Quantcast
How to Store Vegetables and Fruits to Keep Them Fresh | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How to Store Vegetables and Fruits to Keep Them Fresh

Primary Image
No content available.

Learn Which Fresh Produce to Always (and Never!) Store in Refrigerator

Print Friendly and PDF
Body

Here are vegetables you should NEVER store in the refrigerator as well as vegetables you should ALWAYS store in the fridge for the best taste and texture. We’ve also covered how to store fruit to keep it fresh longer. Let us know what you think.

When it comes to storing fresh produce, here’s a little background. There are three basic combinations of conditions for storage:

  1. Cold and moist (32 to 40°F and 95% humidity), such as in a refrigerator (with a perforated plastic bag to provide the humidity) or in a root cellar. Most produce keeps best in cold, moist conditions, which are easiest to maintain in a refrigerator. However, refrigerators also have a drying effect, so it’s often necessary to store produce in perforated bags or in the produce (crisper) drawer to increase relative humidity. 
  2. Cold and dry (32 to 40°F and 65% humidity), such as in a refrigerator or an unheated garage. For the vegetables and fruit that store best in cool, dry conditions, a cool spot in your kitchen, mudroom, or basement is often perfect.
  3. Cool and dry (50 to 60°F and 60% humidity), such as in an unheated basement.

I. How to Store Vegetables

Let’s look at which vegetables should be stored either A. in a refrigerator or root cellar or B. out of the refrigerator.

A. Vegetables to Keep in the Refrigerator or Root Cellar

Most produce stores best in cold, moist conditions, which makes the refrigerator the ideal place to keep it. Because refrigerators tend to dry things out, keep produce in the produce drawer or in perforated plastic bags to increase relative humidity. Root cellars are a great option for long-lasting root crops such as carrots or beets. 

  • Asparagus: Store asparagus by placing the spears upright in an open container (such as a drinking glass or a jar) that contains about an inch of water. Cover the asparagus loosely with a produce bag. It should keep for 10 to 14 days.
  • Beans (snap): Keep snap beans such as green beans in a perforated produce bag in the refrigerator and they should keep for about a week. Note that their condition will deteriorate faster if they are kept below 40°F.
  • Brussels sprouts: Store sprouts in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.
  • Broccoli: Store broccoli in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Do not wash it prior to putting it in the fridge, as this can encourage bacterial rot.
  • Cabbage: Cabbage can be stored in the refrigerator in the produce drawer for up to 4 to 5 months.
  • Cauliflower: As with broccoli, store cauliflower in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Do not wash it prior to storage; it should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Radishes: Radishes keep well in cold conditions. Store in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Root Crops: Carrots, Beets, Turnips, and Parsnips

Carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, and other root crops should either be stored in a root cellar (if you have one) or in a refrigerator properly.

  • Store small amounts in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag, where they will keep 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Store large amounts in a root cellar or another cool, dark, humid place. Brush the roots clean of any clinging garden soil. If tops are still attached, twist or cut them off one-half to one inch above the roots. Bury the roots in buckets of sand. Add a layer of slightly damp sand to either polyethylene bags with breathing holes or to the bottom of plastic containers such as 5-gallon plastic buckets. Then add a layer of carrots and more sand to the container. Storage temperatures should be just above freezing.

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.

B. Vegetables to Keep Out of the Refrigerator

Some vegetables are susceptible to cold damage at temperatures below 40°F, which means that they are best stored outside of the fridge. If possible, keep them in a cool (55°F) part of the kitchen, pantry, or mudroom.

Cucumbers
Cucumbers can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, but will keep for longer in a cool spot in the kitchen. Keep them in a perforated plastic bag for 7 to 10 days.

Eggplant
Eggplant stores best outside of the refrigerator in a cool part of the kitchen. Under cold conditions, it may develop brown spots after more than a few days. Keep it in a perforated plastic bag for adequate humidity. Eggplant will keep for 7 to 10 days.

