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Ultimate guide to Storing Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs

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Eating a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables has been linked to improved health. Whether fresh or frozen, they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, which can protect ones body against chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, Check ones sugar levels, control weight gain, improve your sight and digestive system as it keeps it full and happy.

Unfortunately most of these benefits may not be available to everyone as the act of storing fresh produce is a little more complicated than you might think.

If you want to prevent spoilage, certain foods shouldn’t be stored together at all, while others that we commonly keep in the fridge should actually be left on the countertop. To keep your produce optimally fresh (and cut down on food waste), use this guide as fruits and vegetables are often subjected to unhealthy storage practices especially bad temperature.

Before touching on specifics here are a few general guidelines;

Do Not Store Fruits and Vegetables Together. Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene (the ripening agent) can prematurely ripen and spoil surrounding vegetables. (Think of the “one bad apple” adage.)

For Vegetables: Before storing, remove ties and rubber bands and trim any leafy ends. Leave an inch to keep the vegetable from drying out. Make sure the bag you store the veggies in has some holes punctured to allow for good air flow. Pack vegetables loosely in the refrigerator. The closer they are, the quicker they will rot. Leafy greens can be washed before storing by soaking them in a sink full of water, while soft herbs and mushrooms should not be washed until right before they are used.

For Fruits: Non-cherry stone fruits, avocados, tomatoes, mangoes, melons, apples, and pears will continue to ripen if left sitting out on a countertop, while items like bell peppers, grapes, all citrus, and berries will only deteriorate and should be refrigerated. Bananas in particular ripen very quickly, and will also speed the ripening of any nearby fruits.

Storing on Counter tops
There’s nothing as inviting as a big bowl of crisp apples on the kitchen counter. To keep those apples crisp and all countertop-stored produce fresh, store them out of direct sunlight, either directly on the countertop, in an uncovered bowl, or inside a perforated plastic bag.

Refrigerator Storage
For produce that is best stored in the refrigerator, remember the following guidelines.
Keep produce in perforated plastic bags in the produce drawer of the refrigerator. (To perforate bags, punch holes in the bag with a sharp object, spacing them about as far apart as the holes you see in supermarket apple bags.)

Keep fruits and vegetables separate, in different drawers, because ethylene can build up in the fridge, causing spoilage.

When storing herbs (and interestingly, asparagus, too), snip off the ends, store upright in a glass of water (like flowers in a vase) and cover with a plastic bag.

Now to some common vegetables, fruits and herbs

Apples
Never leave apples in a bowl on the counter if you want them to keep. Apples keep well for about 6 months at temperatures between freezing and 45°F. If you don’t have a root cellar, a double cardboard box in a cool mudroom or cellar can approximate the conditions.

You can also store apples in the fruit drawer of your fridge. It helps to have a damp paper towel nearby to increase humidity.

Remember to give apples an occasional change of air. Apple cider may be frozen after first pouring off a small amount for expansion.

Beans, Dry
Store in a moisture–proof, air–tight container. Beans will stale and toughen over time even when stored properly.

Berries
Never rinse before storage. It washes off the thin, protective epidermal layer. Berries are highly perishable so they don’t store for long. If you must store them, place on a paper towel in a tightly-covered container and store in a cool, dry place (or the refrigerator) for 2 to 3 days.

Herbs
Dill and parsley will keep for about two weeks with stems immersed in a glass of water tented with a plastic bag. Most other herbs (and greens) will keep for short periods unwashed and refrigerated in tightly–sealed plastic bags with just enough moisture to prevent wilting. For longer storage, use moisture– and gas–permeable paper and cellophane. Plastic cuts off oxygen to the plants and promotes spoilage.

Mushrooms
Keep them in the refrigerator in a paper bag. The bag absorbs some of the moisture and keeps the mushrooms from spoiling.

Onions and Garlic
Mature, dry–skinned bulbs like it cool and dry—so don’t store them with apples or potatoes. French–braided onions and garlic are handy and free to get some ventilation as well.

Pumpkins and Winter Squash
Squashes don’t like to be quite as cool as root crops do. They like a temperature of about 50°F to 65°F. If you have a cool–ish bedroom, stashing them under the bed works well!

Root Crops
Carrots, parsnips, potatoes, beets, and other root crops should be brushed clean of any clinging soil and stored in a cool, dark place. Never refrigerate potatoes—it will turn their starch to sugar. Don’t store apples and potatoes together; the apples give off ethylene gas that will spoil the potatoes. Clipping the tops of parsnips, carrots, beets, and turnips will keep them fresher longer.

If you have an overabundance of beets, make homemade borscht, the classic beet soup, and freeze. To grate the beets more easily, cook them first. A little vinegar intensifies the color.

Spices and Dried Herbs
Store in a cool, dry place, not above the stove or right next to the burners where heat and steam will cause them to lose flavor dramatically.

Tomatoes
Store at cool room temperature out of direct sunlight. Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes. If you have an abundance of tomatoes: for variety, dry tomatoes and/or marinate them in oil; or can them as salsa, ketchup, or juice.

Tropical Fruits
Tropical fruits do not keep well in the cold. Store bananas, avocados, and citrus fruit, as well as pineapples, melons, eggplants, cucumbers, peppers, and beans at about 50°F if possible.

Take Home

  • No single fruit or vegetable provides all of the nutrients you need to be healthy. Eat plenty everyday.
  • Eat a variety of types and colors of produce in order to give your body the mix of nutrients it needs. Try dark leafy greens; brightly colored red, yellow and orange vegetables and fruits; and cooked tomatoes.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Keep fruit where you can see it. That way you’ll be more likely to eat it.
  • Explore the produce aisle and choose something new. Variety is the key to a healthy diet.
  • Choose other vegetables that are packed with more nutrients and more slowly digested carbohydrates.
  • Make it a meal. Try cooking new recipes that include more vegetables. Salads and stir fries are two ideas for getting tasty vegetables on your plate.

Food is expensive, the body needs it, you can’t afford to waste it.

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