Storing Fruits and Vegetables

Families, Food and Fitness November 19, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF

Healthy, tasteful food includes good quality fruits and vegetables. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables is the first step. Storing produce items correctly will help maintain their quality and preserve their nutrients.

fruits and vegetables in bins

Some fruits and vegetables have better flavor if stored at room temperature. Tomatoes, unripe melons, and tree fruits (pears, peaches and nectarines) should be kept at room temperature so they can ripen and become sweeter. Keep in mind that many tree fruits, including bananas, ripen by releasing gas. To avoid ripening your fruit too quickly, separate them from other pieces of fruit that produce gas.

Cherries and berries last longer if refrigerated but have the best flavor if they are eaten within three days from the time they are purchased. Wash them in cold water just before eating. Grapes will keep in the refrigerator for one to two weeks but taste best in the first two to three days. Citrus fruits can be stored for a few weeks at room temperature but will last longer if stored in the refrigerator.

Storage times for vegetables vary. Corn tastes sweetest when eaten right away before the sugar begins turning to starch. Leafy greens (collards, kale, mustard greens, spinach) should be refrigerated and eaten within two days. Green beans should be refrigerated and used within three to four days for best quality. Refrigerate lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, and cucumbers, and eat within a week. Keep celery, cabbage, and bell peppers one to two weeks. Onions, garlic, potatoes, and winter squash will keep for several weeks in a cool, dry place.

In addition to maintaining quality, keep your produce safe. Keep your refrigerator clean and at 40°F or below. Wash produce thoroughly before preparing.


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.