Keeping produce as fresh as possible for as long as possible is one of the biggest challenges in any kitchen. Here are a few tips on how to store your fresh fruits and vegetables in ways that keep them both fresh and enticing.
General produce storage guidelines
- Don’t store fruits and vegetables together. There’s a scientific explanation for that “one bad apple” saying – fruits that give off high levels of the ripening agent ethylene can prematurely ripen and spoil any surrounding vegetables. Bananas, in particular, ripen very quickly and should be stored separately. Ethylene gas absorbers should help keep them from ripening too quickly or affect other nearby produce.
- Some fruits like apples, avocados, tomatoes (yes, it’s a fruit), mangoes, and pears will continue to ripen if left sitting out in the open. Bell peppers, grapes, citrus fruits, and the like will just deteriorate and start to rot, however, so keep them refrigerated.
- Before storing vegetables, remove any ties and rubber bands to let them breathe. Pack them loosely in the refrigerator to keep them from rotting quickly. If you store them in bags, make sure the bags have holes that allow for good air flow. Trim leafy ends but leave about an inch to keep vegetables from drying out.
Fruit bowls and baskets
Even the most delicious fruit won’t be of much use to anyone if no one knows where it’s kept. Fresh fruit in a decorative fruit bowl or basket kept out in the open where they can easily be seen lets you make sure that everyone has access to a sweet snack once the munchies hit. Just remember to stick to fruits that keep well at room temperature such as the ones mentioned above.
For full-fledged appetite enhancement and enticement, use a fruit bowl or basket that already calls attention by itself. Adding fresh fruits should make the whole display even more appealing. The optimal spot to place such bowls and baskets is a kitchen island or on a kitchen table. If these aren’t viable options, you can place them on the countertop nearest your kitchen’s main exit.
Pantry and base cabinets
Pantries are great at keeping fresh produce organized while still keeping them visible. Pullout wicker basket drawers add a rustic, natural vibe to your entire pantry without sacrificing any of the storage capacity and efficiency.
Visibility can be a bit tricky if you store produce in cabinets, but there are ways to do it. Repurposed wooden crates (think of the ones you can find in summertime produce stands) work very well, especially if they’re decorated and labeled with bold designs and colors. If you find that you have too much storage space and not enough produce to fill it with, you can use cabinet dividers to store more items efficiently.
An under-counter refrigerator drawer dedicated to cold-storing produce is a perfect addition to any kitchen that regularly has to accommodate a large number of hungry people. Install them in an area away from the main work zone and anybody can come in to get a fresh snack without getting in your way while you cook.
If you spring for a refrigerator drawer with humidity controls, always remember the general rule of thumb: rot low, wilt high. This means you should use a low humidity setting for produce that rot fast. These include high ethylene producers like ripe bananas and apples as well as fruits that are sensitive to ethylene such as strawberries and tomatoes. A high humidity setting, meanwhile, should be used for produce that quickly wilts such as leafy greens as the higher moisture content will keep them crisper and fresher for longer periods of time.