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Wow, it's been four months since we've run an article in our "Produce Buying Tips" series! Well, in today's installment, we want to remind you that our tips don't stop at the grocery store; you want to make sure you store your produce properly once it is at home to keep it fresh for as long as possible. After all, what good is your amazing organic produce going to do you if it goes bad? (That would be some super-expensive compost!)

Since Wendi has a difficult time right now with many motions involving her shoulders and wrists, I've taken over the responsibility of putting our groceries into the refrigerator. (I'm usually the "carry it all into the house" person, and then she likes to put away the refrigerated stuff.) But, wow, who knew so much went into storing vegetables and fruits I had no idea some things required air circulation, while others needed to be kept in sealed bags. Over the years, Wendi has fine tuned a system for keeping our fridge produce as fresh as possible and for maximizing storage time.

Someday we'll likely do a video showing how we store our fresh produce, describing the different methods of keeping things as fresh as possible. For now, here are some tips that I've learned from her that may be helpful to others as well. This list is likely incomplete, since I'm not actively putting things away right now and it's tough to recall everything I've learned so far.

  • Plastic bags used to store vegetables in the refrigerator need to be thick, not overly thin. Our food co-op has thick plastic bags, but most other grocery stores use very thin plastic. The thicker the plastic, the longer the storage time you'll get for your produce. So, if you have a choice of what bag to use in your store, opt for the thicker ones (and also get the larger sizes, as they're more versatile once you get home).

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  • Most produce is misted regularly in the store and, while this helps it stay fresh out in an airy retail environment, it's not great for enclosed refrigeration. The mist on lettuce (which is usually very wet when purchased) will ?condense in the plasic bag on the way home. You should drain this extra water from the plastic storage bag before placing in your fridge. Also, for best shelf life, it should be stored standing upright in the bag, which is then tied closed at the top with a lot of air trapped inside. So, place it in the refrigerator so that the lettuce is standing up, not lying down.

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  • Cucumbers should never be stored in plastic bags. They need to be stacked together with air circulating around them.

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  • Sweet peppers should be in a plastic bag, but the bag should be open at the top. If they are placed in the fridge without a bag, they will begin to get wrinkled. If they are placed inside a closed up bag, they will develop mold more quickly. They need to be slightly protected, but not completely closed off so that moisture is trapped.

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  • Fruits should be kept separate from veggies, as much as possible. Some fruits will cause other fruits and veggies to ripen at a faster rate, which is not always desirable.

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  • Herbs should be stored in a similar way to the lettuce. We keep ours in the fridge door so that the herbs don't get crushed by other vegetables. Keep in mind that many herbs are easily bruised, and will brown if not protected. So, keep them standing up so they stay fresh longer.

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  • Vegetables that stay fresh for a long time (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, beets, turnips, etc.) can be stored in the back of the refrigerator with more perishable items in front. This way you'll use the perishable items more quickly and don't have to worry that something is lost in the back of the refrigerator that will go bad.

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  • If you store fruits in the refrigerator, oranges should not be placed in plastic bags. Moisture will build up and you'll have a mold problem. Apples should only be stored in bags if you are going to eat them quickly. Otherwise, leave them loose so that there is air circulating around them.

There are many storage tips, so if you have specific questions let me know. Maybe it's something that Wendi has figured out already. She seriously has a gift for storing produce in a way that maintains freshness for as long as possible!

Original Comments

Below, we have included the original comments from this blog post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On September 30, 2009, Joanna_Steven wrote:

I use those Ziploc produce bags to keep greens fresher longer, and I hang oranges in net bags in the basement. I keep veggies in one drawer, and fruits in another in the fridge. I put greens in those Ziploc bags, but I regularly re-wash and spin them dry if I have many of them (one wilted one will soon destroy the whole batch -- I take those out as soon as I notice them). I keep my hemp seeds (and all nuts/seeds) in a chest freezer in the basement. I fill those little Artisana jars with hemp seeds and put them in the fridge (2-3 at a time so I don't have to open the buckets all the time).

On September 30, 2009, auroraruth wrote:

I use a lot of cilantro in my smoothies, but it is very perishable. I wash it well and pat it partially dry with a towel, then spread it out between two dry dishtowels and roll it up; I put the roll in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. I can usually keep it a week or so that way (if I haven't eaten it sooner). I look through it every couple days to take out the yellowing leaves. I use at least two bunches every week.

On October 2, 2009, Arrishannah wrote:

Hydrogen peroxyde in your washing water make veggies and other last WAY WAY longer!