Complete Guide to Storing Fruits and Vegetables at Home


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Eating more fruits and vegetables is a requirement for every healthy eater. But when you buy more fresh produce, do you end up throwing away more than you eat? You're not alone.

Culinary Physics Blog consulted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food scientists/technologist, professional chefs, agriculturists, food manufacturers, and other experts—to establish these storage guidelines. The first consideration was safety. But because you want your food to be delicious, too, for some products, Culinary Physics Blog chose the conservative storage time for optimum freshness.

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Complete Guide to Storing Fruits and Vegetables at Home

  1. 1. 1Complete Guide to Storing Fruits and Vegetables at HomeFind out how to keep fruits and vegetables fresh.*Culinary Physics Blog consulted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), foodscientists/technologist, professional chefs, agriculturists, food manufacturers, andother experts—to establish these storage guidelines. The first consideration wassafety. But because you want your food to be delicious, too, for some products,Culinary Physics Blog chose the conservative storage time for optimum freshness.Eating more fruits and vegetables is a requirement for every healthy eater. Butwhen you buy more fresh produce, do you end up throwing away more than youeat? Youre not alone.Based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency research (EPA), Americans throwaway nearly 31.6 million tons of food every year. And a recent University of Arizonastudy found that the average family tosses 1.28 pounds of food a day, for a total of470 pounds a year. Thats like throwing away $700.Storing fresh produce is a little more complicated than you might think. If you wantto prevent spoilage, certain foods shouldnt be stored together at all, while othersthat we commonly keep in the fridge should actually be left on the countertop. Tokeep your produce optimally fresh (and cut down on food waste), use this guide(download it for future reference- Storing Fruits and Vegetables).Cold storage of fruits and vegetables was used extensively by our ancestors to keepfood after the harvest season. In modern times, the year round availability of freshproduce in the supermarket has reduced the use of home storage. However, eventoday there are benefits of home storage, which make it a good alternative tobuying produce from the store. Most importantly, home gardeners often haveexcess fruits and vegetables that cannot be consumed immediately but would storewell. Even those without gardens can buy food ‘in season’ when it is fresh andinexpensive and then store it at home until a later date. Both these options arecheaper than buying food in the winter when it is often quite expensive. In addition,stored food harvested at peak maturity from the garden usually has better flavorand a higher nutritional value.Storing Fruits and Vegetables at HomeUse of Packing Materials - Packing materials used in storage perform severalfunctions- insulation against fluctuating temperatures, moisture retention, andreduction of disease transmission. In outdoor storages, clean straw, dry leaves,corn stalks, hay, or sawdust are commonly used for insulation. These materials
  2. 2. 2may be readily available or can be purchased relatively cheaply from local farmsand garden centers. A slightly more expensive alternative is peat moss. Use thesematerials for a single storage season only, as they can become contaminated withmolds and bacteria. They often can be recycled as mulch in the garden. Moistureretention of produce is usually achieved with moistened sand, sawdust or peatmoss. Plastic bags, lined boxes, crocks, metal cans with liners, or plastic garbagecans are all items that retain moisture. Perforate plastic bags or liners at regularintervals to allow air circulation and prevent condensation and you can buy thiseasily at requiring moist storage should never be left directly exposed to air.Alternating layers of produce with packing materials reduces disease transmission.Wrapping individual items of produce with newspaper aids moisture retention andreduces the possibility of cross-transfer of odors and disease.Use of Refrigerator Storage - One of the best ways to store small quantities ofvegetables requiring cold or cool moist conditions is to use an old or extrarefrigerator. The amount of current required to run a storage refrigerator is usuallylow because they are opened infrequently and can be located in an out of the way,cool location. For best storage, produce should be washed free of soil andplaced into plastic bags with 2 to 4 ¼” holes for ventilation. The 5 or 10pound bag size is usually most convenient for the average family. Vegetables inplastic bags do not wilt nearly so rapidly as those stored openly in the refrigerator.Fruits and vegetables add color, flavor, vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your diet,and the quality of the produce you buy directly impacts the quality of the dishesyou cook with that produce. Who wants to eat a wilted salad or a dingy bowl offruit? Always seek out the best sources for produce. If you have a local farmers’market featuring seasonal produce, browse the stalls and choose what looks best.You can plan a whole meal — or at least a memorable side dish — around a reallyripe carton of tomatoes and a dewy bin of fresh lettuce, or what about thoseblushing peaches bursting with juice for dessert?When choosing and storing fruits and vegetables, whether from a farm stand or thesupermarket, a few rules apply across the board. Avoid fresh produce withbrown spots or wrinkled skin or produce that doesn’t look… well… fresh!Here are a few other produce rules to live by:1) Grapes: Fresh, ripe grapes are full and juicy looking with a powdery bloom onthe skin. Keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.2) Bananas: Eat them before they turn completely brown. You can refrigeratethem to slow down their ripening. Their peel continues to darken in therefrigerator, but not their flesh.
