Including which foods not to refrigerate
Learn how to store your vegetables, fruits, and herbs—so that they keep longer and stay fresher!
This article is focused on produce that we can “store” for weeks or months (not just a few days), though we’ll touch on a few other edibles.
How to Store Vegetables
How to Store Potatoes
Never refrigerate potatoes—it will turn their starch to sugar. Brush off any clinging soil, and store in a dark, cool place that is about 40 degrees (F). If possible, set up an area in the basement, in the coldest and darkest area, with plastic bins lined with a layer of damp sand.
- Potatoes like it a bit warmer than other root crops so store higher up.
- Don’t store apples and potatoes together; the apples give off ethylene gas that will spoil the potatoes.
Onion and Garlic
Never put onions nor garlic (nor shallots) in the refrigerator. Store them in a dry, cool, ventilated place (40 to 50 degrees). It’s best to store in mesh bags (which they often come in) to get that ventilation. If you can’t do this, put them in a bowl in your pantry. You may cover with a bag, but make sure there are plenty of ventilation holes.
- Do not store onions near potatoes! They are not friends. Potatoes excrete moisture and speed up onion decay.
- It’s fine to store scallions and green onions in the refrigerator.
- Another way to preserve garlic? Try making your own garlic powder!
Tip: Want to stop crying when you cut up an onion? Chill that onion for 30 minutes before peeling the outer layers. Avoid the root where it’s the most tear-inducing!
How to Store Beets, Carrots, and Parsnips
Carrots, parsnips, beets, and other root crops should be brushed clean of any clinging soil and stored in a cool, dark place such as basement storage. Clipping the tops of parsnips, carrots, beets, and turnips will keep them fresher longer. Store in layers of sand and peat in polyethylene bags with breathing holes. Store in the lowest area of the basement or cellar.
Learn more about preparing potatoes for the root cellar.
If you have an overabundance of beets, make homemade borscht, the classic beet soup, and freeze. To grate the beets more easily, cook them first. A little vinegar intensifies the color. Check out our tips for storing the beets that you don’t want to cook.
Store hot peppers the old-fashioned way by threading on a string and hanging until dry. Peppers need to have good air circulation and not touch each other to dry properly.
Store at cool room temperature out of direct sunlight. Any unheated room or airy cellar will do. If tomatoes are green, layer in a shallow box, separating each tomato with paper and the tomatoes will ripen. At 55°F, they will take 25 to 28 days; at 65°F to 70°F, they will take 14 days.
Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes if you want to keep that fresh off-the-vine taste. If you have an abundance of tomatoes:
We don’t really “store” lettuce, but this is the one vegetable that we’d advise rinsing and drying BEFORE you put in the refrigerator. Usually, you do not want to rinse food until you eat it or you remove the natural protective coating and invite mold.
Wash the lettuce leaves in cold water; dry with a salad spinner or kitchen towels. Then store lettuce in plastic bags or in plastic tubs with breathing holes. If you are harvesting your lettuce from a garden, be sure to pick it in the morning or it will simply wilt.
Pumpkins and Winter Squash
Squashes don’t like to be quite as cool as root crops do. Store squash in a place with a temperature of about 50°F to 65°F. Below 50°F, they are subject to chilling damage. Above 65°F, they become stringy. If you have a cool–ish bedroom, stashing them under the bed works well! Watch this video on how to cure and store pumpkins.
How to Store Fruit
Best Way to Store Apples
Store apples in refrigerator for the short term. It helps to have a fruit drawer and a damp paper towel nearby to increase humidity.
Never leave apples in a bowl on the counter if you want them to keep. Apples ripen about 4 times quicker at 50°F than at 32°F and become overripe very quickly at 70°F.
Store apples in plastic bags placed in boxes at a temperature of 32°F. Apples keep well for about 6 months at temperatures between freezing and 45°F. If you don’t have a root cellar, a double cardboard box in a cool mudroom or cellar can approximate the conditions.
Remember to give apples an occasional change of air. Apple cider may be frozen after first pouring off a small amount for expansion.
Never rinse before storage. It washes off the thin, protective epidermal layer. Berries are highly perishable so they don’t store for long. If you must store them, place on a paper towel in a tightly-covered container and store in a cool, dry place (or the refrigerator) for 2 to 3 days.
Tropical Fruit Storage
Tropical fruits do not keep well or keep their true flavor in the refrigerator or the cold. (They are tropical!) Store bananas, avocados, and citrus fruit, as well as pineapples, melons, eggplants, cucumbers, peppers, and beans at about 50°F if possible.
How to Store Herbs
Dill and parsley will keep for about two weeks with stems immersed in a glass of water tented with a plastic bag. Most other herbs (and greens) will keep for short periods unwashed and refrigerated in tightly–sealed plastic bags with just enough moisture to prevent wilting. For longer storage, use moisture– and gas–permeable paper and cellophane. Plastic cuts off oxygen to the plants and promotes spoilage.
Storing Fresh Herbs
Most fresh herbs go bad in the refrigerator quickly. Ever noticed how the leaves of basil or parsley turn brown? These leafy herbs (including cilantro, mint, and dill) are best kept in a glass of cool water, like a bouquet of fresh flowers. Trim the ends and change the water every couple of days. Just harvest (pinch leaves) as you need them! This encourages more growth. Herbs can also be dried, frozen, preserved in vinegar, oils and pesto (which should be kept refrigerated or frozen).
Some fresh woody herbs (rosemary, thyme, chives, sage, oregano) can be stored in a fridge, loosely wrapped in a damp paper town.
Dried herbs and spices should be stored in a cool, dry place, not above the stove or right next to the burners where heat and steam will cause them to lose flavor dramatically.
Other Tips for Storing Fruits and Vegetables
- Rhubarb, petite peas, sweet corn, and diagonally sliced or French–cut green beans are easy to blanch and freeze—and still taste great when thawed.
- Cucumbers, beets, cranberries, tomatoes, and virtually all fruits (especially peaches) are well–suited to canning, and their subsequent taste tends to be worth the added trouble. As folksinger Greg Brown put it, “Taste a little of the summer … Grandma’s put it all in jars.”
- Don’t store in the fridge: nutes,
- Find more tips for storing all your crops. For great ideas about using your extra fruits and vegetables, watch our video on crop storage.