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.
Vegetable Storage: How to Keep Vegetables Fresh
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 Potatoes
Brush off any clinging soil, and store in a dark, cool place that is about 40 degrees (F). You could 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 high up in the cellar.
- Never refrigerate potatoes—it will turn their starch to sugar.
- Don’t store apples and potatoes together; the apples give off ethylene gas that will spoil the potatoes.
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 collear.
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 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.
Fruit Storage: How to Keep Fruit Fresh
Best Way to Store Apples
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.
For the short-term, you can also store apples in the fruit drawer of your fridge. It helps to have 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.
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 in the cold. 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.
Spices and Dried Herbs
Store 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.
Onion and Garlic
Mature, dry–skinned bulbs like it cool and dry—so don’t store them with apples or potatoes. It’s best to store in a box or in mesh bags hanging in a cool place with moderate humidity so they get plenty of ventilation. Also, try making your own garlic powder.
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.”
- Find more tips for storing all your crops. For great ideas about using your extra fruits and vegetables, watch our video on crop storage.