keep produce fresh longer & save money!
I love having extra fruits and veggies around in my kitchen but sometimes I get a little carried away with how much I buy or harvest, and I hate wasting food, especially these days with food shortages and inflation on the rise.
Pretty much all of us have at some point had produce, like avocados, go bad before we could say, ‘guacamole’ and had to throw them out.
Of course, we can compost most rotting produce as long as it’s not diseased, but less food waste will help keep more money in your pocket!
What Makes Produce Go Bad?
There are several reasons why your produce might ripen or go bad prematurely.
Sometimes it’s just that it wasn’t as fresh as you may have thought when you purchased it. It may not have been stored properly and perhaps it didn’t get enough moisture or too much of it. It could also be due do something called ethylene gas.
Ethylene gas is a hormone released by many plants and is responsible for ripening them. To keep produce fresh longer, whether it’s avocados or tomatoes, there are things you can do to be in control ethylene.
I’ll cover how to keep some popular produce fresh longer and conclude with a few tips that just might make all of this a bit easier.
How to Keep Produce Fresh Longer
Apples emit a lot of ethylene so to keep apples as well as surrounding produce fresh they should be kept separate from other goodies.
Store apples in a cool place such as the crisper drawer of your refrigerator or keep them in a plastic bag with holes so ethylene gas isn’t trapped inside which can cause them to ripen quicker.
Bruising also causes apples to emit more ethylene so treat them like eggs.
Store bananas on a banana hanger in a cool place away from sun. Once ripe, they can be stored in the refrigerator to slow down additional ripening.
Wrap their stems where ethylene gas is emitted to keep bananas and surrounding produce.
Bananas emit ethylene gas from their stems. Keep bananas away from everything to keep produce fresh longer or wrap the stems with plastic wrap to contain ethylene.
Berries can be tender and fragile, and for many they do best if kept dry.
To store, take them out of their packaging and arrange them so they aren’t sitting on top of each other on some paper towels. Strawberries need a bit more moisture than most but they still need to stay somewhat dry.
Wait to wash them until you’re ready to eat them using a vinegar and water bath which will kill off any mold and bacteria.
Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to 3 cups of cool water. Add berries and stir occasionally for 5 minutes. Drain, gently rinse & dry by placing them one layer on a paper towel.
Be sure to eat your berries before they become too soft or they won’t be easy to wash.
Carrot greens draw moisture out of the root itself so separate them from the carrot. This also prevents excess moisture which can encourage mold growth.
Store dry, unwashed carrots in an air tight bag away from other produce that emit ethylene such as apples and onions.
If you have lots of carrots and have access to a root cellar where it’s dry and cool, consider placing them in a large container with wood shavings. Be sure the carrots aren’t touching each other and cover the top. This will keep them in great shape for months!
Corn is best when eaten right away as it will be sweeter. With time it becomes less sweet and more starchy.
To keep corn fresh & sweet longer, keep it unwashed with the husk in an air tight plastic bag and store it in your crisper drawer.
Wash cucumbers as soon as you bring them home, dry thoroughly and wrap them individually. Next, place them in a plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator.
7. Fresh Herbs
Trim and wrap the ends with wet paper towels then store in a bag or place herbs in a tall container with just enough water to cover the stem ends and place the lid on. Change out the water every few days or when it starts to look a bit cloudy.
I simply place trimmed herbs in a glass with some water and place a small sandwich bag over the top.
Alternatively, use a BPA-free herb saver which can triple the life of your fresh herbs!
8. Green Onions
Store green onions in a small glass of water next to a window. Replace water every few days. Green onions will continue to grow as you cut them down. You can also plant them in dirt and allow them to keep growing as you cut just what you need.
9. Leafy Greens
Greens can be washed right away or when you’re ready to eat them. Should you wash them, use a salad spinner to remove and drain the excess water, then loosely wrap them with a tea towel (or paper towel) in a large container.
Store mushroom in the refrigerator. Place them in paper bags to keep moisture at bay and prevent them from turning brown and slimy. Alternatively, wrap them inside of a tea towel.
Storer onions in a cool, dark place that’s well ventilated to prevent moisture and light which can cause mildew and sprouting.
Store potatoes, unwashed, in a cool dry place to keep them from becoming soft or turning green, but the refrigerator isn’t ideal so a pantry cabinet is the better option.
Just like carrots, they can be placed in a container with wood shavings and stored in a cool, dry place like a root cellar. Make sure the potatoes aren’t touching each other and don’t store any potatoes that have any mushy or rotten spots or they can spoil the rest. This will keep your potatoes beautiful for months!
Keep them away from onions which accelerates sprouting. Instead, pair with apples to delay sprouting.
Refrigerating unripe tomatoes halts enzymes responsible for flavor and can result in a flavorless and mealy texture so store them at room temperature.
Ripe tomatoes are okay to refrigerate for up to 4 days, although it will still halt enzyme activity, but here it can return within a day or so at room temperature. Better yet, store them in a cool place so the enzymes can continue to work.
Storing tomatoes on their stems on a tea towel prevents moisture loss while preventing mold and bacteria from entering through the stem.
3 More Ideas to Help Keep Produce Fresh Longer
Meal prepping and creating a grocery list from it will help you purchase only what you need so you know you’ll use your produce right away. Should your meal plans change after you’ve already purchased your ingredients you have the knowledge on how to keep produce fresh longer and won’t need to worry.
Use Containers & Ethylene Absorbing Balls
Debbie Meyer GreenBoxes are bpa-free food containers are nothing like your regular Tupperware and are designed to keep produce fresh longer. They’re better at it than any storage containers I’ve used and they’re reusable, making them environmentally friendly!
Ethylene Absorbing Balls
Another option is to place an ethylene absorbing ball in your refrigerator or counter near ethylene emitting produce which can keep produce fresh longer by up to 2 to 3 times!
You now know how to keep produce fresh longer in your kitchen, so enjoy your fruits, veggies, and savings!
Don’t forget to take a peek at some of my other kitchen & cooking related tips!