How to Keep Produce Fresher Longer

Next week is National Farmers Market Week, and to celebrate all that fresh produce, let's take a look at how to take care of it. Keeping produce fresh  so that it last as throughout your week of planned meals can be a challenge! But there are some tricks that will help you keep them fresh for as long as possible so that they will make it through the week of your menu plan!

You've been shopping at the store, or to the farmers market, or brought in a load of produce from your own garden. You store it in your vegetable crisper in your refrigerator and when you open it back up a few days later to use it, you sometimes find wilted, or even wet, soggy, or worse moldy  (like my strawberries last week after only 2 days!). Nothing is more disappointing that purchasing food that you never get to use! Such a waste!

There are a few tricks that I've read about and saved in the past few years that have helped me turn things around.  Let's just sum them up with one sentance. STORAGE IS EVERYTHING! Success seems to come from just taking a moment when you come home and storing them correctly, rather than tossing them in those bags you brought them home in, straight into the drawers in the fride.

These ideas came from my local newspaper's food section, but looks like they were sourcing the information to a Washington Post article written by Casey Seidenberg a few years ago.

Printable Copy: (a google doc your welcome to download or print) 

Five Beginner Tips before we talk about specific Fruits and Vegetables: 
Tip 1: Buy Local Fresh Produce:
You will have much better luck with produce lasting longer when it is locally grown and fresh picked when you buy it then produce that has been riding around in trucks, or stored in warehouses for who knows how long before it arrived at the store, for you to purchase.

Tip 2: Don't Overcrowd the crisper drawer:
Those veggies and fruits want some room to breathe, and they will have a longer shell life. A good guideline is one layer deep in your crisper drawer, or fruit bowl.

Tip 3: Fruits and Vegetables don't share a room:
Just like siblings that don't like to share a bedroom, your fruits and vegetables actually really do need to be stored separately. Fruits emit a ripening agent that can ripen and spoil vegetables that are nearby.  Don't believe me? Just put a vegetable next to a ripe banana and see what happens.

Tip 4: Don't store produce in airtight bags: 
airtight storage bags will quicken the spoilage and decay of your produce for sure.

Tip 5: Eat your most perishable items first:
This is common sense when you read it, eat your asparagus, or mushrooms, before your broccoli or cauliflower, but often we plan our meals around what we feel like eating not what is going to spoil first, and then when we finally get to the other items, they've gone bad. 

Ok let's talk Vegetables:

Asparagus: Store upright in a glass with water coverng the bottom inch of stems at room temperature for a week. 
Beets: Cut off tops and leaves to retain firmness. Store in open container in the refrigerator topped with a wet towel.
Brussels Sprouts: Store in an open bowl in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Carrots: Cut off tops and leaves to retain firmness. Store in open container in the refrigerator topped with a wet towel.
Cauliflower: Store uncut in the refrigerator for a week.
Cucumbers: Store at room temperature, not near bananas, melons, or tomatoes.
Garlic: Store in a cool, dry, dark place other than the refrigerator.
Green beans: Store in a Produce bag or wrapped in a paper towel in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator.
Herbs: Pretend they are a bouquet of flower and stick their stems in a glass of water, and store in the refrigerator. Wash leaves and stems as needed. 
Leafy Greens: De-Stem. Place in a bowl of water and rinse clean. Dry leaves and wrap in a dish towel.then store in crisper drawer for a week or more.
Onions: Store in a cool, dry, dark place other than the refrigerator.
Potatoes: Store in a cool, dry, dark place other than the refrigerator.
Tomatoes: Do not refrigerate. They are cold sensitive. Store at room temperature on the counter away from other fruits.

How about some sweet Fruits: 

Apples: Store in a crisper drawer or cool, dark place outside of the refrigerator.
Avocados: Ripen in a brown paper bag at room temperature, move to the refrigerator after it is ripe.
Bananas: Keep at room temperature. Store away from other fruits and vegetables.
Berries: Store unwashed in the refrigerator in a one layer (a paper bag is ideal),  up to two weeks.
Citrus Fruits: Store at room temperature. Citrus fruits can absorb flavors of the other foods around them in the refrigerator.
Grapes: Store in a paper bag in the fridge. 
Melon:  Leave uncut at room temperature out of the sun. 
Pears: Keep at room temperature, away from apples, which will speed up your pears ripening process.
Stone Fruits; (Peaches, apricots, nectarines) Store at room temperature stem end down to ripen, but store in the refrigerator once already ripened.
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