  3. 3. 33) Apples: Should be crisp and firm. Refrigerate or store in a cool, dark place.Keep for several weeks. Some varieties keep for several months. Apples release agas that makes other fruits ripen more quickly, so if you don’t want your fruit toripen too fast, keep it away from the apple bowl and don’t store it with apples inthe refrigerator.4) Pineapple: It doesn’t ripen after it’s picked and is best if eaten within a fewdays of purchase. Keep at room temperature, away from heat and sun, orrefrigerate whole or cut up.5) Avocados: These tropical delights should yield just slightly to pressure whenripe. Keep at room temperature until fully ripened. If you won’t eat them rightaway, refrigerate them to keep for several more days.6) Citrus fruits (such as lemons, grapefruits, and oranges): Whenrefrigerated, citrus fruits (which don’t ripen further after they’re picked and arerelatively long-storage fruits) keep for up to 3 weeks.7) Cherries and berries: Keep refrigerated. For best flavor, consume them thesame day you purchase them. Cherries and berries get soft and moldy quickly.8) Tropical fruits: Mangoes, papaya, and kiwi should be firm but yield slightly topressure and should smell fruity. Store at room temperature for more flavors, butrefrigerate when they are ripe and then return to room temperature before eating.9) Unripe melons and tree fruits (such as pears, peaches, and nectarines):Keep at room temperature so that they can ripen and grow sweeter. After they’refully ripe, you can store them in the refrigerator for several more days. Melons areripe when they smell melon-y at the stem end. And if we haven’t mentioned a fruitor vegetable you want to try… try it anyway! There are many interesting produceoptions out there in the world. The more you taste, the more you know.10) Artichokes and asparagus: Refrigerate and use within 2 to 3 days ofpurchase.11) Cabbage: Keeps for 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.12) Carrots: Best when firm, not rubbery, without a lot of little roots growing allover them. They keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.13) Broccoli and cauliflower: Refrigerate and consume within a week.14) Celery: Fresh celery is crisp and firm. Old celery flops around like a rubberpencil. Keeps for 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.15) Bell peppers: Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  4. 4. 416) Corn: Refrigerate and use the same day of purchase. After corn is picked, itssugar immediately begins converting to starch, diminishing its sweetness.17) Garlic: Garlic should feel firm, not soft, and should be without any greensprouts. Once it sprouts, it turns bitter. Keep garlic at room temperature, in asmall bowl within reach of your food preparation area, to encourage you to use thefresh stuff. Garlic will last longer in the refrigerator, however, so if you don’t use itoften, keep it chilled to inhibit sprouting.18) Onions, potatoes, shallots, and hard-shelled winter squash (like acornand butternut): Keep at room temperature for several weeks to a month. Storeonions, potatoes, and winter squash in a cool, dry, dark drawer or bin. Onions,shallots, and potatoes should be firm. If they are soft or rubbery, they are pasttheir prime.19) Tomatoes: Store at room temperature for more flavors. Keep in a cool, darkplace or in a paper bag to ripen fully. Once ripe, eat them right away. If youcan’t, refrigerate them for two or three more days, although this can compromisethe texture, making them mealier. Return them to room temperature before eating.20) Cucumbers and eggplant: The skin should be firm, shiny, and smooth,without soft brown spots. Keep for up to 1 week in the cold crisper drawer of therefrigerator.21) Leafy greens (beet tops, collards, kale, mustard greens, and so on):Very perishable. Refrigerate and consume within 1 to 2 days.22) Spinach: Trim, rinse, and dry thoroughly before storing in the refrigerator for 2to 3 days.23) Green beans: Refrigerate and use within 3 to 4 days of purchase.24) Salad greens: Rinse thoroughly, trim, and dry completely before storingwrapped in paper towel or in plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper drawer. Theykeep for 3 to 4 days. Do we have to tell you not to buy slimy lettuce?25) Summer squash (zucchini and yellow squash): Store in the refrigerator forup to a week.26) Mushrooms: Store in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Use within a week.Remember when harvesting your own produce for storage, or buying it locallyin season, there are certain guidelines to follow which assure maximum quality andminimum spoilage of your stored food.1. Harvest fruits and vegetables at peak maturity or as near as possible.2. Only use produce that is free from all visible evidence of disease.
