Produce Refrigeration Basics

This weekend I bought a plethora of produce at the Farmers Market. Two days later a few items are already starting to get a little shriveled and whithery. I’ve made some accommodations – de-skinning and slicing the peaches for this weekend’s Blueberry Peach Pie and putting them in a ziplock bag in the freezer, and eating cherry tomatoes as morning snacks (which certainly isn’t a sacrifice).

I often wonder what should and shouldn’t be refrigerated to assist in maintaining longevity, and I decided it was time to sit down and do a little research. The most comprehensive listing I found is at Farm Fresh To You. I’ve listed some of the refrigeration basics from their site here for your quick reference but if you want more detailed lists I highly recommend the site.

The main cause of accelerated ripening and decay is ethylene gas. Some fruits and vegetables produce more than others. Some need to be refrigerated, some don’t. And some produce so much gas they shouldn’t be combined with other fruits and veggies. Any produce that should be isolated from other fruits and vegetables I’ve designated below with a *. The most important thing to remember is never refrigerate your tomatoes – they will lose all that great summer flavor! Leave them on the kitchen counter.

*Apples – Keep apples refrigerated, storing them away from other fruits and vegetables, as apples produce ethylene.*
Asparagus – Cut an inch off the bottom of asparagus spears. Submerge ends in water and refrigerate.
Avocados – Ripen avocadoes in a paper bag on your countertop; when fully ripe, store whole avocadoes in a cool, dry place.

*Bananas – Store at room temperature, and keep away from other fruits and vegetables.*
Beets – Keep beets refrigerated. The stems can be removed and they do not need to be in a plastic bag.
Broccoli – Keep broccoli refrigerated, storing in a perforated plastic bag to retain moisture.

Carrots – Keep carrots refrigerated. Remove tops and store in a perforated plastic bag.
Cauliflower – Keep cauliflower refrigerated.
Celery – Keep celery refrigerated and stored in a perforated plastic bag.
Corn – Keep corn refrigerated and stored in a perforated plastic bag.
Cucumbers – Keep cucumbers refrigerated.

Eggplant – Keep eggplant refrigerated and stored in a perforated plastic bag.

Garlic – Store whole heads of garlic in a cool, dry, dark place with good ventilation, but do not refrigerate. However, always refrigerate peeled or cut garlic in a sealed container.
Greens – Keep greens refrigerated and stored in a perforated plastic bag.
Green Beans – Keep green beans refrigerated and stored in a perforated plastic bag.

Herbs – Wash, dry, snip off ends and submerge in a glass of water. Cover with a plastic bag and leave in the refrigerator.

*Lemons & Limes – Store in a cool, dry place, away from other fruits and vegetables to avoid absorption of off-flavors.*
Lettuce – Keep lettuce refrigerated and stored in a perforated plastic bag.

*Melons – Store in a cool, dry place, away from other fruits and vegetables.*
Mushrooms – Store mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator.

*Onions – Store whole onions in a cool, dry, dark place with good ventilation, and away from potatoes. Always refrigerate cut onions in a sealed container.*
Orange, Grapefruit and Other Citrus Fruits – Store in a cool, dry place.

Pears – Store whole pears in the refrigerator.
Peppers – Store whole peppers in a cool, dry place, away from fruits to avoid over-ripening. Always refrigerate cut peppers.
Potatoes – Store whole potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place with good ventilation, but do not refrigerate.

*Spinach – Keep spinach refrigerated, stored in a perforated plastic bag, away from fruits to avoid deterioration.*
Stone Fruit: Nectarines, Apricots, Peaches, Plums – Store whole stone fruit in the refrigerator.
Strawberries & Other Berries – Fresh berries are highly perishable. Store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator, loosely covered with plastic wrap.
Summer Squash – Keep refrigerated, storing in a perforated plastic bag.
Sweet Potatoes – Store whole sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place with good ventilation, but do not refrigerate.

Tomatoes – Keep tomatoes at room temperature. Do not refrigerate, as it will make the tomatoes mealy and flavorless.

Winter Squash – Store winter squash in a cool, dry place.

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7 Comments

  1. Awesome share. Have this one booked for future reference. Thanks!

  2. Mindy says:

    This is so helpful! I’ve found that if I wash and dry my lettuce and then put it in a ziplock bag with a dry paper towel, it will last for up to two weeks! I love the link to the site and may steal it to help the farm I get my CSA share from give advice to their customers. :-)

    • Jes says:

      Hi Mindy, wonderful tip about the lettuce – thanks for sharing, great to know! Definitely share this link with your CSA (yum). I reshuffled my produce once I read it and it was a tremendous help.

    • Jes says:

      Someone asked me today if the paper towel trick worked for lettuce and I was like “Funny you asked, indeed it does.”

  3. Teaque says:

    Great tips! My husband and I constantly fight over what needs to go in the fridge and what stays out. :)

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    About the Author – Jes

    I have a bottomless passion for food, travel, and gardening. On this site I share my joy and vision for good food, big adventures and green spaces. You can learn a little more about me here.

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