How to Keep Vegetables Fresh for Longer
Fresh vegetables are an integral part of a healthy diet and an essential component of many favorite recipes. From eggplant parmigiana to broccoli-cheese gratin or a simple, fresh summer salad, there are many ways to enjoy your fresh produce.
However, vegetables don’t stay fresh forever. There’s nothing worse than reaching for a crisp cucumber only to find it soft and soggy—or to open a bag of potatoes only to find them covered in mildew. How can you keep vegetables fresh? Read on to learn how to store vegetables.
Quick Tips to Help Keep Vegetables Fresh
Keeping vegetables fresh isn’t just a question of convenience. It’s also about saving money. The average U.S. household wastes $1,866 in food per year. You don’t want to dump hard-earned cash into the garbage by letting produce rot. Here’s how to keep that from happening.
Start Fresh to Stay Fresh
If you want produce to last for a long time, make sure it’s fresh when you buy it. Check for signs that it’s been on the shelf for a while. For example, a salad may be wilted, gourds may get soft, and potatoes may start to sprout growth from their “eyes.”
Sometimes, stores sell older produce at a discount. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with pinching a few pennies and scooping up these deals. However, beware that you should cook any of these goods quickly instead of storing them and hoping they’ll last
Keep Produce Dry
Produce should be stored in a dry place, as moisture can attract mold and mildew growth—or result in that mushy texture you probably hate. If you wash your produce as soon as you get home, dry it off thoroughly before storing it.
As with every rule, there are exceptions. Asparagus should be set in a glass of water (with the “heads” up) and refrigerated to maintain freshness, for example. Meanwhile, scallions can be stored with the tops down in a glass of water, changing the water every two days.
Choose the Right Storage Space
When it comes to how to store vegetables, it depends mainly on the type. For example, tomatoes should be held on the counter, away from direct sunlight. Why? If you put them in the fridge, they tend to develop a granular texture.
Some other goods should be kept in the fridge, while others do better in the pantry. Potatoes, squashes, garlic, and onions all belong in the pantry. They can last for about a week here, depending on the temperatures. A temperature of about 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.
Finally, other vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and salad do better in the fridge. Make sure to use the crisper drawer if your fridge has one (adjust the humidity accordingly—more on that below).
Adjust Your Refrigerator
If your refrigerator has crisper doors, make sure to use them. Some modern fridges allow you to adjust the humidity level inside the crisper by opening or closing small vents. It’s best to keep humidity low by opening the vents and allowing air to circulate.
The temperature of your fridge can also make a big difference in how long your vegetables last. Ensure that the appliance is set to about 33 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If the fridge is too hot, veggies may get soft. If it’s too cold, other issues like frost can develop.
Select an Appropriate Container
Depending on the produce, it may benefit from an extra container. For example, it’s best to make a salad out of the plastic bag, ensure the leaves are fully dry, and then store it in a fresh storage container with a few sheets of kitchen paper towel on top. This prevents wilting.
You can take a similar approach to herbs. Start by removing any rubber bands or twist ties holding fresh bunches of herbs together. Then wash them and let them dry. Finally, swaddle them in a paper towel and place this in a resealable plastic bag.
Again, there are unique exceptions. Mushrooms are a great example. Because mushrooms have a high natural water content, they’re likely to get slimy if you put them in a plastic bag. Instead, keep them in a paper bag.
Keep Produce Apart
Make sure to keep your fruits and vegetables apart. In case one item gets moldy, you don’t want that decay to spread to neighboring objects. Since fruits tend to develop mold more quickly, it’s best to keep them separate.
You may also notice that the taste of certain fruits and vegetables can transfer to other goods. Bananas are a great example. However, this can also happen with goods like onions or garlic. Unless you want an apple with an onion aftertaste, keep these goods separate!
Further, allowing space between items allows air to circulate more freely. This helps to keep moisture from settling on produce—which, as already mentioned, is a surefire way to develop damp, moldy, or mushy goods. With enough air, any moisture will evaporate.
When In Doubt, Freeze It
If you’re looking to store fresh produce for a long time, turn to your freezer. For most vegetables, it’s advisable to chop, blanch, and freshen them in cold water first. You can generally keep produce frozen for about three months and still use it.
Again, follow the same rules as with refrigerating. You want to make sure that the items aren’t damp before you put them away. Further, make sure to use the appropriate container depending on the type of produce.
The Final Word on How to Keep Vegetables Fresh
As you can see from the list above, keeping your produce fresh requires a holistic approach that considers everything from the quality of the goods you buy to how you store them. With these tips, you should be able to keep your veggies fresh, crisp, and ready to eat longer.
That said, these aren’t miracle fixes. You can’t expect something fresh-grown to last forever (unless you treat it with chemicals, can it, or pickle it). The whole point of veggies is the freshness, right? So, enjoy them while they’re fresh!