Keeping Vegetables Fresh
Have you ever found yourself throwing out vegetables or fruits because they went bad before you got to using them? Americans throw away an alarming amount of food; according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the average American wastes 20% of their vegetables and 15% of fruits.
Whether you’re harvesting vegetables from your own garden or picking them up at the farmer’s market or grocery store, you don’t want your veggies going to waste. Knowing how to properly store produce is important to help it stay fresh as long as possible, and reduce its chances of being tossed.
Different vegetables need different storage conditions- they shouldn’t all just be thrown in the fridge! Temperature and humidity are the main storage factors; there are three combinations for long-term storage:
- cool and dry (50-60°F and 60% relative humidity)
- Basements are generally cool and dry. If you store vegetables in your basement, provide them with some ventilation (don’t use plastic bags), and protection from rodents.
- cold and dry (32-40°F and 65% relative humidity)
- Refrigerators are generally cold and dry. Don’t put veggies that require these conditions in plastic- leave them unbagged, or use paper bags or boxes.
- cold and moist (32-40°F and 95% relative humidity)
- Put vegetables in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator for cold and moist conditions. Unperforated plastic bags often create too humid conditions, which lead to condensation and growth of mold or bacteria
For your reference, specific storage information for some common vegetables is below (expected shelf-life times are only estimates).
|Vegetable||How to Store||Expected Shelf-life||Tips|
|beans, snap||cold and moist||1 week||develop pitting if stored below 40°; don’t wash before storing|
|beets||cold and moist||5 months||store without tops|
|broccoli||cold and moist||2 weeks||–|
|brussels sprouts||cold and moist||1 month||–|
|cabbage||cold and moist||5 months||–|
|carrots||cold and moist||8 months||store without tops|
|chard||cold and moist||3-4 days||wash before using, not before storing|
|collards||cold and moist||4-5 days||wrap leaves in moist paper towels, place in sealed bag. wash thoroughly before using|
|corn, sweet||cold and moist||5 days||–|
|cucumbers||cool spot in kitchen in perforated plastic bags; or in refrigerator for a few days||1 week||develops pitting and water-soaked areas if chilled below 40°F; do not store with apples or tomatoes|
|eggplant||like cucumbers||1 week||develops pitting, bronzing, pulp browning if stored for long period below 50°F|
|herbs||cold and moist||varies||store in plastic bag with paper towel, or upright in a glass of water|
|lettuce||cold and moist||1 week||–|
|onions||cold and dry||4 months||cure at room temperature 2-4 weeks before storage, do not freeze|
|peas||cold and moist||1 week||–|
|peppers||like cucumbers||2 weeks||develops pitting below 45°F|
|radishes||cold and moist||1 month||store without tops|
|rutabagas||cold and moist||4 months||do not wax|
|spinach||cold and moist||10 days||–|
|squash, summer||like cucumbers||1 week||do not store in refrigerator for more than 4 days|
|tomatoes, red||like cucumbers||5 days||loses color, firmness and flavor if stored below 40°F; do not refrigerate!|