Storage Hacks to Keep Your Produce Fresh

Do you know why people store pineapples upside-down? How about why you should separate apples from the rest of your fruit bowl?

Because food waste is a huge issue for both the environment and your wallet, it’s important to know how to keep your produce fresher longer. Here are 10 storage hacks to practice in your kitchen.

1. To refrigerate or not to refrigerate

Refrigerator? Counter? Pantry? Fruits and vegetables have individual needs in terms of their ripening and storage. And it’s important to know what will result in the best flavor and freshness.

The University of California-Davis Department of Pomology has a handy chart detailing how to store common produce. Some items — such as berries, beans and anything pre-cut or peeled — do better immediately stored in the refrigerator. Others — including whole melons, potatoes and tomatoes — are best at room temperature. And still others — avocados, kiwis, peaches, plums and pears — can ripen for a few days on the counter and then go into the fridge to maintain their flavor.

2. Keep fruits and veggies separate

So now you know where to store your produce. But what you store it with is equally important. Specifically, many fruits and vegetables don’t play well with each other to maintain freshness. “Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene (the ripening agent) can prematurely ripen and spoil surrounding vegetables,” according to The Kitchn. Most fruits release ethylene, so it’s best to keep them separated from anything you don’t want speedily ripened.

3. Use an apple as a ripening tool

Fresh red apples in a basket

Dying to make guacamole, but you only have green avocados? We’ve all been there. Luckily, the ethylene that sometimes gets us in trouble also can be used as a ripening tool. According to UC Davis, “Ripening in a bowl or paper bag can be enhanced by placing one ripe apple with every 5 to 7 pieces of fruit to be ripened.” However, avoid Fuji and Granny Smith apples, as they don’t produce enough ethylene to be that effective.

4. Break up the banana bunch

Bananas can last about a week when stored at room temperature. (But in the fridge, their skin turns black, and they don’t get sweet.) And one handy trick to prevent them from ripening too rapidly is to break up the bunch. When they’re together, the ethylene each banana gives off causes the whole bunch to ripen quicker. Even better, purchase bananas at various stages of ripeness from separate bunches to have one ready to eat every day.

On the flip side, if you’re looking to make banana bread (or otherwise need ripe bananas), keep the bunch together in a paper bag. And for good measure add an apple to the mix.

5. Create an herb floral arrangement

Fresh herbs can make all the difference in a recipe. But unless you grow your own, you might find yourself with wilted greens before you’re ready to cook.

To help keep store-bought herbs fresher longer, Food Network suggests washing and drying them as soon as you come home from the store. Then, snip off the ends and set them in a glass of water like you would a floral bouquet. Or keep them in a plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture.

6. Don’t wash berries until you’re ready to eat them

For most produce, it’s typically best to avoid washing it until you’re ready to eat to prevent spoilage. And that’s especially true for delicate berries, which easily mold when wet. “Most berries go bad quickly, although blueberries are a bit heartier than strawberries and raspberries, which both need to be stored in the refrigerator and very gently washed just before use,” according to Food Network.

7. Turn your pineapple upside-down

pineapple and pineapple slices on wooden table

If you buy cut pineapple, keep it in the fridge. But if you have a whole pineapple, it’s best stored at room temperature on your counter. And not only that, turn it upside-down for optimal flavor. “Because the sugar is concentrated at the base of a pineapple, you can store them upside down for a day or two at room temperature or in the fridge to allow the sweetness to spread throughout the fruit,” Food Network says. You’ll be well on your way to making pineapple upside-down cake.

8. Avoid pre-packaged produce

Pre-packaged produce may be convenient, but there are several reasons to buy whole, loose fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or farmers market. First, it’s usually cheaper because you have to do the chopping, washing or other preparation yourself. And it’s more eco-friendly, as there’s less packaging waste. Plus, in terms of freshness, buying the loose items allows you to check each one for spoilage.

9. Eat bruised or damaged fruit first

Just like pre-cut produce, fruit with blemishes tends to ripen — and spoil — faster. So instead of avoiding that peach with a bruise on it for a few days, eat it first before the whole thing goes bad. Just make sure you cut off any damaged areas before eating.

10. Buy what you can eat within a few days

woman shopping at a farmers market

A handful of fruits and veggies can last several weeks when stored properly. An example of this is potatoes in a root cellar environment. But for everything else, buy only what you can eat within a few days. “You’re better off making several quick trips to the market rather than stocking up and risking having the excess go bad,” Food Network says.

Plus, if you’re really serious about freshness, make a point to buy in-season produce. And when hitting up the farmers market, go early in the day. The items won’t have sat out in the elements all day, being handled by countless people.

Main image credit: Aiselin82/Thinkstock

66 comments

Gino C
Gino Cabout a month ago

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN habout a month ago

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Sophie A
Sophie A1 months ago

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Dennis Hall
Dennis Hall2 months ago

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Mark T
Mark T2 months ago

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michela c
michela c2 months ago

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Amanda M
Amanda McConnell2 months ago

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Amanda M
Amanda McConnell2 months ago

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Ruth S2 months ago

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

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