By Isadora Baum
You go to the grocery store (or farmers market—bonus points), you load up on fresh seasonal vegetables. Maybe you even have a meal plan for what to do with everything. Then, a few days later, you go to grab something and it’s wilted/sprouting/rotten—or, just not the freshest. So aggravating (not to mention expensive). What went wrong?
When it comes to your fresh produce, how and where you store it matters. We hit up Chicago-based registered dietician Maggie Michalczyk for her top tips on keeping produce as its best for the longest.
On the Counter
“The first thing you should do when you unpack all you grocery haul is set aside the fruits and vegetables that do not need to go in to fridge,” Michalczyk says. These include bananas, persimmons, pomegranates, lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, watermelon, spaghetti squash, peaches, plums, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, garlic, and avocados.
Why leave them out? These fruits and veggies don’t like the cold, as chilly temperatures can be damaging and cause them to lose their flavor, she explains. To avoid spoilage, be sure to keep all of your produce away from direct sunlight and extreme heat (so avoid sunny countertops and anyplace near the stove).
Note that the above list refers to whole fruit/vegetables—once cut, they go in the fridge. Also, if your produce ripens faster than you expected, you can place it in the fridge to help it keep longer, though the flavor and texture may not be as good.
One more tip: Sequester garlic and onions away from other produce. “Garlic and onions are aromatics that also produce a gas that will cause potatoes and sweet potatoes to sprout faster,” Michalczyk warns.
In the Fridge
It’s not enough to toss perishables in the fridge—where you place them makes a difference.
Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, radishes, corn, and leafy greens belong in the bottom drawer in a plastic or reusable produce bag. “The bottom of the fridge tends to be the coldest,” which is great for greens and harder vegetables, Michalczyk says.
As for apples, pears, kiwis, and melon, “Use the upper drawers designated for fruits and vegetables that have a little bit of humidity to keep things fresh,” she says.
But once again, be mindful of what’s in there together. “Apples, pears, peaches and plums give off ethylene gas, which will make other produce ripen faster,” she says.
Use middle drawers for peppers, mushrooms, zucchini and cucumbers. “Right above that place things like celery, asparagus, green beans, yellow squash and eggplant,” she says.
For the aforementioned mushrooms, keep them in a paper bag, which allows them to breathe and stay fresher longer. “Plastic bags will cause them to go bad faster,” Michalczyk explains. That, plus the humidity in this part of the fridge will keep those shrooms fresh more flavorful, she explains.
Finally, the top of the fridge. “Store berries on your top shelf so they are easy for you to see—they go bad the fastest, so you’ll want to make sure you get to them,” she says.
How Long Does Everything Last?
“Things like apples, squash, carrots, celery, potatoes, spaghetti squash, and cabbage can typically go 7+ days when stored properly,” she says.
Everything else has less than a week’s shelf life. “Pay extra attention to mushrooms, fruit, and soft avocados—1 to 2 days for those,” she says. Here’s a helpful guide to keep on hand all year round.
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