Storage tips for fresh fruits and vegetables

Aug 6,2010

Whether you are getting your fresh fruits and veggies from the store, farmers’ market or your own garden, it’s always a challenge to figure out the best way to store them so they don’t turn brown or become limp or wilted. Here are some helpful tips on how to store you fruits and vegetables to maximize their freshness and shelf life.

Fresh vegetables remain fresh longest in a moist environment. They should be stored in the crispers with the control on the "vegetables" setting. If the crispers are full, store vegetables in plastic bags or plastic containers to prevent moisture loss.

Most vegetables should be stored in the refrigerator to preserve freshness. Exceptions include potatoes, sweet potatoes, mature onions, hard-rind squashes, eggplant and rutabagas, which keep well in cool rather than cold storage. Tomatoes should be refrigerated only after they are fully ripe and only for a short time.

Store vegetables and fruits in separate crisper drawers
The crisper drawers trap moisture inside to help keep foods fresh. Moisture controls on some crisper drawers can be used to regulate the moisture level in the crisper. As a general rule, vegetables require high moisture storage and fruits low moisture, Refer to the User's Guide for directions on setting the crisper control. The crispers in a refrigerator will perform better if they are at least two-thirds full.

Wrap certain vegetables and fruits
Storage in the crispers slows the dehydration of fresh vegetables. In addition, leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach, should be placed in plastic bags or airtight containers (Tupperware, Rubbermaid, etc.) to reduce moisture loss. Odorous foods such as peppers and cabbage should always be wrapped to contain odors. Mushrooms should be stored in paper bags rather than plastic. Some fruits do best in vented storage bags. Check our online storage chart for specifics by visiting www.samhealth.org.
 
Remove excess moisture
Vegetables and fruits need a certain amount of moisture to remain fresh as long as possible. However, too much moisture can shorten the storage of vegetables, especially lettuce. Brown spots may develop with excess moisture. It is important that lettuce be well drained before storing. It may be helpful to place a layer of paper towels in the bottom of the bag to absorb any excess moisture; replace the toweling occasionally. Some storage containers feature a special drainage device to raise the lettuce off the bottom and keep it from sitting in accumulated moisture. Berries should never be washed before storing.

Maintain proper refrigerator temperatures
The fresh food compartment of a refrigerator should be kept between 34° and 40°F with an optimum temperature of 37°F. Refrigerator temperatures can be checked by using an appliance thermometer. Lower than recommended refrigerator temperatures could cause vegetables to freeze. Freezing damages cell structure and vegetables can turn brown and become limp.

Consider vegetable and fruit quality
Vegetable and fruit quality affects the length of storage. Quality can vary from item to item, variety to variety, and season to season. For example, a rainy growing season can cause lettuce to be brown when purchased, or become brown more quickly. Sort vegetables and fruits before storage and use bruised or soft vegetables and fruits first. Discard those showing evidence of decay. Wilted vegetables can be used to make broths, and wilted fruits can make sauces.

Follow length-of-storage guidelines
Following the guidelines should help to keep vegetables and fruits fresh and maximize their storage time in the refrigerator. Consult the food storage chart and use items within recommended refrigerator storage time. Vegetables stored longer than recommended will also turn brown and lose their crispness. Fruits can lose their crisp sweet flavor if stored too long or in improper conditions.

Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Storage Chart

Fresh Vegetable

Fridge Time  

Freezer Time    

Storage Tips  

Asparagus

2-3 days

8-12 months

Don't wash before refrigerating. Store in crisper.

Brussels sprouts and broccoli

3-5 days

8-12 months

Wrap odorous foods and refrigerate in crisper.

Celery

1-2 weeks

Not recommended

Refrigerate in crisper.

Cauliflower and snap beans

1 week

8-12 months

Wrap odorous foods and refrigerate in crisper.

Carrots, parsnips, beets, radishes and turnips  

2 weeks

8-12 months

Remove tops. Wrap odorous foods and refrigerate in crisper.

Eggplant

2 weeks

Not recommended

Store in paper bag in crisper.

Green peas/lima beans

3-5 days

8-12 months

Leave in pods and refrigerate.

Lettuce/other salad greens

1 week

Not recommended

Wash. Drain well. Wrap and refrigerate in crisper.

Mushrooms

3-5 days

Not recommended

Store in paper bag in crisper.

Onions, green

3-5 days

8-12 months

Wrap odorous foods and refrigerate in crisper.

Onions, yellow

2 weeks

Not recommended

In an open paper bag or basket, in a cool dark area, not refrigerated, not directly with potatoes.

Peppers and cucumbers

1 week

8-12 months

Wrap odorous foods and refrigerate in crisper.

Potatoes (new only)

1-2 weeks

Not recommended

Unwashed, in the crisper.

Potatoes (bakers)

1 month

Not recommended

In an open paper bag or basket, in a cool dark area, not refrigerated.

Squash (winter)

1-2 months

Cooked and mashed can be stored 8-12 months

Fresh, store in an open basket in a cool dark, dry area.

Squash (summer)

 4-5 days

 

Slice into rounds, blanch for two minutes, plunge into cold water, drain, seal in airtight containers. 

8-12 months.

 Store in plastic bag in crisper drawer four to five days, do not wash until ready to use.

Fresh Fruit

 

 

 

Apples

1-2 weeks

Only as sauce or sliced for pies

Store apples unwrapped. 

Avocadoes

1 week

Not recommended

Ripen on counter before use.

Berries

3-5 days

3-6 months

Do not wash, store in vented container/bag.

Cherries

1-2  weeks

Pitted first, 3-6 months

Unwashed, in crisper.

Grapes

1 week

Not recommended

Do not wash, store in vented container/bag.

Melons

1 week

Not recommended

Wrap on counter, store in crisper. 

Watermelon will not ripen off the vine, store immediately.

Peaches/nectarines

1 week

3-6 months

Store in vented container/bag.