August 2, 2008

Storing Fresh Produce

Different fruits and vegetables require different temperature and humidity levels for proper storage.

  • Foods that taste best stored at room temperature include bananas, melons, onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Store in a clean, dry, well-ventilated place, away from direct sunlight.
  • Store onions and garlic at room temperature or slightly cooler if possible, in an open container with good air circulation.
  • Store potatoes and winter squash in a cool, dark place where air can get to them.
  • Apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, nectarines, peaches, pears, plantains, and plums continue to ripen after they're picked. Keep on the counter until ripe, then store in the refrigerator.
  • Ripen green tomatoes at room temperature. Ripe tomatoes will keep at room temperature for several days. They keep in the refrigerator only about two days before they start to lose flavor.
  • Fruits that you should pick or buy ripe and ready-to-eat include apples, cherries, citrus fruit, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, and watermelon.
  • Do not place produce in closed plastic bags on your countertop. This slows ripening and may increase off-odors and decay.
  • Most fresh fruits and vegetables keep best in the refrigerator at a temperature of 4000F. or below.
  • Store fruits in a separate refrigerator crisper drawer from vegetables. Fruits give off ethylene gas which can shorten the life of vegetables. Some vegetables give off odors that can be absorbed by fruits and affect their quality.
  • If leafy radish and carrot tops are attached, remove them before storing.
  • Refrigerate fruits and vegetables in perforated bags to help maintain moisture yet provide air flow. (Unperforated plastic bags can lead to the growth of mold or bacteria.) Use a skewer or other sharp object to make several small holes in a food-grade plastic bag – about 20 holes per medium-size bag. Reuse the bag several times by washing and hanging it over a bottle to dry.
  • In general, produce should not be washed before storage, however, lettuce and other greens are exceptions. Washing lettuce ahead of time makes it convenient for sandwiches and salads. Remove and discard any discolored leaves. Wash well in cold water; dry in a salad spinner or with a clean cloth. Store in a covered container with a towel on the bottom to absorb excess moisture, or wrap in a cloth and place in a perforated bag.

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