Storing Fruits and Vegetables

The secret for keeping fresh fruits and vegetables fresh longer

You know that feeling.  Your heart sinks.  As soon as you reach into the refrigerator and pull out those luscious raspberries you so carefully picked up at the farmer’s market. You can’t believe it.  White spots…all over…spoiled!  How could that be?  You just bought them, and they were perfect. 

Yes, berries, especially raspberries can turn quickly, but did you look at what else is in that drawer that might be causing the problem? There is a secret to keeping fresh fruits and vegetables fresh!

All fruits and vegetables contain a natural hormone called Ethylene that promotes ripening.   Ethylene forms into a gas and not only ripens the fruit or vegetable it comes from but can promote ripening in anything within close proximity. 

Some fruits and vegetables give off more than others and some are more sensitive to ethylene than others.  Strong ethylene producers, like an apple, will give off a lot of gas which causes anything nearby to ripen, often much too quickly causing them to spoil before you have a chance to eat them. Some are both strong ethylene producers and are also very sensitive to ethylene, like avocados.

So, if you’ve noticed your berries get mushy after placing them next to an apple, that’s why!  Who knew the fruit drawer in your refrigerator isn’t the best place to store all of your fruit! 

Tomatoes and avocados are the same – they pair perfectly on the plate, but aren’t friends when sitting side by side.  You’ll be super disappointed when you cut into that delicious avocado – and there goes your plan for fresh guacamole!

Ethylene has advantages.  Peaches, pears, nectarines…it’s often difficult finding juicy ripe fruits in the grocery store.  When you are ready to eat them, just place a couple in a sealed paper bag and wait a day or two. The ethylene gas releases inside the bag and accelerates the ripening, so they are ready to eat when you are. 

Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Here’s are a couple of lists to show strong ethylene producers and ethylene sensitive fruits and vegetables and the best way to store them. 

Strong Ethylene Producers

Fruit or VegetableStoring Recommendations
Apple
In the pantry or counter, they will last 3 weeks. In the refrigerator they will last 4 – 6 weeks
AvocadoOn the counter, they will last a day or two. Stored in the refrigerator they will last a few extra days. (strong ethylene producer, but also very sensitive to it)
Bananas (ripe)Store on the counter, away from other fruit
Cantaloupe and HoneydewRefrigerator
CeleryStore in the refrigerator, wrapped in aluminum foil.
GrapesRefrigerator
KiwiRefrigerator
MangosRefrigerator
Nectarines, Peaches, PlumsKitchen counter (they last 1-2 days)
Refrigerator (3 – 5 days)
Place in a brown bag at room temperature to ripen quickly
PearsIn the refrigerator until you want to use them. Place in a brown bag at room temperature to ripen quickly
PotatoesStore in a dark, cool place in the pantry but away from onions
StrawberriesRefrigerator, but keep away from other berries
TomatoesBest kept on the counter or in pantry

Ethylene Sensitive Fruits and Vegetables

Fruit or VegetableStorage Recommendations
AvocadoStore in the refrigerator to extend their life a few days. On the counter, eat within a day or two. (Both an ethylene producer and very sensitive to it)
Berries
(blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
Refrigerator but eat within a couple of days
BroccoliIn a bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer
Brussels SproutsIn a bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer
CarrotsIn a bag in the crisper drawer
CauliflowerStore like broccoli
CucumbersIn a bag or plastic in the crisper drawer
LettuceWash and wrap in paper towels and store in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer
OnionsPantry – but keep away from your potatoes!
PeppersCrisper drawer in the refrigerator
WatermelonRefrigerator, but away from other melons!

Who knew all melons weren’t friends? And potatoes and onions? I always thought they got along so well!

Well, I learned a lot researching this and now that I know the secret to storing fresh fruits and vegetables it looks like I’ll be making a few changes! Did anything surprise you?

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Hi! I'm Laura, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, recipe developer and writer. I love to cook and learn about and write about food. I'm a history buff, wine lover and wannabe gardener.

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