Your proper produce storage guide

tomato illustration

Illustrations by Hawnuh Lee

Under typical circumstances, I love grocery shopping. I do it often, and try to buy only what I need for the next day or two. When the ice thaws in Chicago and my beloved farmer’s markets open up, I let the colors and smells of fresh produce guide me in deciding what I will make for dinner that night.

Right now I find shopping for food extremely stressful — I’m sure I’m not alone in this. The discomfort of wearing a mask over my face and the inability to share a grin with a fellow customer, the seemingly impossible task of staying six feet away from anyone in my radius, feeling concerned for the safety of the store employees, and many other worries make my now infrequent grocery shopping trips demoralizing and exhausting.

Though I am no longer selecting fresh produce on a whim, I have been trying to keep plenty of fruits and vegetables in my rotation. So to make sure I’m not left with just yellowed kale and soft radishes near the end of a grocery cycle, I’ve been taking extra care to store everything properly.

You’d be surprised to know just how much storage impacts the lifespan of your produce. I’ve been known to squeeze a week’s worth of crispness out of crunchy romaine. But not all veg are created equal and figuring out what works best for your fridge situation can take some doing. To make it a little easier, we’ve compiled a guide for how to store produce so that it lasts you all the way to your next grocery run. (And you can use this low impact produce wash to lather up!)

Even in non-pandemic circumstances, thoughtful produce storage is a great practice to get into. It prevents food waste, saves money, and hopefully helps you avoid the dreaded slimy lettuce or fuzzy berries chilling insidiously behind your condiments.

Here, we’ve grouped fruits and veg into categories that take well to similar storage methods. If you have a specific item that you don’t see represented, feel free to shoot us an email or leave a comment below and we’ll give you our best advice!

onion illustration

Allium

  • Store whole onions and garlic in a well ventilated container on the counter. Refrigerate in an airtight container when cut or peeled.
  • Store leeks in the fridge crisper.
  • Store scallions in a jar with a few inches of water like cut flowers, tops covered with something non-breathable like a stasher bag.
  • Freeze: Peel, chop, and seal in an airtight container.

Berries

  • Store in an open container or colander in a well aerated area of the fridge. Wash and dry well just before eating. 
  • Freeze: Wash, freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer to an airtight container.
cabbage illustration

Brassica

  • Refrigerate broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts in a breathable bag in the crisper drawer.
  • Cabbage can also be separated into leaves and washed ahead of time, then refrigerated with a damp cloth in an airtight container. 
  • Freeze: Wash, blanch, let cool and dry. Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer to an airtight container.
basil illustration

Herbs

  • Gently wash, pat dry, then refrigerate soft herbs like parsley, cilantro, basil, and mint in a jar with a few inches of water, tops covered with something non-breathable. 
  • Wash, then wrap woody herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano loosely in a damp cloth and seal in an airtight container in the fridge. 
  • Freeze: Finely chop or blend, distribute into ice trays, then cover with water or olive oil, once cubes are frozen transfer to an airtight container.
leafy green illustration

Leafy Greens

  • Wash, then loosely wrap kale, romaine, chard, collards, or any salad greens in a damp cloth and seal in an airtight container in the fridge. 
  • To perk up wilted leaves, immerse them in ice water for 10-15 minutes, drain, then put back in the fridge.
radish and carrot illustration

Roots

  • Store parsnip, radish, turnip, beets, and carrots in a breathable bag in the crisper. Chop off any leaves and store separately as you would leafy greens. 
  • Store potatoes and sweet potatoes in a cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated area.
  • Freeze: Wash, chop, blanch, cool, and freeze in an airtight container. 
squash illustration

Squash

  • Store hard squash like butternut, acorn, pumpkin, and spaghetti and in a cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated area.
  • Store summer squash like zucchini in a breathable bag in the crisper drawer.
  • Freeze (hard squash): Roast until soft, remove skin if not edible, mash, cool, then freeze in an airtight container.
stone fruit illustration

Stone Fruit

  • Store apricot, nectarines, peaches, plums, and avocado at room temperature, refrigerate once ripe. 
  • Store cherries in a covered container in the fridge.
  • Freeze: Wash, freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer to an airtight container.
beans illustration

Misc. Veg

  • Refrigerate asparagus in a jar with a few inches of water, tops covered with something non-breathable. 
  • Store cucumber, celery, green beans, peas, and peppers, and corn in a breathable bag in the crisper drawer.
  • Revive limp celery by placing stalks upright in a glass of water for a few hours.
rhubarb and apple illustration

Misc. Fruit

  • Store apples, pears, grapes, and rhubarb in a breathable bag in the crisper drawer.
  • Store citrus, bananas, melons, and tomatoes (we’re getting technical, okay??)  at room temperature. Refrigerate in an airtight container when cut or peeled.

While this guide is by no means comprehensive, I hope it helps you put away your produce with a little more confidence. Got any freshness-maximizing tricks of your own? Please send them our way! 

We’re all just out here trying to make the best of the five pound bag of carrots we panic-bought weeks ago and still haven’t finished (no? just me?). Be gentle with yourselves, y’all.

Comments

Comments

  1. A friend shared a great tip for extending life of avocados – move them into refrigerator when they begin to soften. They will last for another week or so.

    Reply

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