Simple Rules for Storing Fruits and Vegetables
When you've returned home after selecting the season's finest bounty there's no point keeping it in sub-optimal conditions only to throw it into a fridge-clearing soup or even worse, the bin. Follow a few simple rules, keep that produce in tip-top condition and enjoy crispy carrots and springy silverbeet all week.
The key to storing produce is learning about ethylene. It's the hormone emitted by produce as it ripens. Ripe apples and bananas are massive ethylene emitters which is why you put them in a paper bag with produce you want to ripen. However, some produce, like leafy greens and asparagus, are more sensitive to ethylene and will deteriorate quickly if stored nearby. Last year Choice released a handy chart covering the ethylene emission and ethylene sensitivity of a variety of fruit and veg and having this stuck on the fridge will save you a lot of spoiled food.
Always store fruit and vegetables separately. Fruit emits much more ethylene than vegetables and
vegetables are much more sensitive to ethylene than fruit, so, always store fruit and vegetables in separate drawers. Otherwise you'll understand why they say 'one bad apple will spoil the whole barrel'.
Divide all fruit and veg into those that like the cold and those that don't.
Out of the fridge
If a fruit grew in the tropics then you can happily assume it won't like the cold. Bananas, pineapples, mangoes, melons, lychees, pomegranates, coconuts, mangosteen, guava and papaya prefer the fruit bowl. Watermelon, however, prefers to be alone, it's highly sensitive to ethylene and will deteriorate much faster in company. Grapes are similarly sensitive.
In the fridge
Fruits which prefer the cold or will last a decent time if kept in the fridge include apples, pears, berries, grapes and oranges. Strangely, although you can freeze every other variety of orange, if you freeze a navel orange it will turn bitter.
Then there are those that like the best of both worlds. Avocados can be tricky but your best bet, if you find a bargain and want to buy in bulk, is to leave them on the bench until almost ripe then stash them in the fridge and bring them out for a day's ripening as you need them.
Stone fruits are a particular lot and if you refrigerate them before they are ripe they will turn mealy and lose flavour. However, once they are ripe you can keep them in the crisper for a couple of days. Just remember to always bring fruit to room temperature for eating so you get the best flavour.
Out of the fridge
Potatoes store best in dirt, it's a natural preservative, instead of digging storage mounds outside like it's the olden days just be happy to buy unwashed potatoes and store them dirty somewhere very dark. Onions like somewhere dark with good air circulation, whole pumpkins and sweet potatoes are also best stored this way.
In the fridge
All the hardy greens like silverbeet and kale like a bit of humidity to keep them fresh and love to be wrapped in a damp cloth in the crisper. Delicate greens like lettuce and rocket, however, will turn to mush at the first sign of water, make sure these ones are stored wrapped in a dry cloth in the fridge. Although root veg look pretty with their green leaves make sure you remove the tops, otherwise the leaves will continue to grow causing the root to soften and lose flavour.
Herbs divide into three main groups. In the first are the ones who hate water, these are usually the ones that grow in dry soil. Think thyme and rosemary, they will go mouldy when damp. In the second are the ones who hate the cold and love being on the bench in a glass of water, summery herbs like basil and mint. Then there are the rest who like to be damp so are best wrapped in damp paper or a damp tea towel and put in the fridge, parsley, oregano, chives and coriander fall into this category. You can also put them in a glass of water in the fridge covered with a plastic bag but changing the water everyday can be a drag.
When you've forgotten to unpack the shopping
A tip that will save you money is that many veg will come back to life if left in a bowl of very cold water for a while. It's exciting to watch the saddest silverbeet and salad mix saved and floppy carrots re-crisp overnight. Storing carrots in water will keep them crisp a long time and prepped carrots, celery and capsicums kept in a container of water won't dry out and bend, they'll be lunchbox-ready all week.