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Keeping Vegetables Fresh

October 7, 2013

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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!

 

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