There is nothing better than fresh, crisp produce. And there is nothing more discouraging than having it spoil before you are able to enjoy it. It’s no surprise only 1 in 10 Americans eats the recommended amount of fruits and veggies when we toss about 19% of vegetables and 14% of fruits we buy. But with proper storage and care, you can keep your produce fresh longer, reduce food waste, and save money.
Selecting the freshest fruits and veggies is the first step to getting the longest storage life in your kitchen. Head to the market with a plan! Think about your meals for the week, check to see what items you already have, and buy only what you need. Avoid food with visible blemishes or odors. When choosing root vegetables, cabbages, squash, and onions, they should be heavy for their size and without blemishes or soft spots. Leafy greens should be richly colored without any limp or yellowing leaves.
Separate Your Produce
How you store produce can impact freshness. When storing fresh fruits and vegetables, you have to consider the big three - temperature, ethylene, and airflow. A lot of produce keeps well in the refrigerator, while some items like potatoes, onions, and garlic are best left at room temperatures.
Fruits like bananas, peaches, and tomatoes release ethylene gas, causing other produce to ripen faster. Storing them away from ethylene sensitive produce such as clementines, grapefruits, lemons, or limes, can prevent them from ripening. This separation strategy applies to countertops and refrigerated produce. Be sure to keep ethylene sensitive veggies like lettuce, cucumbers, and peppers in a separate bin.
Most refrigerated produce stays fresh longer when sealed in an air-tight container or produce bag. This helps hold in moisture, preventing produce from dehydrating. Produce that keeps best at room temperature needs air circulation. Remove potatoes or onions if their packaging, plastic bags equal premature spoilage.
For more strategies, check out our blog, How to: Clean and Store Produce.
Wash Your Fruits & Vegetables
We might be eager to wash our produce as soon as we get home, but generally, fresh produce should not be washed until you are ready to eat it. Effectively washing produce is important in removing residues and germs but can create a bacteria promoting environment if done too soon. Lettuce greens are the exception. These can be washed, dried, and stored in a container between paper towels as soon as you bring them home.
Here are some tips from N4L’s CEO, Jennifer Maynard, on effectively cleaning your produce.
At Nutrition for Longevity, we encourage everyone to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables! Whether you grow your own, shop local, or purchase N4L’s Produce Boxes, fresh produce is the key ingredient to a life of longevity.