Storing produce correctly helps preserve fruits and vegetables for healthful meals and tasty eating. Choose the right spot in the refrigerator for your vegetables—if they even belong there in the first place.
Appliance Design & Settings
Hanging on to an inefficient older refrigerator can cost you money in the form of higher electric bills. It also deprives you of access to advanced features that help optimize refrigerated storage for better produce preservation. Look for drawers with adjustable humidity controls that let you set levels separately in individual compartments. Some refrigerators use separate cooling systems for refrigerated and frozen compartments, so they maintain the higher humidity that suits refrigerated foods and hampers frozen storage. Some refrigerators offer apps along with the convenience and precision of numeric temperature settings that eliminate guesswork. If your refrigerator doesn't offer these controls, place an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator compartment to monitor temperature and a hygrometer to track humidity levels.
Fruits and vegetables don't like each other's company. Fruits emit ethylene gas as they ripen, encouraging neighboring vegetables to develop brown spots, altered flavor and spoilage. To maintain a good environment for your vegetables, take out the fruit, along with a handful of vegetables with similar habits—including onions, which don't benefit from refrigeration in the first place. Most fruits like a drier environment than the optimal humidity levels for vegetables, so separating the two categories benefits both of them in other ways as well. Some produce items, including tomatoes, lose flavor if you refrigerate them instead of keeping them in a cool, dark place.
Know Your Produce
The best way to optimize vegetable storage starts with a crash course in vegetable likes and dislikes. Assuming that all produce benefits from refrigeration, or the same refrigerator conditions, does your veggies a disservice. Their storage "personalities" determine which you refrigerate and for how long. Some, including asparagus, want moisture at their cut ends. Fresh corn in the husk belongs on the table on the day you buy it, not in the refrigerator at all. The starch in potatoes turns to unwanted sugar in the cold. Your highest-humidity items, including anything leafy, can benefit from bagged storage that helps preserve their moisture content. If you print a storage-tip list on your home computer, you can attach it to the refrigerator door or your kitchen bulletin board and track best practices before you store.
Most vegetables that belong in the refrigerator should go directly into it from the farmer's market, grocery store or your garden. Washing your produce can introduce excess moisture that promotes premature ripening and deterioration, but some vegetables benefit from a little TLC before you put them away. For example, root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and turnips require less humidity if you trim off their leafy tops first. Organize your storage drawers so you use older items before new ones, cutting down on spoilage and waste. Anything that looks bruised should go in your use-first category, even if it's newer than other items. If you base your produce acquisitions on your immediate menu needs, you lower the risk of finding rot among your rutabagas or spots on your spinach.
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