How to store fruit and vegetables
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Refrigerator or benchtop? Many of us are guilty of throwing produce into the fridge without much thought. Use these tips to help store your fruit and vegetables today.

A simple way to waste less produce is to remember that storing fruit and vegetables too close together is a common mistake. The chemical compound ethylene gas can build-up and cause them to go off.

Some of the fruit and vegetables that produce the most ethylene include apples, apricots, ripe avocados, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, prunes and ripe tomatoes.

There are also fruit and vegetables that are highly sensitive to ethylene, but don’t produce it! This list includes (but is not limited to) asparagus, basil, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, green beans, herbs, lettuce, mushroom, potatoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, turnips and watermelon.

Now you know to give your more sensitive purchases some space, here’s how to get the most life out of your fruit and vegetables at home.

FRUIT

In the fridge

Some fruit prefers the cold and will last a decent amount of time if you keep it in the fridge. Consider refrigerating apples, berries, grapes, oranges and pears.

Other fruits like the best of both worlds. If you find a bargain on avocados and want to buy them in bulk, leave them on the bench until they’re almost ripe. Stash them in the fridge and bring them out for a day’s ripening as you need them.

Stone fruit is particular about storage. If you refrigerate them before they ripen, they can turn mealy and will lose flavour. But once they’re ripe, put them in the crisper for a few days. Hot tip: Bring your fruit to room temperature before you eat them, so you get the best flavour!

Related post: How to clean out your refrigerator

Out of the fridge

A good rule of thumb: If your fruit likely came from the tropics, you can safely assume it’s not going to love the cold. Coconuts, mangoes, melons and pineapples will happily live in your fruit bowl.

Uncut watermelon, however, will be happier alone on the bench. It’s highly-sensitive to ethylene and won’t last as long if you keep it next to other fruit. Grapes are another fruit to watch.

VEGETABLES

In the fridge

Hardy greens like kale and silverbeet are big fans of humidity for freshness. Consider wrapping them in a damp cloth in your crisper.

If you have delicate greens (lettuce and rocket, for example), avoid water at all costs. They’ll go mushy at the first sign of moisture, so store these in a dry cloth in your fridge.

Root vegetables like beets, carrots, radishes and turnips look pretty with their green leaves but make sure you remove the tops. Doing this will stop the leaves growing and avoid softening the root.

Out of the fridge

Potatoes keep best in the dirt! Dirt is a natural preservative, so don’t worry about keeping your unwashed potatoes somewhere dark and dirty.

Onions also like to live somewhere dark with good air circulation. Whole uncut pumpkins and sweet potatoes also prefer this storage option!

HERBS

In most cases, you can divide your herbs into one of three groups:

  • Herbs that hate water: These are the ones that usually grow in dry soil – think rosemary and thyme. These herbs will go mouldy when damp. 
  • Herbs that hate cold: Herbs like basil and mint will be very happy on the bench in a glass of water. 
  • Herbs that like to be kept damp: Some herbs are most comfortable with a bit of moisture. If you have chives, coriander, oregano or parsley, wrap them in damp paper or a damp tea towel and put them in the fridge. 

Five hot tips:

  1. Many veggies will come back to life if you leave them in a bowl of icy water for a little while. Even the saddest silverbeet will perk up with this treatment. Carrots turned a little floppy? Store them in water – it will keep them crisp for longer. If you have prepped carrots, celery and capsicums, keep them in a container of water. It will stop them from drying out and bending, and they’ll be ready to eat all week!
  2. Buy quality produce. If you find vegetables in the shop that look a little wilted, don’t bother throwing them in your bag. You can’t turn back the clock. 
  3. Don’t pre-wash! Moisture on most produce is going to speed up how quickly they spoil, so avoid pre-washing. Leeks and asparagus would be the exception to this rule. You can submerge these in a couple of centimetres of water, standing upright.
  4. Banish your bruised produce: Some fruits produce a specific gas. As they ripen, this gas can inspire any surrounding fruit to mature too – bruising can be catching! One bruised fruit can ruin your collection of fruit, so isolate anything that’s overly ripe. 
  5. Keeping foliage on carrots, beetroots and other root veg is never a good move. By removing the greenery, you’ll also help to keep the flavour in your purchase!
Lauren Vardy
Content Manager at | Website

Lauren Vardy is author behind the Rent.com.au Blog, a site built to help renters find a home and navigate their renting journey. She is the Content Manager at Rent.com.au. Outside of work, she dabbles in all things health, fitness and houseplants.