon
  • spaghetti squash
  • peaches
  • plums
  • tomatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • potatoes
  • garlic
  • onions
  • avocados

These fruits and veggies don’t like the cold. The chilly temperatures can be damaging and cause them to lose their flavor, she explains.

2. Store fruits and veggies in a cool, dark place.

To prevent spoilage, be sure to keep all of your produce away from direct sunlight and extreme heat. In other words, avoid sunny countertops and anywhere near the stove.

3. Store cut or ripe fruit and vegetables in the refrigerator.

Note that the above list refers to whole fruit and vegetables. Once cut, they go in the fridge. Also, if your produce ripens faster than you expected, you can place it in the fridge to help it keep longer, Michalczyk notes, but the flavor and texture may not be as good.

4. Keep garlic and onions separate.

Sequester garlic and onions away from other produce. “Garlic and onions are aromatics that also produce a gas that will cause potatoes and sweet potatoes to sprout faster,” Michalczyk warns.

5. Store hardy vegetables at the bottom of the fridge.

“The bottom of the fridge tends to be the coldest,” which is great for greens and hardier vegetables, Michalczyk says. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, radishes, corn, and leafy greens belong in the bottom drawer in a plastic or reusable produce bag.

6. Apples and pears like a bit of humidity.

“Use the drawers that have a little bit of humidity to keep apples, pears, peaches, and plum fresh,” Michalczyk says. But be mindful: These fruits give off ethylene gas, which will make other produce ripen faster,” she says.

7. Store mushrooms in a paper bag.

Mushrooms also want a bit of humidity, so store them in the middle of the fridge, along with peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, celery, asparagus, green beans, yellow squash, and eggplant. Be sure to place mushrooms in a paper bag, which allows them to breathe and stay fresher longer. “Plastic bags will cause them to go bad faster,” Michalczyk explains.

8. Keep berries on the top shelf.

“Store berries on your top shelf so they are easy for you to see—they go bad the fastest, so you’ll want to make sure you get to them,” she says.

9. Know that the shelf life varies.

“Things like apples, squash, carrots, celery, potatoes, spaghetti squash, and cabbage can typically go 7+ days when stored properly,” she says. Everything else has less than a week’s shelf life. “Pay extra attention to mushrooms, fruit, and soft avocados—1 to 2 days for those,” she says. Here’s a helpful guide to keep on hand all year round.


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