  5. 5. 53. Do not pick any fruit or vegetable that has severe insect damage.4. Handle food carefully after harvest so that it is not cut or bruised.5. Leave an inch or more of stem on most vegetables to reduce waterloss and prevent infection.6. Use late-maturing varieties better suited to storage.In general, use only the best food for storage. Damaged food is more likely tosuffer mold and bacterial decay during storage and thus should be used fresh,processed, or discarded.Once harvested, fruits and vegetables must be stored under proper conditions, themost important of which are temperature and humidity. Each fruit or vegetable hasits own ideal set of conditions at which it will store most successfully for themaximum length of time. These conditions can be classified into four groups:1. Vegetables which require cold & moist conditions2. Vegetables which require cool & moist conditions3. Vegetables which require cold & dry conditions4. Vegetables which require warm & dry conditionsThe charts or tables below list temperature and humidity requirements for mostvegetables. In addition to proper temperature and humidity, all fruits andvegetables must be kept in a dark, aerated environment. While most vegetableslike moist conditions, standing water must be avoided, as it will quickly lead to rot.Produce must not be allowed to freeze and should be protected from animal pestssuch as mice. It is important to remember that crops held in storage are still livingplants, capable of respiration and affected by their environment. The goal ofstorage is to keep them in a dormant state.One other note, fruits and vegetables should always be stored separately. Fruitsrelease ethylene, which speeds the ripening process of vegetables. Fruits are alsovery susceptible to picking up the taste of nearby vegetables.Storing Fruits and Vegetables ChartsChart 1. Fruits and Vegetables that require cold, moist conditions.VEGETABLETEMPERATURE(oF)RELATIVEHUMIDITY(%)LENGTH OFSTORAGEAsparagus 32-36 95 2-3 weeks
  6. 6. 6Apples 32 90 2-6 monthsBeets 32 95 3-5 monthsBroccoli 32 95 10-14 daysBrussels Sprouts 32 95 3-5 weeksCabbage, Early 32 95 3-6 weeksCabbage, Late 32 95 3-4 monthsCabbage, Chinese 32 95 1-2 monthsCarrots, mature 32 95 4-5 monthsCarrots, immature 32 95 4-6 weeksCauliflower 32 95 2-4 weeksCeleriac 32 95 3-4 monthsCelery 32 95 2-3 monthsCollards 32 95 10-14 daysCorn, sweet 32 95 4-8 daysEndive, Escarole 32 95 2-3 weeksGrapes 32 90 4-6 weeksKale 32 95 10-14 daysLeeks, green 32 95 1-3 monthsLettuce 32 95 2-3 weeksParsley 32 95 1-2 monthsParsnips 32 95 2-6 monthsPears 32 95 2-7 monthsPeas, green 32 95 1-3 weeksPotatoes, early 50 90 1-3 weeksPotatoes, late 39 90 4-9 monthsRadishes, spring 32 95 3-4 weeksRadishes, winter 32 95 2-4 monthsRhubarb 32 95 2-4 weeksRutabagas 32 95 2-4 monthsSpinach 32 95 10-14 daysChart 2. Vegetables that require cool, moist conditions.VEGETABLETEMPERATURE(oF)RELATIVEHUMIDITY(%)LENGTHOFSTORAGEBeans, snap 40-50 95 7-10 daysCucumbers 45-50 95 10-14 daysEggplant 45-50 90 1 weekCantaloupe 40 90 15 daysWatermelon 40-50 80-85 2-3 weeksPeppers, sweet 45-50 95 2-3 weeksPotatoes, early 50 90 1-3 weeksPotatoes, late 40 90 4-9 monthsTomatoes, green 50-70 90 1-3 weeksTomatoes, ripe 45-50 90 4-7 daysChart 3. Vegetables that require cool dry conditions.VEGETABLE TEMPERATURERELATIVEHUMIDITYLENGTHOF
  7. 7. 7(oF) (%) STORAGEGarlic 32 65-70 6-7 monthsOnions 32 65-70 6-7 monthsChart 4. Vegetables that require warm dry conditions.VEGETABLETEMPERATURE(oF)RELATIVEHUMIDITY (%)LENGTH OFSTORAGEPeppers, hot 50 60-65 6 monthsPumpkins 50-55 70-75 2-3 monthsSquash, winter 50-55 50-60 2-6 monthsSweet Potato 55-60 80-85 4-6 monthsDo you want to know the right way to sauté onions to get the most of its flavor?Read…Maillard Reaction Mechanism and Its Applications to Your Cooking. Ifyou don’t have time bookmark it and read it later.Want to learn more?…learn how to cook egg on a piece of paper or…learn how cooking methods affect the eventual flavor and texture of foodingredientsVisit!http://culinaryphysics.blogspot.comCulinary Physics Blog: Exceptional food that worth a special journey. Distinctivedishes are precisely prepared, using fresh ingredients. And all other foods that cankill you.Culinary Physics is a Molecular Gastronomy blog specializing in moleculargastronomy recipes-food style, molecular book review, molecular gastronomy kitreview and molecular gastronomy restaurants guide.