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How to Store Fruit and Vegetables

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Do you keep bananas in the fridge, or out somewhere in the kitchen? Where do you store potatoes? Which vegetables need darkness, and which ones can tolerate some daylight? Most of us store produce the way we saw our parents storing it when we grew up. But different people have different ideas about how to store certain fruits and vegetables. Some preferences are regional, and some are just how certain families do things. Learn how to store fruit and vegetables according to science.

Fruit with vegetables and other items in a refrigerator

Storing fruits and vegetables

The short answer is that most fruits and veggies can be stored in the fridge, and will last longer if you keep them there. The exceptions are:

  • Bananas, lemons, limes, tomatoes and melons, which do well in room temperature with normal lighting (but not direct sunlight).
  • Potatoes should be kept in a cool dark area, but never refrigerated. Refrigerating them causes the starches to break down. That makes them turn sweet (not in a nice way). They’ll also turn brown faster. The ideal spot is something like under the stairs in a garage or basement. Under a kitchen sink will also keep them shaded and relatively cool, assuming your house is cool. Room temperature is okay for preserving flavor, but they’ll start sprouting and/or go bad sooner in room temperature than in a cool, dark place. Buy fewer of them if you must keep them at room temperature. The perforated plastic bags many stores sell them in are actually great for storing them. They keep in some humidity (which prevents the potatoes from drying out and/or shrinking).
  • Avocados should be kept at room temperature. If they need to ripen, putting them in a brown paper bag will speed up that process.
  • Stone fruits like peaches and plums – and avocados – do well when you store them in a brown paper bag at room temperature.
  • Garlic and onions like a cool, well-ventilated space. They tolerate light and room temperatures better than potatoes, so the countertop is an okay place for them, but they will benefit from being kept in the same sort of place that’s ideal for potatoes.
  • Cut onions – that is, onions you’ve used part of – should be wrapped in plastic or foil, put in the refrigerator, and used soon. Cut garlic – like a plant you’ve used some of the cloves from – should continue to be stored like it was before you cut into it. Be aware that once cut, it’s shelf life decreases, so plan to use it soon.

Storing produce that’s about to go bad

Sometimes it turns out you’ve got more produce on your hands than you can eat before it goes bad, even though you’re storing everything the right way for maximum shelf life. There are a few things you can do with fruits and veggies that are still good, but that you don’t think will last much longer:

  • Puree them for smoothies. Pureed veggies in an airtight container in a fridge will last for a while.
  • Freeze juice into ice cubes. If you’re really in a hurry, squeeze the juice of overripe citrus fruits into an ice cube tray and freeze it. You can add cubes into cooking recipes or beverages.
  • Use it cosmetically. Avocados, cucumbers and other produce ingredients we use as facial treatments or eye-bag de-puffers don’t need to be at the height of flavor – overripe works just fine.
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