Food Storage Tips
To help you enjoy the fresh food you receive from the Farmers Markets, your CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes or from your local market for longer this summer, here are some handy fruit and vegetable storage tips.
Refrigerated apples store much better than those left at room temperature. Apples emit ethylene, a naturally occurring gas that speeds ripening. Store refrigerated apples in a plastic bag to prevent them from accelerating the ripening of other foods.
Wash arugula and spin it dry in a salad spinner. Place in plastic bag with a paper towel to limit excess moisture and store in crisper drawer. Arugula can keep for up to a week.
Best used immediately, asparagus can store for a short period if base of stalks are wrapped in a wet paper towel. Place in a plastic bag and store in the crisper.
Store basil in the fridge for up to a week by placing it in a glass of water and covering with a plastic bag. Alternatively, wrap with moist paper towel and place in plastic bag in the fridge.
Beet leaves will sap moisture, so trim them down close to the root. Leave the tap root on and bag the root bulb and the leaves separately. Leaves will keep for 2 days while the root will hold for more than a week.
Store peppers in plastic bags at 45-50 degrees and away from ethylene-emitting crops such as pears and apples. Peppers will hold up to five days in the refrigerator with green peppers holding longer than the more ripened yellow, red and orange peppers.
Wash berries in a bowl of vinegar-water (3 parts water to 1 part vinegar). Drain the berries, rinse and dry in a salad spinner lined with a cloth or paper towel. It is essential for the berries to go to the refrigerator completely dry or mold will quickly ruin them.
Bok Choy will store for a week or more as long as leaves are not allowed to wilt. Store in the fridge in a plastic bag or hydrator drawer.
Fresh-cut broccoli can hold in a plastic bag in your refrigerator drawer for up to a week.
Leave Brussels sprouts unwashed, place in a plastic bag and store in the fridge for 3-5 days.
Cabbage stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s humid vegetable bin will last at least a week.
Cut the tops off carrots before rinsing. Place the carrots in a plastic bag and store in the coldest, most humid drawer in the fridge. Carrots will keep for several months. Adding water to the bottom of the bag will prevent the roots from going soft. Store away from fruits that emit ethylene.
Refrigerate unwashed cauliflower in a plastic bag for 5-7 days.
Though best fresh, corn can be stored in the fridge for a few days. Keep the husk on and store in a plastic bag. If the corn has already been husked, refrigerate it in a perforated plastic bag.
Place cucumbers in a plastic bag and store in the fridge for up to a week. Don’t wash until you are ready to use them.
Though the leaves will wilt during storage, this does not affect the flavor of dill. Spritz the leaves with water and wrap with a paper towel. Place in a plastic bag in the fridge for a week or more.
Expect 3-4 days of storage, though eggplant can store in the fridge for up to a week. Be careful not to bruise the berry. Store in the crisper, unwrapped.
Store fennel in a plastic bag, in the high-humidity crisper section of the refrigerator for no more than three to four days. Fennel loses its flavor quickly so it’s best to use it as soon as possible.
Use spring garlic within a week, storing it in the fridge. Unpeeled garlic bulbs can last for up to a year if stored in a dark, cool, dry place with plenty of ventilation.
Wash and store in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. Remove the tips right before cooking.
Fresh-cut greens will last for up to a week if properly stored. Wash thoroughly with luke-warm water. Place in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel and store in the hydrator drawer.
Hot peppers will last for a week stored in the fridge if kept dry and uncut.
Keep the leaves from drying out by wrapping with a damp paper towel and placing in a plastic bag in the hydrator drawer or your fridge. Soak in cold water for 10 minutes to re-hydrate.
Store lettuce in perforated plastic bags wrapped in damp paper towels, and keep in the refrigerator vegetable crisper. For heads, trim the bottom of the stem then wash in warm water. Let the greens sit for 5 minutes to let dirt settle to bottom of sink. Spin or shake and paper towel dry before storing with the damp paper towel wrapped loosely around stem end and in an airtight plastic container or bag.
