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How to Store Fruits and Vegetables So They’ll Last Longer

Have you ever opened the vegetable bin an hour before dinnertime to find one of the main ingredients for the dinner you planned looking limp and unappetizing? (If so, you’ll appreciate this bit from stand-up comedian Mark Schiff: “In the bottom of the fridge they have that crisper. Crisp? What does this make crisp? Have you ever put anything in that comes out crisper? They should call that thing the rotter!”)

Whether you live by yourself like me and need to make your farmers’ market haul stay fresh until you’ve finished it, or you have a big crowd to feed on short notice, finding that your perishables have…well…perished…can be a big disappointment.

That’s why I was happy to find this article that recently appeared in the Washington Post Food section, which gives great advice about how to store fruits and vegetables so they stay fresh longer:

Here are some of the main takeaways:

Don’t wash your vegetables until you’re ready to use them. If they get damp, bacteria will grow more quickly. I go one step further with berries and mixed salad greens using this trick I learned from a strawberry farmer: simply slip a paper towel into the package to absorb excess moisture. Works like a charm!

Let your vegetables breathe. You might think if you seal your produce up nice and tight, you’ll protect it from rotting, but the opposite is true. Vegetables need air. If you buy veggies in an airtight plastic bag, poke holes in it, or try an unzipped plastic baggie or a reusable mesh bag so air can circulate. It also helps if the vegetables bin isn’t crammed full.

Many fruits like apples, bananas, and pears, as well as avocadoes and tomatoes (which are technically fruits, too) produce ethylene gas. This gas can hasten ripening and spoilage of nearby foods. So if you want to coax a half-red tomato from the garden into full ripeness, put it in a paper bag with a banana. But if you want to keep your potatoes from sprouting, keep them far away from the onions.

This handy list of foods that produce ethylene, as well as those that are sensitive to the stuff, can help you organize your produce storage.

Some fruits and vegetables do best outside the refrigerator. The humidity and cool temperature of the fridge are bad for garlic, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers, causing them to spoil faster or develop a mealy texture. Tomatoes’ tender flesh is especially sensitive to cold temperature. Keep them out of the refrigerator if you can.

Some fruits and vegetables like special treatment. Try these methods of pampering them.

·  Cut the ends off asparagus stalks and stand them up in a container with water at the bottom. Re-trim before eating.

·  Trim the greens off carrots, because they’ll pull moisture out of the root if left attached. (By the way, you can eat carrot greens. Use them the same way you would parsley.) Peeled carrots (carrot sticks or baby carrots) should be submerged in water to prevent them from drying out. The same is true for celery sticks.

·  Leave Brussels sprouts on the stem if you bought them that way. Loose sprouts should be stored untrimmed.

·  If you’re trying to slow the ripening of bananas, break up the bunch and cover each stem in plastic wrap. Once they’ve reached the desired level of ripeness, it’s okay to put them in fridge to stop the ripening process, despite what the Chiquita banana jingle says. The peel will turn brown, but the fruit will be fine.

No one’s perfect, however. Even armed with this new produce storage knowledge, chances are you’ll still find yourself with some limp carrots or dried up mushrooms from time to time. And as I mentioned in my last post on food waste, when that happens, there’s always the stockpot or the compost bucket.

How do you make your fruits and vegetables last?

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