Have you ever stocked up your fridge with tons of in-season organic fruits and vegetables, only to watch them grow moldy and decompose just a couple days later? Not only is that a major waste of money, but it’s contributing to the major food waste problem we have in America—half of all produce in the U.S. is thrown out, according to research. Filling the fridge for the long haul is a game of strategy, a balancing act of things to eat now and things to eat later, ideally with a range of flavors and textures for optimal versatility. This is a lot to consider, especially if you’re trying to use everything in its prime.
Keep your produce fresh for as long as possible by following these simple tips and tricks.
First, double-check which fruits and vegetables you should and shouldn’t be refrigerating, and make your grocery list with attention paid to what will last the longest in the fridge. Then read on for 10 tips for keeping your produce practically perfect (or, you know, good enough!):
Keep your produce DRY…
A little humidity is a good thing for produce but wet is bad news. Some moisture will keep produce perky; too much moisture can promote mold or sliminess. Make sure you thoroughly dry anything you’re washing before putting it away. There are a few exceptions to this rule:
-Scallions like to be stored upright, roots-down, in water at room temp—and they’ll keep growing that way forever as long as you freshen the water every now and then.
-Asparagus is more like a bouquet of fresh flowers: Trim the ends, wrap the bottom in a paper towel with a rubber band around the paper towel, and then dampen the paper towel under the faucet. Put the asparagus with the rubber banded paper towel into the plastic bag you brought the asparagus home in and stand it upright in your fridge until you’re ready to use it.
-Spinach & different lettuce blends that come in their own containers (Like Organic Girl), take out what you need for your salad and before closing the container, take a paper towel sheet, fold it in half placing it on top of the spinach or lettuce before closing the lid. Then flip the container over and store in the refrigerator upside down. This slows the greens from wilting by absorbing moisture into the paper towel. Each time you take out some greens, replace the paper towel with a new sheet. Don’t forget to flip the container upside down!
-For carrots, buy organic carrots that have the green tops still attached to them. When you get home, simply snap off those green tops and toss in the garbage. Wrap the carrots in small-bubble bubble wrap and wrap a rubber band around the bubble wrap. This keeps them crisp and firm for a few months!
-Cilantro & Parsley (or any herbs for that matter), remove the rubber band around the bunch and after rinsing and thoroughly drying, wrap a paper towel loosely around the herbs. Then place inside a bubble wrap pouch of sorts. I change out the paper towel once a week. Keeps these herbs SO fresh for more than a couple of weeks.
-Celery is similar to what you do with carrots. Simply remove the twist-tie around the celery and wrap the celery in bubble wrap. Rubber band the wrapped celery at both ends and it will last a month or more staying crisp and crunchy.
Isolate gassy produce:
Some fruits and vegetables—like apples, ripe bananas, pears, and potatoes—produce a gas called ethylene that accelerates the ripening process of other fruits and vegetables. For this reason, if you want to ripen something quickly, stash it with your store of apples. But if you’re trying to prolong lifespans, keep everybody as separate as you can. That means: Let bananas have their own spot, don’t store potatoes and onions together, and keep apples in a designated part of the fridge.
Transfer ripe fruit to the fridge…
Some fruit you want to keep out at room temperature so that it can ripen—avocados, pineapple, cantaloupe. But once it’s ripe, move it to the fridge, where you can slow the ripening process. This is a short-term solution and everything will go bad eventually but, it’ll buy you 2 or 3 extra days with that perfectly ripe avocado or mango.
If you want to really press pause on your produce, toss it in the freezer! Let fruit reach the desired stage of ripeness, then peel and cut into pieces if necessary and freeze in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet tray until solid. Break up the frozen pieces and store in a resealable plastic freezer-safe bag or freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. You’ll want to chop and blanch most vegetables before freezing (and remember, sadly, not everything freezes well).
Keep citrus and ginger in the fridge.
You know how every stock photo of a kitchen has a bowl of lemons out on the counter? Looks nice, that’s for sure, but those lemons aren’t gonna last. Citrus will be happy (firm, juicy, not shriveled) for ages longer if you keep it in the fridge. Same for ginger (and fresh turmeric root, too, if you’ve got it).
Even produce needs social distancing…
If you’re only going to the grocery store once a week, your fridge is going to stay pretty full. Try your best not to cram your crisper drawers. While we currently have to practice social distancing, produce also needs a bit of personal space, too! That space allows the fridge to work more efficiently: With air circulating around the produce, moisture evaporates and public enemy number one, a.k.a. mold, is held at bay. You’ll also be able to see what you have better and because of that, you’ll use what you have.
By implementing some of these tips, you’re sure to have your produce last longer and throwing out less! Here’s to saving some green of another kind!