Cantaloupes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. The optimum storage temperature is 32-36 F. Before refrigerating, place the melons in a plastic bag to prevent the aroma from favoring other stored foods.
Fresh mint can store in the fridge for a week or more if wrapped in moist paper towels and placed inside a sealed plastic bag.
Whole onions will last for months if stored in a cool, dry, dark place such as a pantry, closet or cellar. Bunched spring onions will hold for a week or more in the fridge. Remove dried leaves before using.
Peaches, once ripe, should be eaten right away for the best flavor and taste! You can choose to store ripe peaches in your crisper drawer for 3-5 days.
Ripen pears in a paper bag with an apple or a banana to speed the process. You can refrigerate ripe pears up to 3 days.
Store at room temperature until fully ripened and ready to eat. To accelerate ripening, place plums in a paper bag along with a ethylene producer (banana, apple or pear). Plums are ripe when they give off a sweet plum aroma and are soft to the touch. Once ripened, store the plums in the refrigerator until eaten but keep them away from ethylene producing fruit so they do not become over ripe.
Potatoes theoretically last up to three months when stored in burlap, brown paper, or perforated plastic bags away from light, in the coolest, non-refrigerated, and well-ventilated part of the house. However, expect three to five weeks. Refrigeration can turn the starch in the potatoes to sugar and may tend to darken them when cooked. New potatoes should be used within one week. Don’t store onions and potatoes together, as the gases they each give off, will cause the other to decay.
Remove greens from root and store separately in plastic bags in the fridge. Roots will last up to two weeks, greens 2-3 days.
Keep fresh rosemary in plastic bags in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
Place in mesh bags or crates and store in a well-ventilated area at temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees. Avoid storing in areas where they may freeze or in areas that are warm and humid. A cellar or cool room is ideal. Shallots will keep all winter as long as they are stored properly.
Snap peas will last 3-7 days in the fridge. Store unwashed in plastic bags.
Store in the fridge for up to 5 days, but use peas as soon as possible. The storage of peas lessens some their sweetness and crisp texture.
Wash spinach thoroughly in cold water. Repeat if necessary until you’re sure all the grit is gone. Spin dry in a salad spinner and place into clean plastic bags very loosely wrapped with paper towels. It will last only two to three days, so plan on eating your rinsed spinach right away. Cold, moist surroundings, as low as 32°F and about 95% humidity are the best for storing spinach.
Ripe strawberries don’t keep well but can be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days. This berry also bruises very easily, so handle them gently. Quickly toss in a bowl of cold water before serving (do not soak!)
Apricots, cantaloupe, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums continue to ripen at room temperature after they are picked. To speed their ripening, put them in a loosely closed brown paper bag or ripening bowl at room temperature.
Summer squash is best used within a week. Store squash in plastic bags in your crisper drawer of your refrigerator to prevent dehydration.
Wipe dirt off sweet potatoes, but do not rinse. Place them in a bag with an apple to prevent budding. Keep them in a pantry or cellar that is cool and dry. Store for no more than a month, but if you are keeping sweet potatoes at room temperature, store no longer than a week.
Fresh ripe tomatillos will keep in the refrigerator for about two weeks. They will keep even longer if the husks are removed and the fruits are placed in sealed plastic bags stored in the refrigerator. They may also be frozen whole or sliced.
Since tomatoes are fruit, they tend to store similarly. Keep unripe tomatoes at room temperature. Place in the fridge to slow the ripening process when desired and after slicing.
Store unwashed turnips in a plastic bag in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. To prolong the shelf life of turnips, you can put them in moist sand in a cool location.
Watermelons can be stored at room temperature for about one week, and for 2-3 weeks at 50-60 F.
Guest blog post by Lori McKnight, B.A., busy mom and wife who enjoys living in the Pacific Northwest and has been a health and wellness advocate for many years.