There is nothing more frustrating than opening the fridge to smell something funky, and realizing that some of your fresh produce needs to be thrown away. Life happens, and sometimes you don’t eat all of the food that you purchased. Just because you had an extra night eating out during the week, doesn’t mean that food needs to go to waste though! There are several things that you can do to keep your fruits and veggies fresh and ready for your next meal.
You might assume that everything needs to be thrown in the fridge when you get home, but the truth is that certain types of fruits and vegetables need to be stored at room temperature. Consider the ripeness of the fruit and whether it needs a little more time to ripen.
Ripening Produce: If the produce is under-ripe, the best thing that you can do is put it in a brown paper bag and keep it on the counter. The bag holds in the natural ethylene gas to help with the ripening process.
Tomatoes: Did you pick your tomatoes a little early and they are still green? Place them on a windowsill or somewhere to receive sunlight, and they will ripen up. This trick is great if you need to harvest the tomatoes before the first frost of the fall season. Once they are ripe, it is best to eat them quickly and store them at room temperature, because the fridge can cause tomatoes to rot more quickly.
Soft Fruits: Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, grapes, and cherries, should be kept in plastic containers in the fridge. If you want to avoid plastic for storage, like I try to, check these tips and tricks. Citrus fruits and apples can be stored in the crisper drawer, or you can contain them in a mesh bag on the shelf in the fridge.
Melons: If you don’t have space in the fridge, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew can be stored in a cool, dry place. But, once you cut into the melon it needs to be stored in the fridge.
Cruciferous Vegetables: Most vegetables can be stored in the fridge, and the best place is in the crisper drawer. Broccoli, cauliflower, celery, corn, green beans, and leafy green vegetables should always be kept in the fridge.
Root Vegetables: Potatoes, carrots, squash, and beets should be kept in a cool, dry storage room such as a cellar or a pantry. This is also a good place to keep the onions, although the onions need to be stored separately from other food to because the strong onion odor can impact the taste of your other vegetables.
Avoid washing your fruits and vegetables until you are ready to eat them. Some people might think that it’s best to wash the produce before storage, but storing the damp food can increase the likelihood of mold growth and it causes the food to rot more quickly. So, it is best to wait until you are ready to prepare the meal before you wash the food.
I like to use hydrogen peroxide for the wash on my fruits and veggies, because it is a natural way to remove the dirt and any pathogens that might be present. In a sink of cold water, add ¼ cup of peroxide. Let the veggies soak for a few minutes, then gently scrub them and rinse them with cool water.
If you know that you won’t have time to eat the harvest of your garden before it goes bad, then you might consider preserving the food for later. There are several methods that you can consider, depending on your preference. These are a few of the most common preservation methods:
Freezing: If you know that fruits or vegetables are going to go bad quickly, then you might wash and chop the food and then store it in the freezer. For example, berries and other types of fruit can be stored and added to smoothies and homemade ice cream recipes. Vegetables can be prepared and frozen, and added to soup and other hot meals.
Canning: A great way to preserve food long-term is with canning. Mason jars are sturdy and safe, and there are a variety of foods that can keep in the jars for several years. Look for recipes specific to the type of food that you want to preserve, and make sure to follow the instructions to ensure the safety of the food.
Drying: If you have a dehydrator, then you can keep food for longer. Again, look for instructions and specific recipes so that you know how long the food needs to be kept in the dehydrator.