How to best store fruits and vegetables

Researchers at the University of Arizona spent a year tracking families’ food-use habits. Working with the United States Department of Agriculture, they interviewed the families about their eating habits, collected their grocery receipts, watched them prepare meals, and then sifted through every last discarded lettuce leaf.

The results were pretty shocking. The families tossed out an average of 14 percent of all food brought into the home. To avoid spoilage, different fruits and vegetables require different methods of storage.

In total, Americans throw out approximately a quarter of all the produce they buy, mostly because it’s gone bad, says Timothy Jones, PhD, contemporary archaeologist at the University of Arizona.

Storage Tips

  • Keep incompatible fruits and veggies separately. Some give off high levels of ethylene gas (a ripening agent—) will speed the decay of ethylene-sensitive foods.
  • Mould proliferates rapidly and contaminates everything nearby, so toss any spoiled produce immediately. One bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch.
  • For longer life, keep your produce whole— – don’t even rip the stem out of an apple until you eat it. “As soon as you start pulling fruits and vegetables apart, you’ve broken cells, and microorganisms start to grow.” says Barry Swanson, a food scientist at Washington State University
  • Cold-sensitive fruits and veggies lose flavour and moisture at low temperatures. Store them on the counter, not in the fridge. Never refrigerate potatoes, onions, winter squash or garlic. Keep them in a cool, dark, dry cabinet, and they can last up to a month or more. But separate them so their flavours and smells don’t migrate.
  • To keep celery fresh, trim bottom lightly to open pores of the “root”, keeping bunch intact, place in a container or glass of cold water and lightly cover top with plastic wrap, then store in fridge.

Respiration Process

Cold temperatures slow food’s respiration. In general, the warmer the temperature, the faster the rate of respiration, which is why refrigeration is critical for most produce.

However, you don’t want to stop the breathing altogether. “The worst thing to do is seal fruits and vegetables in an airtight bag because you will suffocate them and speed up decay.” says Barry Swanson, a food scientist at Washington State University. A variety of produce bags are also on the market which both absorb ethylene and create an atmosphere that inhibits respiration.

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Refrigerate these gas releasers
Apples, Apricots, Canteloupe, Figs, Honeydew.

Don’t refrigerate these gas releasers
Avocados, unripe Bananas, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Tomatoes.

Keep these away from all gas releasers
Ripe Bananas, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrot, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Eggplant, Lettuce and other leafy greens, Parsley, Peas Peppers, Squash, Sweet Potato, Watermelon.

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Buying Tips

• Do all your other shopping first so that your berries and broccoli don’t get warm—
• Get the produce home and into the fridge as soon as possible.
• Shop at farmers’ markets soon after they open as just-harvested greens wilt rapidly once they’ve been in the sun for a few hours.
• Even under optimal conditions, fragile raspberries will never last as long as thick-skinned oranges, so you need to eat more perishable items first.