How To Store Fruits And Vegetables
The main way to lengthen shelf life is by using cold temperatures to slow food’s respiration, or ‘breathing’ process. In general, the warmer the temperature, the faster the rate of respiration, which is why refrigeration is critical for most produce. But while you want to slow it down, you don’t want to stop the breathing altogether. The worst thing to do is seal fruits and vegetables in an airtight bag. You’ll suffocate them and speed up decay.
Some fruits emit ethylene, an odorless, colorless gas that speeds ripening and can lead to the premature decay of nearby ethylene-sensitive vegetables. For example if you put spinach or kale in the same bin as peaches or apples, and the greens will turn yellow and limp in just a couple of days. So the first trick is to separate produce that emits ethylene from produce that’s sensitive to it.
DO NOT REFRIGERATE:
Never refrigerate potatoes, onions, winter squash or garlic. Keep them in a cool, dark, dry cabinet, and they can last up to a month or more. But separate them so their flavors and smells don’t migrate.
REFRIGERATE THESE GAS RELEASERS:
DON’T REFRIGERATE THESE GAS RELEASERS:
KEEP THESE AWAY FROM ALL GAS RELEASERS:
Lettuce and other leafy greens
There are also some innovations to help extend the life of your fruits and veggies. Some products actually absorb ethylene and can be dropped into a crisper, such as the E.G.G. (for ethylene gas guardian), which is shaped like, you guessed it, an egg, and ExtraLife, a hockey puck-like disk. A variety of produce bags and containers are also on the market, such as those by FridgeSmart Tupperware and BioFresh, which both absorb ethylene and create an atmosphere that inhibits respiration.
At least as important as how you store produce is when you buy it. Do all your other shopping first so that your berries and broccoli don’t get warm—and respire rapidly—while you’re picking up nonperishable items. Get the produce home and into the fridge as soon as possible. If you’ll be making several stops between the market and kitchen, put a cooler in the car. Shop farmers’ markets soon after they open: Just-harvested greens wilt rapidly once they’ve been in the sun for a few hours.
Even under optimal conditions, fragile raspberries will never last as long as thick-skinned oranges. Eat more perishable items first. And if you still find yourself with a bushel of ripe produce—and a business trip around the bend—improvise. Make a fruit pie, a potful of soup or a great big vat of tomato sauce, and throw it in the freezer. You’ll relish your foresight when you get home.
Fastest to Slowest Spoilers: What to Eat First
You can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables with just a single weekly trip to the supermarket, with proper storage and a little planning. The key is eating the more perishable produce early on. Appearance and smell is the best clues to whether fruits and veggies are fresh to begin with.
EAT FIRST: Sunday to Tuesday
EAT NEXT: Wednesday to Friday
EAT LAST: Weekend