We’ve all been there. You bought some lettuce, but in just a few days, it’s already gone limp. Or you got some strawberries to eat with breakfast throughout the week, but by Wednesday they’ve started to shrivel. How do you make produce last longer so you can use it before it goes bad? We’ve got a few tips to extend the life of your fruits and veggies.
- Control the humidity: We talked about this in our 5 Things You’re Doing Wrong In Your Fridge post, but it’s worth mentioning again. Make sure that you’ve got your vegetable and fruit drawers set to the correct humidity – and that you’re using them correctly. Fruit generally like low humidity, whereas vegetables generally like high humidity. If it’s something that will rot, make sure it is kept in the low humidity bin. If it’s something that will wilt, make sure it is kept in the high humidity bin.
- Use green bags: If you’ve never heard of green bags, they are bags that are specially designed to absorb ethylene gas, which fruits and vegetables give off as they ripen. You can find Debbie Meyer brand ones for a reasonable price on Amazon here.
- Don’t wash your produce until you’re ready to use it: If you have made a habit of washing your produce once you get home from the store before storing in your fridge, you need to break that habit if you want your produce to last longer. Whether your produce is organic or not, it will have a longer shelf life if it isn’t washed until it’s needed.
- Store your produce whole: If possible, don’t slice or dice your produce. Anything that has been altered won’t last as long as it’s unmarred counterpart.
- Cook or freeze your produce: As a last ditch, if something is starting to turn, either cook it up or throw it in the freezer. When cooking, don’t feel the need to incorporate your produce into a dish if you don’t know what to make; just steam, roast, or sauté it to give it an extended life until you can figure out what you’d like to do with it. Or make a quiche! If you’re freezing it, think about how you might like to use it prior to freezing. Maybe that means dicing up those peppers or slicing them into strips before popping them in the freezer so they are ready to use when you need them.
Some fruits and veggies have specific ways to extend their shelf-life:
Scallions: Keep scallions in a glass of water on the counter. Not only will this keep them fresh and crisp, but they will actually continue to grow, so you get more of them. Once you have used them, put the root ends back into water (changing every few days so it doesn’t get cloudy or murky), and they will continue to grow, producing a whole fresh bunch within a week. You can do this a few times with each bunch you get.
Lettuce: Lettuce is notorious for going limp quickly. Unless you are going to use it quickly, the best way to store it is submerged in water. For romaine, we take each leaf off, rinse it, and then put all of them in a large tupperware filled with water. Keep this in the fridge, and the lettuce leaves will stay crisp for well over a week. This method can also work to revive lettuce that has already wilted.
Carrots: also benefit from being stored in water and can be revived after going limp by submerging them in water overnight.
Spinach: Spinach has the opposite issue that lettuce does – when it gets wet, it goes bad. The trick to spinach is to keep it as dry as possible. When you first bring it home, take it out of the bag it’s in and transfer it to a large container where the leaves can have room for air to circulate around them. Place a paper towel under, in the middle of, and on top of the spinach to absorb the moisture, and replace those paper towels as they become wet.
Avocados: If you’re only planning on using half an avocado and want to reserve the other half for later, be sure to use the half without the pit first. The half you want to store for later will stay green longer with the pit left in it than if you remove it. You can also store the avocado pit-side-down in a tupperware with water. The water prevents air from turning the flesh of the avocado brown.
Guacamole: If you’ve made a nice big batch of guacamole before, you know that while it may taste just as good the next day, it certainly doesn’t look as appetizing. We have said before in our Essential Kitchen Tools post that we aren’t fans of uni-tasking tools, but we have grown to love our Guac-lock, which creates an air-tight vessel to keep guacamole in so it remains just as green as the first day you made it.
Herbs: I can’t tell you the amount of times I have been disappointed by a wilted bunch of cilantro. Herbs are pretty finicky, and even with this trick can sometimes wilt before you’d like them to. Wrap your herb bundle up in paper towels, then seal them in a plastic bag. If you don’t need them to look nice, you can also freeze them and use them straight out of the freezer.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes don’t like the fridge. If they are whole, you should keep these guys on the counter. As soon as you cut one, though, in the fridge it must go.
Potatoes: Potatoes like to be stored the way they grow – in a cool, dark place. Keep them away from light and heat sources and they should last at least a week no problem.
Hopefully these tips extend the life of your produce. Have any tricks you use that we didn’t mention here? Be sure to share in the comments below!