5 Tips For Storing Your Produce & Keeping It Fresh

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Whether you’re picking up your weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or shopping at your local farmers’ market, it can be tricky to find the right way to store all of your fruits and vegetables before you’re ready to enjoy and eat them. Wilting, mold and spoilage are the last things you want when produce is at its peak. So how can you store everything properly to prevent your goods from going bad? These 5 simple tips will help you preserve your produce and keep that just-bought freshness.

  1. Keep fruit and vegetables separate. First and foremost, keep fruits and vegetables separate. For the longest time, I thought that apples were the only fruit to release gas that’s harmful to vegetables, but it turns out that all fruits release something called ethylene gas, which causes vegetables to spoil and wilt, shortening the vegetables’ storage life. (Don’t forget about tomatoes! They are considered fruit as well.) Whether our goods are stored in the refrigerator or on the counter, take care not to place them together—even if they’re in the crisper.
  2. Summer Berries. First, keep berries in your refrigerator, specifically on the top shelf; the air is the coldest there, providing the coolest temperatures and good circulation. Second, wash them as you go, rinsing them just before using/eating. Because berries are craggy and delicate, any moisture can cause mold or aging—delaying water contact is the best way to preserve their shelf-life. If you need to store washed berries, rinse them and then let them air dry, allowing the water to evaporate entirely, before you store them on a paper-towel-lined plate in the fridge. Or, freeze them. Place berries in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet to prevent clumping; once chilled through, place in a recycled plastic bag—berries will keep for months.
  3. Storing Herbs. There are two fail-proof ways to store herbs like basil, parsley, cilantro, mint and chives. One technique is to snip the bottoms from the stems and place them in a glass container with a long neck (you want herbs to stand upright); add about an inch of water, and loosely place a plastic bag over the tops of the herbs. Place the container on the top shelf of your refrigerator for up to four or five days, changing the water every two days. A second method is to place herbs in a plastic bag, blow a puff of air into the bag and seal it with a loose knot. Herbs will stay fresh for at least three to four days and can be stored anywhere in your refrigerator.
  4. Summer Root Vegetables. When we think of root veggies, we think “resilient” and “tough.” However, roots can dry out quite easily, so for turnips, carrots, beets, radishes and kohlrabi, cut the green tops off before storing. Root greens retain moisture and therefore pull moisture out from the roots, leaving them dull. Refrigerate these tasty leafy tops in a bag with a blow of air and loose knot (see above). Tops can be used for sundry things: Whiz carrot tops with basil and make pesto; peppery radish tops are a tasty addition to soups or salads. And hearty beet greens are lovely for a salsa verde, or to sauté with garlic and olive oil.
  5. Leafy Greens. Dark leafy greens like Swiss chard, kale and spinach are quite hardy, and will last in the crisper for a week or more. However, you can also freeze them by blanching, and shocking them in ice water, then squeezing out as much water as you can, and placing them in a plastic bag; store in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. Tender salad greens like bibb lettuce, mesclun mixes and arugula are a lot more sensitive, which is why it is best to wash as you go. A great way to store them is to put them in a large plastic bag with a puff of air blown in and a loose knot.

Photography by Lindsey Love