How to Store Vegetables and Fruit

Including which foods not to refrigerate

July 21, 2018
Storing Vegetables

Learn how to store your vegetables, fruits, and herbs—so that they keep longer and stay fresher! 

However you store your produce, always wash well before eating.

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.

Hot Peppers
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.

Tomato Storage
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.

Storing Berries

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. Wash before eating.

If you’d like to store them for longer, learn how to make berry jam or how to freeze berries.


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.

Read this blog about preserving herbs. Or, make yourself this herb butter, which stores and freezes well. To use up your leftovers, try out our favorite recipes using herbs.

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.


Reader Comments

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I put an apple in with my

I put an apple in with my potatoes to keep them from sprouting. The apple begins to shrivel but I haven't had any potatoes or apples to rot.

Field peas, purple hulls,

Field peas, purple hulls, black eyes, can be stored very well by shelling the peas (don't wash)and put in a pillow case. Tie top of case and put in freezer. Take out amount you need, wash and cook! Easy and quick to put up this way but I still can most of mine!

I can't keep garlic heads. I

I can't keep garlic heads. I purchase a few, put them in a colander with my onions on the counter top and the cloves dry inside and turn brown. I purchased a garlic keeper with holes. The same thing happens. What else can I do?

For fresh garlic, hang your

For fresh garlic, hang your bulbs in onion (net) bags, they will last longer in a barely cool room with lowish humidity. Like a basement, or my back porch.

That can get you through the 8 months or so between planting and scapes, with early garlic a few weeks later.

If it is a hardneck, it will have better taste and flavor, but only last a few months.

Softnecks, specifically a variety such as Incheleum Red or Polish White (Softneck) can still be usable (certainly better than what you might buy at the chain store) for 7-8 months. Some say longer.

You can also dehydrate and powder it, shake, shake, shake it on pizza or toasted, buttered French Bread Slices

You can google dehydrating, but here is a really GOOD tutorial I ran across (it's not mine) for a $1.50, and you can pay with pay pal. It really is good.

I'll give it a try!!

I'll give it a try!!

We have not had any luck

We have not had any luck storing carrots (cool, dry, dark places, burlap) they are like rubber by the second day after picking. Someone mentioned that we store them in sand? Any suggestions? we'd like to be able to enjoy some fresh rather than blanching, canning etc. Thanks !

I have had excellent results

I have had excellent results by storing my carrots in slightly damp sand. As soon as they are harvested, brush off as much garden soil as possible and cut off the tops, leaving about 1/4 inch. If your carrot bed is really dry, it won't hurt to gently wash the carrots. Add a layer of just slightly damp sand to the bottom of a plastic container (I used clean 5 gal. plastic buckets with tight fitting lids). Add a layer of carrots, cover with more sand,then more carrots until the bucket is full. Snap on the lid and store in a cool place, just make sure the temp. does not drop below freezing. When you want fresh carrots, dig a few out of the sand. They will be fresh and crisp, just like when harvested. By the end of winter, the remaining carrots may have sprouted little hair like roots and some may start to put up leaves. They are still good, just scrub or peel and enjoy. This method also keeps out mice if you are using a root cellar.

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Nicholas, all you need do to

Nicholas, all you need do to dry okra is just hang it upside down in your garage. I usually band about 3 pods together with string and thumbtack it to the wall. You can also leave it on the vine and it will dry satisfactorally but will cause the plant to stop bearing. Just be sure to get it in before the first killing frost.

I am trying to dry okra to

I am trying to dry okra to use for decorations eg to add to a garland. I don't have a dehydrator; does anybody have any tips to help me in this venture...!

Nick, try sun drying. there

Nick, try sun drying. there is plenty of methods on the web (google it)