How to keep your produce fresh longer

Gardening is an amazing way to get fresh produce for very cheap but it has one downfall, everything is ready at the same time! We quickly go from 1 tomato finally being ripe to 3 boxes full and leaving extras on our neighbors porches. We're not even gonna talk about zucchini! Unfortunately produce spoils so we either have to use it up, put it up or help extend it's freshness longer.

Proper produce storage

When I first got into the real world I was surprised that my roommate kept things in the refrigerator like potatoes, onions and tomatoes. My grandparents had always kept those on the counter or in a potato bin and that's the way I thought it was supposed to be. Turns out my gardener grandpap knew exactly what he was doing.

Certain fruits and vegetables do better in the cold and others do better at room temp. For instance, many people think that refrigerating tomatoes makes they ripen slower, which is sorta true but it also weakens their flavor if kept under 55°F. This creates mealy tomatoes that you don't want to eat anyway. For this reason you never put a tomato in the refrigerator unless it's already ripe.

Of course other fruits and vegetables will go bad really quickly if left on the counter. So how do you store fresh produce for optimum freshness and taste?

Properly stored produce

How to keep produce fresh longer


I live in the middle of the woods, about 40 minutes from the big grocery stores. I'm sure ya'll understand why I only go grocery shopping once a week or less! These are the ways I store my home and store bought produce to get the most time out of it before it goes bad.

How to keep vegetables fresh


Asparagus: After harvest rinse then wrap loosely in a paper towel and store in refrigerator. Or, you can use a large drinking glass and put an inch or two of water in it. Stand the asparagus up in the glass and store in refrigerator. If you asparagus is store bought, you'll want to snap off the bottom inch or so of stem before storing.

Broccoli: Do not wash before storing as excess moisture will cause it to basically...rot. You want to place it in a plastic bag in your refrigerator. Don't seal the bag, a little air circulation is good.

Carrots: Cut off the greens and store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Try to get as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing. Do not wash as the added moisture can cause them to spoil more quickly. 

Cauliflower: Do not wash before storing as excess moisture will cause it to spoil faster. You want to place it in a plastic bag in your refrigerator.

Celery: Wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil and refrigerate. If store bought, take it out of the plastic bag before wrapping in foil.

Cucumbers: Can be stored at room temperature, though you'll get a few more days out of them by storing them in the refrigerator. On the refrigerator shelf is fine. 

Green beans: Store unwashed and untrimmed in a container in the refrigerator. If you bought them in a bag you can leave them in there, but make sure it's either open or has air holes for air circulation.

Mushrooms: Place in brown paper bag. Roll closed at the top and refrigerate. Plain paper lunch bags work best and can be found in dollar stores.

Peppers: Keep bell and hot peppers in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. They can be kept on the counter, but laster longer in the fridge.

Potatoes and onions: Store in a cool dry area but not together. I use a potato and onion bin which keeps them separate and allows for air flow. If your potatoes are store bought, do not store them in a plastic bag. Any moisture inside the bag can cause them to rot.

Salad greens: Rinse your greens first, shake off a good amount of the moisture. Line a colander with paper towels and place greens on top of towels. Cover with plastic wrap. Store in refrigerator. You can put them in a sealed ziploc bag instead, but make sure to include the paper towel and don't leave excess water in the bag.

Squash and zucchini: Store in a cool dark place like inside a cupboard or on a low shelf. A root cellar would be best honestly, or if you have a cool room in your house like a basement. Pumpkins, garlic and yams can also be stored this way. 

Tomatoes: Store tomatoes on your kitchen counter but away from direct sunlight. Since produce is often picked or sold before it's fully ripe they may need a few days to ripen. Once completely ripe you can store them in your refrigerator for a few days, but put them in a brown paper bag not plastic. 

Fresh produce, proper storage

How to keep fruit fresh


Apples: When stored on the counter apples only last about a week, but if stored in the refrigerator they can last up to 2 months! 

Bananas: Store on counter till ripe. Once ripe you can move them to the refrigerator to buy you a few more days to eat them, but be careful where you place them as they give off ethylene gas which can cause other fruits and vegetables to ripen too quickly. 

Berries: Store in the refrigerator in a large bowl or the container they came in. Do not wash until you're ready to eat them. The excess moisture can cause mold to grow.

Citrus: Store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. You can leave them in their mesh bags if store bought. Many people leave citrus fruits on the counter and they will be ok if you do, they'll just go bad more quickly. You can buy mesh bags online for your own produce (or to use at farmers markets!) I have these ones from Amazon.

Grapes: Store unwashed in a bowl in the refrigerator. If you have several different vines it's ok to mix the different grapes in one bowl as long as they are the same purpose. Of course it won't hurt  if you mix different purpose grapes, but picking out the jam grapes from the eating grapes is a pain in the butt! (Don't ask how I know this! lol)

Melons: Allow to ripen on the counter then move to refrigerator. Always refrigerate after cutting.


For proper storage temps, make sure your refrigerator is set at 40°F or less. Make sure all cut fruits and vegetables are refrigerated promptly and used within a day or two. I really like these produce containers from Rubbermaid because they have vents to allow air circulation, if you're in need of containers. 

Keep in mind that garden produce may last a few days longer than store bought since it's generally fresher....and don't be afraid to give away some of your fresh produce when you grow too much. Everyone loves fresh tomatoes, right?  

Want to grow your own produce? Vegetables that are ready in under 60 days.

~L

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