How to Store Produce for Peak Freshness and Longer Shelf Life – Best Practices FAQadmin
Dedicating a bit of time to understanding how to store produce properly can significantly and positively impact both your eating habits and the environment at large.
We had another blog on this critical topic last week, covering factors that influence storage life and what to avoid at all costs when storing your vegetables. Of course, the general principles we have introduced there also apply to fruits, but we’ve thought the overall subject deserves much more attention.
Why is that? UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report from 2021 told us that around 26% of the global food waste comes from the foodservice industry, while households are to blame for approximately 61%. Surprised? According to the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, the average U.S. household wastes more than 31% of its food. In fact, a lack of basic knowledge of food storage practices causes most of this puzzling, unnecessary wastage. But we can do so much better!
So we have compiled a handy FAQ that you can always come back to when you need to figure out how to preserve your store or market-bought produce at peak freshness.
How to Store Produce FAQ
1. How should I organize my fridge to store produce better?
There are entire creative blogs dedicated to fridge hacks on the internet, and we have our fair share of favorites.
Now, the first tip is not much of a hack, but not many people use the fridge’s in-built crisper drawers to store fresh vegetables and leafy greens (which require higher humidity levels). And it’s a pity. Fresh veggies like broccoli, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, and cucumbers are better preserved in the lower crisp drawers, which also protect them from odors and spills from other products.
Side note: the bottom of your fridge maintains lower temperatures than its upper compartments. So you can keep other temperature-sensitive products, like meats, just above the crisp drawers, so long as you make sure all of your products are properly sealed.
Another idea is to buy transparent drawer organizers to efficiently group the same types of foods, then throw in some labels to figure out what you have at first glance. The extra drawers also make it easy to move things around your fridge and prevent cross-contamination. If you don’t fancy this idea, get some easy-to-clean refrigerator mats – you’ll thank yourself the next time you notice a tricky spill.
We’ve seen another fun idea going around: have an “Eat Me First” box at the front of your fridge or on the counter for foods nearing their expiry date. However, it would be best to stay mindful of how you “mix and match” your fruits and veggies together (remember what we said about ethylene?). This method is better suited for processed and packaged foods rather than fresh produce.
2. What is the proper way to store produce?
- In the pantry
It’s all about the cool, dry, and dark trio. So what goes? Foods destined for the pantry (assuming you’re lucky enough to have one) include garlic, onions, shallots, all potato varieties, hard squash (winter, acorn, spaghetti, butternut), yams, pumpkins, but also apples and pomegranate.
If you don’t have a pantry, a cupboard with similar conditions should do the job!
- On the counter
Unlike veggies, most fruits need to ripen on the counters at a balanced room temperature. The list includes bananas, common stone fruit (apricots, nectarines, peaches), avocados, guava, kiwi, mangoes, citrus fruits, melons, papayas, bananas, and plums. Transfer them to the fridge if you can’t finish the entire batch while it’s ripening on the shelf, or freeze the extras for later (when you’ll crave a quick, refreshing fruit smoothie). By the way, tomatoes are fruits, so the same rules apply!
- In the fridge
The fridge is excellent for your mushrooms, fresh veggies, and leafy greens; just keep in mind the other tips that we’ve mentioned when storing your veggies. Some fruit also survives better in the fridge: berries, cranberries, cherries, grapefruit, and also watermelon, but only when it’s already cut or cubed (always store whole watermelon outside of your fridge).
- In the freezer
The freezer is the perfect solution for produce that’s about to spoil. So next time you find over-ripe fruit on the counter, remember that there are much better alternatives to throwing it all away!
3. How do you make fresh produce last longer in the fridge?
Separate your fruits and vegetables from other foods to avoid cross-contamination. Many people recommend zip-top plastic bags and other airtight containers, as fresh produce lasts more when it’s sealed. However, you must make sure there’s room for some air to circulate. If possible, avoid one-time-use plastic wraps (no matter how conveniently cheap they may seem) in favor of higher quality recipients like the transparent drawer organizers we’ve mentioned before. Both your produce and the environment will thank you for it.
4. Which produce should not be refrigerated?
You can’t just throw all your produce in the fridge and hope for the best. Some types of fruits and vegetables just don’t belong there. As we’ve pointed out, fruits that ripen much better on the counter (tomatoes, bananas, stone fruit, avocados, guava, kiwi, mangoes, citrus fruits, melons, papayas, bananas, plums) should not be refrigerated unless you think they’ll spoil before you get the chance to finish them. Produce that survive better in a dark, cool pantry or in a cupboard include garlic, onion, shallot, all potato varieties, pumpkin, hard squash (winter, acorn, spaghetti, butternut), yams, apples, and pomegranate.
5. Should I store my produce whole or pre-cut?
How to best store produce: whole or pre-cut? The answer is crystal-clear: don’t cut anything unless you’re about to use or eat it, and don’t purchase any off-the-shelf pre-cut produce. Eliminating the fruit’s natural protective barrier causes many issues you might not be aware of: you sacrifice vitamin retention, cut storage life, and expose yourself to higher contamination risks. So wholesale produce will always be the superior choice, and you can find plenty of local options on rivieraproduce.com.
Final Thoughts on How to Store Produce Better
Phew, that’s about it! We’ve provided general insights and best practices on how to store fruits and vegetables for better taste and longer shelf life. Don’t forget that simply following these rules can significantly cut down on your food waste.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to browse a list or search the FoodKeeper App for detailed information when you’re not sure how to preserve a specific type of produce at peak freshness, as rules and general guidelines will always have exceptions.