You have good intentions to use your vegetables when you buy them at the store; yet, sometimes they’re overlooked during the meal prep sessions. Hey, I get it. Unless you’re hiding Keebler Fudge Stick cookies from the kiddos in the vegetable crisper, odds are you don’t frequent that area too often. Unfortunately, those are times our veggies no longer maintain their freshness.
If only there was a magic pill that could extend the life of our vegetables, I’m sure both you and I would be buying it. Well, if you’re looking for the best way to keep your vegetables fresh, I got you covered.
There’s a lot of controversy on whether vegetables should be stored in or out of the refrigerator. While both offer their own merits, this is clearly a personal decision. Scientific studies have shown, once a vegetable has reached the peak of ripeness, the coolness of the refrigerator will stifle the ripening process. This is why most vegetables will last longer refrigerated.
Asparagus – When storing asparagus it’s best to remove 1/2” of the stalks before storing. Store asparagus in a glass with enough fresh water to cover the bottom of the stalks. Cover the tops of the buds loosely with a plastic bag. This will help asparagus maintain their freshness for about 4 days.
Avocados – Uncut avocados should remain unrefrigerated until they’ve been cut open. Once opened, place some plastic wrap over it. It’s best to keep the wrapped avocado in an airtight container with a piece of onion. I know this sounds bizarre, but the reason for this is the onion contains sulfur which will react with the lipase enzyme, causing the avocado to last longer. Haven’t you always wondered why your guacamole lasts a while after it’s been opened? It’s all due to the onion. Avocados should retain their freshness for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Bell peppers – Bell peppers can be stored both in and out of the refrigerator. The best way to store bell peppers is to place the unwashed peppers in a plastic zipper bag in the vegetable crisper. Bell peppers should retain their freshness for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Broccoli – The best way to store broccoli is to store it in an uncovered bowl. Spray, mist, or lightly dampen a piece of paper towel with water, placing over the florets. You should store it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. (Cauliflower should be stored the same way). Storing broccoli this way should retain its freshness for 3 to 5 days.
Brussels sprouts – If you purchase your brussel sprouts loose, place them in a zipper bag and store them in the vegetable crisper bins. If you purchase brussel sprouts that are on a stem, place the stem end in water and remove the spouts as needed. Store on the bottom shelf in your refrigerator. Brussels sprouts should retain its freshness for a week.
Cabbage – When storing cabbage, do not remove the outer leaves. You can store it in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper drawer. Depending on the humidity level in your vegetable bin, cabbage should retain its freshness for up to 2 weeks.
Carrots – If you purchase already packaged carrots (full, sticks, chips or mini’s), remove them from the plastic packaging. The best way to store carrots is to submerge them in water, and place in a plastic container that has an airtight seal. You’ll want to change the water frequently. Keeping carrots cold and in water will prolong their longevity. Most carrots should retain their freshness for 3 to 4 weeks.
Cauliflower – The best way to store cauliflower is to keep it in an uncovered bowl. Spray mist, or lightly dampen a piece of paper towel with water placing it over the florets. You should store it on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. (Broccoli should be stored the same way). Cauliflower should retain its freshness for about 2 weeks.
Celery – The best way to store celery would be like carrots; however, you can also store the full stalks wrapped in aluminum foil. Remove the celery from the plastic packaging it comes in. The plastic doesn’t allow the ethylene gas to escape, which will cause your celery to go limp fast. Celery should retain its freshness for about 1 to 2 weeks.
Corn on the Cob – As long as the husk is intact, corn on the cob can be kept loose in the vegetable crisper bin. Corn on the cob that has the husk removed should be stored in a dry paper towel and placed in a plastic zipper bag. Wrap each ear of corn separately in it’s own piece of paper towel. Corn on the cob should retain its freshness for about 1 to 3 days.
Cucumber – Cucumbers shouldn’t be refrigerated. This isn’t saying it’s going to rot if you put in there for a few days, but they actually hate the cold. Anything lower than 50-degrees will cause them to rot, decompose and turn into a pile of cucumber mush. Keep cucumbers away from bananas, melons and tomatoes, as cucumbers are really sensitive to the gasses these 3 fruits produce. If refrigerated, cucumbers should retain their freshness for about 1 week. If unrefrigerated, they should retain their freshness for about 3 days.
Garlic – Fresh garlic should be stored at room temperature in a container. Don’t remove the husks until you’re ready to use them. If you purchase garlic that already has the husk removed, follow the package instructions. Garlic can be stored next to onions, but keep them away from all other produce as the scent will leach. Whole garlic should retain its freshness for 7 to 10 days.
Green beans – Keep your unwashed fresh green beans either in a plastic container or plastic zipper bag. Fresh green beans will retain their freshness for 7 days in the vegetable crisper bin.
