When it comes to taste, fresh produce definitely has canned and frozen versions beat. And it goes without saying that packaged goods just can't compare to homemade guacamole or fresh-squeezed orange juice, but the key to savoring these flavors is keeping fruits and veggies fresh once you bring them home from the store. Read on for the best ways to store everything from apples to avocados, so you can make the most of your produce.
Apples Store in the refrigerator to keep crisp for three to four weeks or store outside of the refrigerator in a cool, dry place to keep crisp for about one week. Tip: "You want to store apples in the refrigerator in a plastic bag," says Elizabeth Pivonka, president of Produce for Better Health Foundation. "Apples give off ethylene, a natural gas, which will make lettuce and other produce turn brown. The plastic bag will prevent that." Photo: Thinkstock
Store avocados at room temperature for up to a week until they are ripe. Once they’re soft to the touch, move them to the refrigerator, where they can keep for up to another week.Tip: If the avocados you bought aren’t soft enough to eat yet, you can ripen them in a jiffy: Just throw them into a paper bag with a banana (bananas produce the most ripening-inducing ethylene of any fruit). They'll be guacamole-ready in about a day. Photo: Thinkstock
Store in the refrigerator to keep fresh for up to 10 days. How long depends on the variety of berry, but blueberries will stay fresh the longest. Tip: Berries are one of the most perishable fruits because they’re so thin-skinned. Washing them and leaving them on the counter will cause them to mold within hours, so don't wash them until you intend to use them. The dusty covering you see on berries is called the "bloom," a natural preservative that keeps them fresh. “When you wash any fruit or vegetable, you’re removing its natural outer layer, which will cause it to ripen even faster," says Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Melissa’s Produce.
Citrus (grapefruits, oranges, etc.)
Store in the refrigerator to keep fresh for two weeks, or store at room temperature to keep fresh for seven to 10 days. Schueller points out that because citrus fruits have a tougher skin, they will last longer than most other fruits. Tip: Meyer lemons and limes have a shorter shelf life, only two weeks in the refrigerator.
Store grapes in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Grapes also have a bloom, so it’s best not to wash them until you’re ready to eat them.
Store unripe pears at room temperature for approximately five days. Once ripe, refrigerate for up to a week. Tip: To check for ripeness, Pivonka recommends checking the “neck” right next to the stem for a slight softness. If you want to speed up ripening, put pears in a paper bag.
Store pomegranates in the refrigerator, where they will last two to three weeks depending on how ripe they are.
"Tomatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place and enjoyed within a week once they’re fragrant and soft to the touch," according to Schueller. You want to avoid refrigerating tomatoes because it puts the fruit into cold shock and inhibits the taste. Tip: Avoid storing them in plastic, because the trapped ethylene will cause them to ripen more quickly.
Refrigerate peppers for up to two weeks or store them at room temperature to keep fresh for about a week.
Broccoli and Cauliflower
Keep cauliflower and broccoli in their wrapping and place in the refrigerator, where they will last three to five days. Pivonka recommends using them before the ends turn brown.
Greens (lettuce, spinach, etc.) All leafy greens should be stored in the refrigerator and will last three to seven days. If leaves aren’t prebagged, wash and wrap loosely in a paper towel (to keep the water from rotting the leaves), then put in a plastic bag. Tip: Schueller suggests keeping heads of lettuce whole: “When you cut up lettuce, you’re cutting the pores, which will produce more ethylene." Photo: Dorling Kindersley/Getty
They should be stored in their packaging in the refrigerator and used within five to seven days. Like other produce, mushrooms will perish faster if they’re presliced.
Root Vegetables (onions, potatoes, etc.)
Store in a cool, dry place—ideally in an open basket away from the oven. While most last approximately a month, baby potatoes have a shorter shelf life of about 10 days. Tip: Keep these items away from light, which causes them to sprout and turn green, advises Schueller.
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