Gardening at home is the best way to provide you and your family with fresh, delicious, and healthy fruits and vegetables. But if your fresh produce wilts and browns when you store it, it creates undesirable waste. Here are some simple ways to extend the shelf life of your fruits and vegetables and prevent them from turning brown before you can eat them.
- Apples: Apples can be stored for the long term if they are kept in a cool, dark place that is relatively humid and well ventilated. For example, try wrapping each apple in a single sheet of newspaper and then storing them with the folded side of the paper down in a barrel or open cardboard box in your basement. Apples can last for a few months this way. Just be sure to check for any rotten ones, as one rotten fruit will cause the others to rot. For short-term storage, apples can be stored in a vented plastic bag in the refrigerator.
- Asparagus: Asparagus is likely to become slimy or wilted if the stems are grouped together. It will last about 4 days if you store the stems loosely in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Or, to make it last even longer, place the pointed jars (root side down) in a pitcher of cold water in your refrigerator. Asparagus likes cool and humid conditions and can last up to 2 weeks if kept in these conditions.
- Avocados: Whole avocados will keep well in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days. If you want to ripen the avocados, place them inside a paper bag and fold the opening. Remember that as soon as you cut an avocado, oxidation will begin. If you want to extend the life of a cut avocado, leave the pit as long as possible and sprinkle lemon or lime juice over the cut pulp.
- Bananas: Bananas should never be stored in the refrigerator, as they will make your skin darken. (This oxidation process is harmless but seems unappealing.) It is best to keep bananas at room temperature. Handle them carefully to avoid bruising or use a banana perch, which helps slow ripening.
- Berries: Berries are best stored in the refrigerator, but in the warmest area of your refrigerator. Keep them as dry as possible in a covered container. Do not wash them until just before eating. Remember that berries are delicate and easily bruised.
- Broccoli: Keep broccoli in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. If kept in consistently cool and humid conditions, it can last for about 10 days.
- Carrots: Carrots will keep for several days if stored in a cool place with good air circulation, such as the crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
- Celery – Celery will last several days if you leave it in the refrigerator and intact. If you want to store it in washed individual stems, try filling a plastic container with water and a couple drops of vinegar. Seal the container and store it in your fridge. The celery stalks will last about 3 days this way.
- Cherries: Store the cherries in a ventilated plastic bag in your refrigerator. Do not wash them until just before eating. Store the grapes in the same way.
- Corn – Store corn with its husks in your refrigerator. It will keep for about 5 days this way. Do not remove the peels until you are ready to prepare it.
- Melons: melons will ripen at room temperature. If you want to ripen one, leave it on your kitchen counter. If you have a ripe melon, store it in a cool, airy place or in your refrigerator. Melons are best stored in an environment between 40 and 50 degrees F.
- Onions – Store onions in a cool, dry place. They will become mushy if stored in the refrigerator. Store onions separately from potatoes as they emit a gas that speeds up the aging process of potatoes. Onions can be stored for up to 6 months if they are kept cool and dry.
- Oranges, lemons, limes, and other citrus fruits – Citrus fruits will last about a week when stored in your refrigerator.
- Peas: Store peas in a cool, humid place, such as the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. They can last 1 to 3 weeks this way.
- Potatoes: keep potatoes in a dark, cool and dry place. They keep well and can even last for several months under these conditions. Do not store the potatoes in the refrigerator, as this will encourage them to sprout or become moldy. Don’t eat potatoes if they have been exposed to light and have developed green spots.
- Tomatoes: if the tomatoes are red and ripe, keep them in a cool place, ideally around 50 degrees. They will last about a week this way. If the tomatoes are green and you want to ripen them, put them in a paper bag and fold the open end. Then put the bag in a nice warm place where it is around 70 degrees F.
- Yellow Zucchini and Zucchini – Yellow zucchini and zucchini are best stored in a ventilated plastic bag in the refrigerator. They will stay that way for about 1-2 weeks.
As a general guideline, always leave an inch of stem or more when harvesting fruits and vegetables in your garden. This will help reduce water loss and help prevent diseases from reaching the fruit as well. Always choose fruits and vegetables at the peak of their maturity and avoid those that have been badly damaged by insects. This will help you get the best possible shelf life from your fruits and vegetables.