7 Ways to Make Your Fruits and Veggies Last Longer

August 21, 2017

  1. Pick fresher produce. When possible, support your community farmers by shopping local at farmers markets. This will ensure that you are getting the freshest produce that has only traveled a few miles to get to you rather than has been imported from other states or countries. The longer produce spends in transit and/or in the supermarket, the less time it will stay fresh in your home. Now is the perfect time of year to explore what options are available in your community.
  2. Store items separately. Some fruits give off higher levels of ethylene gas which speeds up the ripening process and can cause vegetables to spoil faster. It is also important to avoid storing ethylene-producers (like cantaloupe, kiwi, apples, avocados, peaches, nectarines, tomatoes) near ethylene-sensitive produce (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, eggplants, lettuce/leafy greens, peppers, squash, watermelon). And never store a banana next to another fruit unless you want the other fruit to ripen faster.
  3. Avoid overcrowding. Whether you are storing produce on your counters, in your pantry or in the refrigerator, you want to make sure everything has plenty of room. Overcrowding can lead to moisture build up and premature spoilage.
  4. Wait to wash. For most produce, avoid rinsing until just before use. This is especially true for items like mushrooms and berries which will spoil much faster once they are cleaned. Moisture encourages mold growth so make sure you keep your produce dry if you choose to rinse them. Your greens can usually be washed ahead, just make sure you either wrap them in a paper towel and place them loosely in an open or perforated plastic bag or keep them in your salad spinner so they can dry out and get adequate air flow.
  5. Prep accordingly. Prep your produce before you store it. So, instead of leaving items in the produce bag from the grocery store, make sure you remove the leafy tops from carrots and beets, remove twist ties or rubber bands keeping items in bundles, and allow produce to dry out before placing them in your refrigerator.
  6. Look at locations. Different produce typically thrive better at different temperatures. Also, how ripe the produce is can determine whether or not it should be left out on the counter or if it needs to be chilled. If you want to prolong the life of fruits or vegetables you should keep them in the refrigerator, but this is not always the case. Items like cut fruit or vegetables, peppers, berries, greens, carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower and herbs will last longer when they are chilled. Items that can be kept on the counter (out of direct sunlight) or in a cool, dark location like a pantry include potatoes, onions, garlic, bananas, avocados (until ripe), tomatoes, winter squash, melon, citrus, and stone fruit (peaches, pears, cherries, plums). Other items can be left in the pantry or on the counter until ripened then kept in the refrigerator to make them last longer. This includes apples, citrus, stone fruits, cucumbers, bananas and avocados.
  7. Avoid purchasing produce that is bruised or cut. Although cut produce can seem like a time saver, it won’t stay fresh for long. If you don’t intend to use it right away, it won’t be very convenient to have spoiled produce when you are trying to make a meal. Any fruit or vegetable that is bruised will also spoil much faster so if you do purchase some produce that has damage, plan on eating it right away.

-- By Danica Crouse, RD, Indiana University Health

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