Green onions – When purchasing a bunch of green onions, you’ll want to remove the rubber band that typically is holding them together. Save that rubber band as you’ll need it. Fill a tall glass with water and submerge the bulbs of the onions. Cover the glass with a plastic bag and use the rubber band to secure it in place. You’ll want to keep the green onions away from other thin skinned fruits and vegetables. Stored correctly, green onions should retain their freshness for 1 to 2 weeks.
Green peas – Don’t remove the outer pod or wash your peas before placing them in the refrigerator. You’ll want to store them in a plastic zipper bag. Wash the outer pod before opening to avoid any bacteria that may be on the shell to contaminate the peas during the shelling process. Green peas should retain their freshness for 3 to 5 days.
Herbs – The best way to keep fresh herbs is to wrap them in a dry paper towel, place them in a zipper bag (remove the excess air) and store them in the side butter bin in your refrigerator door. If the herbs you purchase have a zip tie on them, remove the tie before wrapping them in the paper towel. When the paper towel begins to get moist, replace it with another dry sheet. Herbs stored this way should retain their freshness for about 2 to 3 weeks.
Lettuce – Due to the mass varieties of lettuce, the best way to store a head of fresh lettuce is to leave all of the leaves intact. Wrap it in a dry paper towel and place it in a zipper bag and remove the excess air. You can store lettuce in the vegetable crisper bin. My favorite way to store iceberg lettuce is by using a lettuce crisper from Tupperware. If you don’t want to drop the coin on that, a zipper bag works just as well. Properly stored lettuce should retain its freshness for 7 to 10 days.
Mushrooms – As much as you want to, don’t wash your mushrooms before storing them. The best way to store mushrooms is to remove them from the store package and place them in a brown paper bag. Place the bag on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. Don’t put them in the vegetable crisper bin as the extra humidity will cause them to get slimy and soggy. Properly stored mushrooms should retain its freshness for 4 to 7 days.
Onions – Onions should be kept away from all other produce (with the exception of garlic). You’ll want to keep your onions on the counter in some sort of bowl. Make sure they stay at least 5 feet away from potatoes, as the gas they produce will make your potatoes sprout.
Onions don’t like humidity. If you keep them in the refrigerator they will start to rot and decompose rapidly (aka: turn in to mush). If you’re adamant about storing your onions in the refrigerator, you can expect them to maintain their freshness for 2 to 6 weeks. By storing them out of the refrigerator they should also remain at their peak freshness for up to 6 weeks. However you look at it, they’ll last a few months.
Potatoes – The best place to store potatoes are in a cool, dark, dry place. They like cool, but they can’t handle the cold really well. When a potato is refrigerated, the starches will turn into sugar which will affect the way it tastes and disrupt the nutritional complexity of the potato. If you purchase a 5lb bag, remove them from the plastic and place them in a brown paper bag.
Make sure to keep your potatoes away from onions and apples. Both emit ethylene gas which can cause your potatoes to grow eyes and sprout. Potatoes should retain their freshness for 2 to 3 months if kept in a cool dark place.
Superhero Tip: Don’t keep your potatoes in your kitchen pantry. If you forget about them, they’ll attract fruit flies. Take it from me, that’s one thing you don’t want living in your pantry.
Radishes – Place unwashed radishes in a zipper bag with a folded piece of paper towel in the bag. If you’re buying radishes that have the greens attached, you’ll want to remove the greens before putting them in the zipper bag. Store your radishes in the vegetable crisper. Proper storage of radishes should retain their freshness for 1 to 2 weeks.
Spinach – Place unwashed spinach in a dry paper towel and place in a zipper bag and remove the excess air. You’ll want to keep your spinach in the vegetable crisper. Replace the paper towel when it becomes moist. Spinach will typically retain its freshness for 5 to 7 days.
Summer Squash & Zucchini – Summer squash and zucchini are best kept in a plastic zipper bag in the vegetable crisper bin. If stored properly both summer squash and zucchini will retain their freshness for 3 to 5 days.
Tomatoes – Technically tomatoes are considered a fruit, but the entire world (including me) thinks of them as a vegetable, so that’s why I’m putting them here with the vegetables. There seems to be some controversy over the proper storage of tomatoes. Due to the different types of tomatoes and the thickness of the skin, some can tolerate a cold environment where-as others can’t. The only thing both camps agree on is tomatoes should be stored stem slide down. If you’ll be storing them in the refrigerator they should retain their freshness for 3 to 5 days. If you’re going to be leaving them on the counter, a very ripe tomato should retain its freshness for 1 to 2 days.
How do you store your vegetables, in the refrigerator, on the counter or both? Share in a comment.
Until we meet again,
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