Tips for Proper Produce Storage

Hands holding red pepper. Peppers and other fruits and vegetables in baskets in background.

The Importance of Proper Produce Storage

Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion (yes, BILLION) in food every year - that’s 30 to 40 percent of all the food that is produced in the U.S. is ending up in landfills instead of being eaten and that has real consequences. Not only is it expensive for the consumer to have their food go to waste, it is to the detriment of our environment. The organic waste that comes from us throwing out food into our trash makes up the second largest kind of waste found in landfills. And if you know anything about landfills, they stink! It is this stink that is composed of methane which is one of the most harmful greenhouse gasses and landfills are responsible for being the third largest source of methane.

These statistics can be scary and alarming but it is much of the reason why we want to share with you how you can take positive, conscious, sustainable actions to protect our environment and be the most efficient with your food.

Best Produce Storage Practices

Ethylene: What is Ethylene and Why is it in My Bananas?

Ethylene is a natural gas released by vegetables and fruits that help them ripen. When ethylene is present around certain produce it can trigger them to produce ethylene of their own and consequently cause them to ripen. This is why when you have an unripe avocado it is often suggested to put it in a brown paper bag with an apple (the apple will produce ethylene) so that it can ripen the avocado. Farmers are actually very aware of this process and are careful to pick fruits like apples and bananas at the perfect moment before they reach the period of their growth cycle where they begin producing a lot of ethylene. Ethylene may not only spoil other produce sensitive to the gas but it can also spoil the veggie or fruit it is being released from. So if you’re trying to prolong lifespans, keep your produce as separate as you can. That means bananas should have their own spot, don’t store potatoes and onions together, and keep apples in a designated part of the fridge.

Ethylene-producing Fruits & Vegetables: Bananas, Apples, Kiwi, Avocado, Tomatoes, Peppers, Peaches, Pears, Cantaloupe

Sometimes Dirty is Better 

Washing your produce and then storing it inside of a container in the refrigerator can actually cause it to go bad quicker. Produce like mushrooms and leafy greens can hold on to that moisture and consequently their wilting and rotting process speed up significantly because of the trapped water. Do your best to only wash your leafy greens, herbs and mushrooms at the time that you are going to consume them and not before.

A few Other Quick Tips

When it doubt, bag it…but please make sure to reuse your plastic bags. A plastic bag will help prevent the moisture in your veggies from evaporating, which means the stuff that usually goes limp after a few days won’t. 

Keep your produce dry! Make sure you thoroughly dry anything you’re washing before putting it away. A little moisture is ok but a lot of moisture can create mold. The few exceptions…scallions like to be stored upright in water at room temp. They will keep growing that way for as long as they have fresh water. Asparagus is more like a bouquet of fresh flowers. Trim the ends, set in a glass of water, and refrigerate until ready to use. Store whole carrots and celery in a covered container of water to keep them firm.

Once fruit is ripe, transfer to the fridge. This will help prolong the shelf life for a few more days. Citrus fruit and ginger/turmeric prefer to stay in the refrigerator not as a decorative table centerpiece.

If all else fails, freeze!  Let fruit reach the desired ripeness, then peel and cut into pieces if necessary and store in a resealable plastic bag or freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. You’ll want to chop and blanch most vegetables before freezing but remember not all produce freezes well.

About Source 

Source offers a selection of the highest-quality produce, goods and more sourced local, organic, ethical, sustainable and as regenerative as possible. From the farm box to the market, all of our products are for and from the earth. We are committed to sustainable practices for an invested connected community, in an authentic space that will endure.

Visit us Monday through Friday, 10:30am-6pm at our market or shop online for all of our sustainably sourced food and goods!