Produce Storage: Tips to Preserve Fruits & Veggies
It’s often been said that in the days before mass commercial farming, humans were a great deal healthier than we are now. Many of us were able to go right into our backyard to gather fruits and vegetables for our meals, which meant there was hardly any lag between the time they were picked and the time they finally landed on your taste buds. But because of transpiration and respiration, fruits and vegetables begin losing their nutrients as soon as they are picked, meaning that the longer it takes for them to finally end up on your table, the less nutrients they actually have.
As a vegetarian, it’s very important that you store your fruits and vegetables correctly, as the majority of your nutrients come from them. So, we’ve done some digging into produce storage, and here’s what we’ve found out:
The general rule seems to be that you should your freshly cut fruits and vegetables within two to three days, and vegetables within four to five days. But honestly, different fruits and vegetables have different nutrients in them, and these nutrients don’t respond the same way to the environment they are stored in. For example, both spinach and carrots are prized for their carotenoid content, are best stored at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, spinach only stays good for 10-14 days, whereas mature carrots can retain their nutritional value as long as 5 months. Quite a difference!
So, how should you store your fruits and veggies, then? Well, as a general rule, fruit and vegetable storage is broken down into four categories:
1. Fruits and vegetables which require cold and moist conditions:
Those apples you keep in your fruit basket on the kitchen table? Toss ‘em in the fridge. Other produce that fall in the same area include, asparagus, beets, grapes, parsnips, radishes, potatoes and leeks.
2. Fruits and vegetables which require cool and moist conditions:
A lot of produce picked off the vine fall into this category, such as watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes and cucumbers. Eggplant, beans and sweet peppers also fall into this category
3. Fruits and vegetables which require cold and dry conditions:
This includes bulbs such as garlic and onions.
4. Fruits and vegetables which contain warm and dry conditions:
These include hot peppers, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and (ironically) winter squash.
Humidity is also a factor that should be considered. For example, though sweet potatoes and hot peppers fall in the same category, their recommended relative humidity differs by a whopping 20%. A more comprehensive guide, provided by Cornell University, can be downloaded here. If there is a fruit or vegetable you can’t find, you can also check this guide here.
Proper produce storage makes a huge difference in how our food tastes. In today’s world, where days, even weeks pass between the time produce is harvested and the time you pick it up at the grocery store, it can be tough to judge just how much nutritional value a fruit or veggie has by the time you actually eat it. For this, farmer’s markets or local farms can serve as a good alternative.
Was this post helpful? What produce storage methods do you use? Tell us in the comments below!