By Erin Boudreau
Summer is right around the corner, and with the warmer weather comes an increase in available fruits and vegetables. These products are colorful, flavorful, and nutritious, but they also spoil very quickly. Quality and flavors of all produce will begin to diminish the moment they are picked, so it is best to enjoy as soon as possible after purchase. Proper storing will help extend their life and also has a major impact on quality and taste. Most fruits and vegetables can be stored in the fridge, with a few exceptions. Many products can also be frozen to extend their life even further. Remember, even with proper storage techniques produce will still spoil quickly, so be sure to buy only as much as you can enjoy in a few days to prevent waste.
- Store bananas, pineapple, citrus, and other tropical fruits in a cool, dry area. They should NOT be stored in the fridge. Citrus fruit will absorb the odors of the fridge but will last for a long time at room temperature. The sugar is most concentrated at the base of a pineapple, so store it upside down for a few days in order to allow the sugar to distribute throughout the fruit.
- Potatoes will keep fresh for a couple of weeks if stored in a cool, dry, ventilated place (not the fridge). Cold temperatures can turn the starch in a potato to sugar, creating a sweeter potato while warmth and light will cause them to sprout. Sweet potatoes are more delicate and should only be kept for about a week.
- Garlic and most types of onions should be kept in a well ventilated area at room temperature or cooler, but not refrigerated. Vidalia onions have higher water content and can be stored individually wrapped in paper towels in the refrigerator.
- Tomatoes are very finicky. Refrigeration can give them an unpleasant, mealy texture, and can alter their taste and aroma. They’re best stored unwashed at room temperature.
- Mushrooms should be kept in a cool, dry place and lightly washed immediately before use.
- Asparagus should be stored in the fridge with a damp paper towel wrapped around the stems. You can also stand them in a glass of cold water with a damp paper towel wrapped around the tops to keep them crisp.
- Store carrots in a plastic bag in the fridge to hold in moisture. Wash and peel right before using.
- Herbs should be washed, dried completely, and stems clipped prior to refrigeration. Store in a glass of water or with a damp paper towel wrapped around the stems. A plastic bag or paper towel can be wrapped around the leaves to lock in moisture.
- Break off lettuce leaves and dip them in a large bowl of cold water. Dry completely with paper towels or a salad spinner and store in a plastic bag with paper towels in the fridge.
- Apples will keep in the fridge for several months.
- Mangos, peaches, plums, and pears can be ripened at room temperature, and then kept in the fridge to prolong their life.
- Melon can develop a rubbery texture if kept in the fridge, and should never be frozen. Storing at room temperature is best.
- Berries are fragile, and have a very short self-life. Store in the fridge and wash lightly just prior to use. Fresh berries can also be frozen for later use.
- Wrap rhubarb in plastic and store in the fridge. This fruit also holds up well in the freezer.
(Post reviewed by Anne Lukowski, RD, CDE. Foodnetwork.com was referenced for this article)