Learn How to Keep Your Produce Fresh

Tis the season for farmers markets and bountiful produce. You may know how to load up on produce this time of year, but do you know how to make it last? Americans toss a quarter of all produce they buy due to spoilage. Buying fresh produce is an investment in your health; don’t let it go to waste.

One of the main contributors to produce gone bad is ethylene gas. It’s naturally produced by fruits and veggies in the ripening process. Too much of this gas, however, leads to spoilage. If your produce is spoiling quickly, you may be storing foods with high levels of ethylene gas with foods that are sensitive to it.  For example, bananas produce high amounts of this gas so it’s best to keep them away from other produce.

While properly storing produce is essential for prolonging its life, there are things you can keep in mind while shopping to keep it in peak condition prior to storage. You can  go to the farmers market early to avoid buying food that has been sitting out in the hot sun all day or wait to grab produce at the end of your grocery shopping.

Once you get your produce home, here are some tips for how to store it to increase its longevity:

  • Store produce in a clean refrigerator that’s 40 F or below. Almost all produce can be refrigerated except bananas, tomatoes, lemons, limes, avocados, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, potatoes, onions, winter squash and garlic.
  • Don’t store produce in a sealed bag; it’ll speed up decay.
  • Avoid storing produce next to sources of heat, such as a stove or toaster. It will accelerate the ripening process.
  • Use special produce bags that absorb ethylene gas.
  • Store vegetables in the crisper drawer of your fridge.
  • Store produce within a couple hours of cutting or peeling it; cut produce spoils faster.
  • Store fresh herbs in a jar or vase of water. They’ll last longer and provide a decorative touch in your kitchen. You can also dry herbs to make them last longer. Loosely tie them together and hang them upside down or dry them in your oven on a low heat.
  • It turns out that one rotten apple actually can spoil the whole bunch. If an apple is rotting, toss it immediately to preserve the other apples. And did you know that storing potatoes with apples will keep them from sprouting? Potatoes and apples are a great combination whereas storing potatoes with onions will make them rot faster.

When you buy a bunch of produce for the week, plan to eat more perishable items first, such as berries, leafy greens and herbs. Once produce is getting to the end of its edible life, it’s time to get creative by throwing produce into smoothies or roasting vegetables to have on hand for salads and sandwiches.


“29 Ways to Keep Fresh Produce Fresher for Longer,” Crystal Collins, ajc.com, June 25, 2014.

“Spoiled Rotten–How to Store Fruits and Vegetables,” Vegetarian Times, vegetariantimes.com, Accessed June 17, 2015.