A simple way to stay healthy and control weight is incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables. With this consideration in mind, many of us have the habit of buying too many fresh foods and stacking them. But, the unfortunate part is, they get spoiled and we don't have another option except to throw them in the garbage bin. The same happens with harvested garden vegetables during the peak season. Hence, knowing a bit on how to preserve fruits and vegetables will go along way in enjoying healthy foods and keeping them fresh for longer days.
How to Store Fruits and Vegetables Properly?
While storing fruits and vegetables, the two main factors that should be taken care of are temperature range and humidity level. But, which one is better, refrigerating them or keeping them on the kitchen countertop? The answer depends on what types of fruits and vegetables you are referring to. Some stay for a longer time in low temperature, thus requiring them to be stored in the refrigerator. On the contrary, other fruits and vegetables do well at room temperature.
Storing in the Refrigerator
Most of the fruits and vegetables can be stored directly in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator (within the temperature range 32-36° F), whereas some of them call for preparatory steps before refrigeration. In case of asparagus, the stalks are wrapped in a damp cotton cloth before cold storage. As for culinary herbs, they are allowed to stand in a glass of water, the top covered with a plastic bag, and then stored in the refrigerator.
Fruits suited for fridge storage: Figs, pomegranate, grapes, apples, mangoes, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, kiwis, peach, plum, pear and nectarines.
Vegetables suited for fridge storage: Artichoke, lettuce, mushroom, green beans, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, green onions, corn, lettuce, broccoli, peas, radishes, asparagus, leafy greens, beet, carrot, cabbage, leek, spinach and squash.
Storing on Countertop
This storage method is for fruits and vegetables that last long, when kept in the room temperature condition. Like for instance, tomatoes prefer warm temperature and if you happen to keep them in the refrigerator, they lose flavor and become mushy. So, keep them in room temperature, preferably in a plastic basket with the stalk facing upwards. In case of melon fruits, the flesh becomes slightly rubbery after storing in the fridge.
Fruits suited for countertop storage: Melon, orange, grapefruit, lime, lemon, avocado, coconut, banana and apple.
Vegetables suited for countertop storage: Pumpkins, rutabaga, squash, tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant and pepper.
Combine Storage Method
Fruits that are usually bought at the unripe stage are ripened and kept in the fridge. For ripening, they are placed in room temperature condition of the countertop (away from direct sunlight) for 1-2 days. You can consume them at this stage. Or else, extend their shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator. If you are interested in storing rhubarb, wrap it in a plastic bag and consider refrigeration.
Fruits that require ripening: Peach, pear, apricot, nectarine, mango, star fruit, cantaloupe, papaya, persimmon, plantain and avocado.
Keeping in Storage Cellar
Some of the root vegetables can be stored in the roof cellar for several months. They require dry condition, dark environment, cool temperature and ventilation. The storage cellar meets these basic conditions, thus serving as the best area for storing such vegetables. When exposed to warm temperature and light, the root veggies have a high chance of developing sprouts.
Vegetables suited for storing in root cellar: Potato, sweet potato, onion, garlic, ginger, acorn squash, winter squash, spaghetti squash and pumpkin.
Basic Tips for Storing Fruits and Vegetables
- While most fresh fruits and vegetables require a moist condition for storage, wet condition causes change in enzyme activity, texture, taste and flavor, resulting in rotting.
- To store fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator, fill them in perforated plastic bags and keep them in the drawer.
- Whenever possible, keep fruits and vegetables separately. Otherwise, they tend to pick up the flavor of vegetables, which reduce their palatability.
- Some fruits can be stored in both cold and room temperature. Let's take the example of apple, which you can store in the fridge or countertop.
- In order to hasten the ripening process of fruits (e.g., avocado), you can use ripe fruits that produce ethylene in higher amounts (e.g., apple). To be precise, keep an apple with avocados in a paper bag for quick ripening.
- To avoid over ripening effect, consider storing ripe fruits and vegetables separately from each other. Otherwise, they produce ethylene gas, which adds to food spoilage.
- Always keep the root vegetables separate from each other. In other words, do not store onions and potatoes together in the storage cellar. Read more on methods of preserving food.
Whether you have purchased vegetables in stock from the local market or harvest from a garden in bulk, storing them properly is a must to extend their shelf life. As for berries and pineapple, they get spoiled very soon. So, enjoy them as soon as they turn ripe in order to obtain optimal nutrition. For both fruits and veggies, make it a point to consume old items first followed by the recently bought ones.