Tips to keep your local produce fresher, longer
From National Co-op Grocers (NCG)
Just as people breathe, produce respires. This process of oxidation is responsible for the breakdown (spoilage) of fruits and vegetables after harvest. You can’t stop this natural process, but you can learn how to slow it down and lengthen the life of your produce.
Keep It Cold
The warmer the temperature, the faster the rate of respiration. In most cases, keeping produce at a temperature just above freezing is best to slow that process, but consult the storage recommendations for individual items in this guide for more detailed information.
Keep It Low
Avoid stacking. Air circulation and the absence of pressure prolong produce life.
Keep It Dirty
Wash your produce just before you use it, not before you store it. Water can cause damage. Some types of produce are often misted with water while on display in the store, but this is a tradeoff. Vegetables like it humid, and forced-air refrigeration dries them out quickly, making spraying necessary. When you get your produce home, pat wet items dry with a towel. If there’s dirt, leave it until you’re ready to prepare or eat the produce.
Keep It Whole
Broken stems, pierced skin and exposed surfaces allow microorganisms access. Keep produce close to its original state until you’re ready to prepare or eat it.
Keep It Breathing
You want to slow respiration, not stop it. Whether refrigerating or ripening at room temperature, avoid sealing fruits and vegetables in airtight containers or bags. The produce may suffocate and accelerate spoilage.
Eat It Quickly
Don’t keep it long. Fruits and vegetables lose flavor at low temperatures. Refrigeration dehydrates and saps sugar from produce. So plan ahead to buy what you need, and prioritize to use what you buy.
ETHYLENE SENSITIVE PRODUCE
Why keep these fruits and veggies separate?
Many fruits emit ethylene, an odorless, colorless gas as they ripen. This gas will speed the ripening of nearby ethylene-sensitive vegetables, leading to premature spoilage. It is best to avoid storing fruits and vegetables near one another. Separate them from each other in your refrigerator and on your countertop.
Ethylene is not all bad
You can use it to control the speed at which your fruit ripens. Ethylene-producing fruits can be stored near other fruits to ripen them faster, or kept apart from them to reduce ripening speed. Examples include placing a ripe banana in a paper bag with unripe peaches, or storing an apple in a bag with a green avocado.
Keep any of this ethylene emitting produce:
Apples, Avocados, Bananas, Figs, Melons (uncut), Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Plums, and Tomatoes
…Away from any of this
ethylene sensitive produce:
Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Leafy Greens, Parsley, Peas, and Peppers.
Plastic bags are often recommended as they are commonly available in most produce departments. If you wish to avoid using plastic, you can use a clean dish towel as a reasonable substitute for a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Paper bags should only be used where noted as they can have a dehydrating effect on some produce.