Onions, Garlic, and Shallots
Never put onions nor garlic (nor shallots) in the refrigerator. Store at room temperature away from direct sunlight in a cool, dark place such as a pantry. It’s best to store them 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. Once cut open, these bulbs can be stored in the refrigerator in a small container or baggie.

Don’t let any of your food go to waste with these storage tips.

  • 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-onions.jpg

Peppers
Bell peppers can be stored in perforated produce bags in a cool part of the kitchen. They will keep for 10 to 14 days.

Store hot peppers the old-fashioned way: by threading them on a string and hanging until dry. Peppers need to have good air circulation and not touch each other to dry properly.

Potatoes
Never refrigerate potatoes—it will turn their starch to sugar. Brush off any clinging soil, and store in a dark, cool place such as a pantry or basement. Put in a basket or paper bag. 

  • Potatoes like it a bit warmer than other root crops, so store them higher up.
  • Don’t store potatoes with onions or apples; these crops give off ethylene gas that will spoil the potatoes.

Learn more about preparing potatoes for the root cellar

Pumpkins and Winter Squash (Butternut, Acorn)
Squashes don’t like to be quite as cool nor as humid as root crops do. Store squash in a place with a temperature of about 50° 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.

Summer Squash (Zucchini)
Zucchini and other summer squashes may be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. For longer than that, store them in a cool part of the kitchen in a perforated plastic bag. They should keep for 10 to 14 days.

Tomatoes
Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes if you want to keep that fresh off-the-vine taste! Cherry tomatoes are the only variety that tend to stand up to time in the fridge without turning mushy or mealy too quickly.

Store on a counter but out of direct sunlight. 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.

If you have an abundance of tomatoes:

keep-tomatoes-fresh.jpg

II. How to Store Fruit

A. Fruit to Keep in the Refrigerator

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.

Berries (Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries)
Never rinse before storage. It washes off the thin, protective epidermal layer. Berries are highly perishable and don’t store for long.

If you must store them, place on a paper towel in a tightly-covered container and store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Wash right before eating.

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

storing-berries-berry-jam.jpg

Citrus (Oranges, Grapefruit, Lemons)
Citruses such as oranges, lemons, clementines, and grapefruit should definitely be stored in the fridge, not in a pretty fruit bowl. Lemons and limes will last up to four times longer! Put in a perforated bag or the produce drawer.

Grapes
Grapes will keep for 2 to 3 weeks when kept in a perforated plastic bag (like the kind they’re typically bought in) in the refrigerator.

Pears
Unripe pears can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days. In order to let them ripen and develop a better flavor and texture, move them out of the fridge a few days before you plan to eat them. Keep them in a paper bag or perforated plastic bag on the counter. 

Melons
Generally speaking, melons can be kept outside of the fridge if they have not yet been cut into. Once they’ve been sliced, store them in the refrigerator.

  • Muskmelons (Cantaloupe, Honeydew): Muskmelons can be stored whole in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks. Wash them before storage to clean off any debris or bacteria, but let their rind dry before moving them to the fridge. Outside of the refrigerator, they can be kept in a cool part of the kitchen for a week or so.
  • Watermelons: Watermelons can be kept at room temperature for about a week. If possible, store them in temps between 50° and 60°F, which will extend their shelf life by another week or two. Once you’ve cut into the melon, store it in the refrigerator.

Stone Fruit (Peaches, Cherries, Nectarines, Apricots, Plums)
Store stone fruit in perforated plastic bags in the refrigerator. In cold, humid conditions, they’ll keep for 1 to 2 weeks. Be sure to check for blemishes or soft spots regularly, as moisture can lead to rot.

B. Fruit to Keep Out of the Refrigerator

Tropical Fruit (Bananas, Avocado, Pineapple)
Most tropical fruits do not keep their true flavor nor texture in the refrigerator or the cold. (They are tropical, after all!) If possible, store bananas, avocados, and pineapples outside the fridge at room temperature.

Note that bananas can cause nearby fruits to ripen more quickly, so you may or may not want the same fruit basket to have bananas and avocados! Once tropical fruit is cut open, store in fridge in a container or baggie.

III. 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.

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.

2023 Almanac Club