As a mother, I look forward to the summer seasons all year long. Not only does this season provide my family with the opportunity to spend our days and evenings outdoors, I know fresh produce will be bountiful and readily available to my family. As spring approaches each year, I dream of the crisp salads and grilled vegetables I can serve my family day after full day of summer fun.
Still, working with fresh produce is not without challenges. Have you ever gone digging through your fridge, only to find that the busyness of your everyday life distracted you from using the beautiful heirloom tomatoes you recently purchased at the farmer’s market?
Or maybe you faithfully stuck to your meal plan, but the avocados you just purchased have already turned to mush. Keeping your fresh produce fresh is possible, but it does require an understanding of how to properly store each item to maximize the length of their life.
Where You Store Produce Matters
Storing your produce correctly will play an important role in keeping your fruit and veggies fresh for as long as possible. While it may seem the refrigerator is the best way to store your produce, this isn’t always true.
Root vegetables, squash and specific fruits, including oranges, lemons and melons, will do great on the countertop for several days.
While storing tomatoes in the fridge might slow their ripening, many believe this practice changes the taste and texture of the fruit and recommend storing a paper-towel lined bowl out of direct sunlight instead. Everything else should be stored in your refrigerator.
Study Up on Ethylene Gas
Certain fruits and vegetables produce ethylene gas, a hormone that plays a role in ripening produce.
If you want to keep produce fresh for as long as possible, it is important to know that some fruits and veggies are super producers of this gas while others are highly sensitive to the effects of ethylene exposure.
Storing high ethylene produce with ethylene-sensitive produce is a surefire way to wind up with a lot of rotten produce. Keeping these produce separated, either by taking advantage of the drawers in your fridge or relying on closed containers, will help you keep for fresh produce fresh. Not sure which fruits produce ethylene and which are highly-sensitive to ethylene? Check out this comprehensive list here
Or, if you are looking for one easy rule to follow, plan to keep your fruits and vegetables separate since most fruits are heavy ethylene produce and most vegetables are highly sensitive to ethylene.
Ditch Bad Produce Right Away
Berries, grapes and cherries are some of the favorite fruits of spring and summer, but they can be exceptionally hard to keep fresh.
In general, don’t buy more of these items than you can eat in 3 or 4 days.
One practice that will keep your fruit fresh longer is throwing out any overripe or rotten pieces immediately, as one bad piece can ruin the whole bunch.
Check on your fruit everyday and get rid of any pieces that are looking too soft or showing signs of mold.
Wait to Wash Right Before Use
In general, all fruits and vegetables will last longer if you wait to wash them until right before you plan to use them. One exception to this rule is berries, which mold very quickly if left alone. A warm bath in water and vinegar has been found to rid berries of bacteria, significantly slowing down the effects of molding. Once you have washed your berries, carefully dry them with a paper towel and move them into a sealed container.
When All Else Fails, Fall Back on Your Freezer
Even if you faithfully follow the tips above, stuff happens and you may find you have produce you won’t be able to use before it goes bad.
The good news is that many fruits and vegetables can be frozen for later use. Green beans, peppers, bananas, onions, cabbage, carrots, squash and peaches are just a few of the produce items that freeze really well.
Blanching your unused veggies in hot water before freezing will slow down spoilage by killing any bacteria present on the produce.
With the tips above, you can feel equipped to get the most out of the fruits and vegetables you buy this summer. Armed with this information, you'll be able to eat healthier meals, introduce your family to foods and support local farmers by buying their produce.