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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How to Keep Fruits and Veggies Fresh

How to Keep Fruits and Veggies Fresh

Proper Storage Prevents Spoilage, Saving You Hundreds

-- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator and Stepfanie Romine, Staff Writer

Eating more fruits and vegetables is a requirement for every healthy eater. But when you buy more fresh produce, do you end up throwing away more than you eat? You're not alone.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away nearly 31.6 million tons of food every year. And a recent University of Arizona study found that the average family tosses 1.28 pounds of food a day, for a total of 470 pounds a year! That's like throwing away $600!

Storing fresh produce is a little more complicated than you might think. If you want to prevent spoilage, certain foods shouldn't be stored together at all, while others that we commonly keep in the fridge should actually be left on the countertop. To keep your produce optimally fresh (and cut down on food waste), use this handy guide.

Countertop Storage Tips
There’s nothing as inviting as a big bowl of crisp apples on the kitchen counter. To keep those apples crisp and all countertop-stored produce fresh, store them out of direct sunlight, either directly on the countertop, in an uncovered bowl, or inside a perforated plastic bag.

Refrigerator Storage Tips
For produce that is best stored in the refrigerator, remember the following guidelines.

  • Keep produce in perforated plastic bags in the produce drawer of the refrigerator. (To perforate bags, punch holes in the bag with a sharp object, spacing them about as far apart as the holes you see in supermarket apple bags.)
  • Keep fruits and vegetables separate, in different drawers, because ethylene can build up in the fridge, causing spoilage.
  • When storing herbs (and interestingly, asparagus, too), snip off the ends, store upright in a glass of water (like flowers in a vase) and cover with a plastic bag.

What to Store Where: A Handy Chart
Use this color-coded key along with the chart below:

  • Store unwashed and in a single layer
  • Store unwashed and in a plastic bag
  • Store in a paper bag
  • *Ethylene producers (keep away from other fruits and vegetables)

Store in Refrigerator

Apples (storage >7 days)
Apricots
Cantaloupe
Figs
Honeydew

Artichokes
Asparagus
Beets

Blackberries
Blueberries

Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage

Carrots
Cauliflower

Celery
Cherries

Corn
Grapes
Green beans

Green onions
Herbs (except basil)
Lima beans
Leafy vegetables
Leeks

Lettuce
Mushrooms
Okra

Peas
Plums
Radishes
Raspberries
Spinach
Sprouts

Strawberries
Summer squash
Yellow squash
Zucchini

Store on Countertop

Apples (storage <7 days)

Basil
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Garlic
Ginger
Grapefruit
Jicama
Lemons
Limes
Mangoes
Oranges
Papayas
Peppers
Persimmons
Pineapple
Plantains
Pomegranates
Watermelon

Store in a Cool, Dry Place

Acorn squash
Butternut squash
Onions (away from potatoes)
Potatoes (away from onions)
Pumpkins
Spaghetti squash
Sweet potatoes
Winter squash

Ripen on Counter,
Then
Refrigerate

Avocados
Nectarines
Peaches
Pears
Plums

Kiwi

*More about Ethylene: Fruits and vegetables give off an odorless, harmless and tasteless gas called ethylene after they're picked. All fruits and vegetables produce it, but some foods produce it in greater quantities. When ethylene-producing foods are kept in close proximity with ethylene-sensitive foods, especially in a confined space (like a bag or drawer), the gas will speed up the ripening process of the other produce. Use this to your advantage if you want to speed up the ripening process of an unripe fruit, for example, by putting an apple in a bag with an unripe avocado. But if you want your already-ripe foods to last longer, remember to keep them away from ethylene-producing foods, as designated in the chart above.

Food is expensive, and most people can't afford to waste it. Print off this handy chart to keep in your kitchen so you can refer to it after every shopping trip. Then you'll be able to follow-through with your good intentions to eat your 5-9 servings a day, instead of letting all of that healthy food go to waste.

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