It's easy to fall into the trap of throwing away what was once perfectly good food. Imagine you've just done your weekly grocery shop. As you try to find room in the fridge for your new purchases, you discover a sad assortment of leftover and tired-looking fruit and vegetables, which finds itself banished to the food waste bin.
Knowing how to store your fruit and vegetables properly will save you time, money and unnecessary trips to the shops. Read on for my tips on how to store some of the most popular fruit and vegetables bought.
How to keep fruit and vegetables fresher for longer
Squash – like to be kept dry so a kitchen shelf or worktop is ideal. Butternut squash should keep for up to 3 months and the harder skinned types can last up to 12 months. Cut pieces should be refrigerated and used within a week.
Potatoes – due to their thin skins new potatoes don’t store well, so keep them in the fridge and eat within a week. Old potatoes keep well for weeks, sometimes even months in a paper bag somewhere dark and cool. They may start to sprout but provided they haven’t turned green it’s fine to remove the chits and eat them. Extensive greening is a sign of toxins and in this case they're best discarded.
Sweet potatoes – will keep for about a week at room temperature, but will last longer in a cool dark place in a paper bag. Don’t refrigerate them because it changes their flavour and texture.
Onions & shallots – as long as they are firm and not about to sprout, onions last well for several weeks anywhere cool, dry and dark. They don’t like to be in the fridge and do better with some air movement. Shallots tend to be more nutritious than most varieties of onion.
Leeks – will be fine in the bottom drawer of your fridge for a week or more. Chop off the tops if they’re too long to fit, and discard or keep the tops for making stock. Leeks lose their nutrient value quickly so are best consumed within a few days of purchase.
Aubergine / Eggplant – store whole in a plastic bag in the bottom drawer of your fridge. They are delicate and perishable so be careful not to crush them under other vegetables. Eat within a week.
Carrots – washing can damage carrots protective skin, so they are best stored as bought and somewhere cool (either fridge or kitchen cupboard). They will last for several weeks. If you buy carrots with tops (green stems) twist them off once you get them home to avoid moisture being lost. Keep the tops fresh in a glass of water, like cut flowers and use in salads or as a garnish.
Beetroot – if you buy beets with their leaves on, separate the leaves or they’ll draw up water softening the roots. The leaves will last only one to two days in a micro-perforated bag in the fridge. Store the roots in a paper bag in the fridge or somewhere cool and dark. They’ll keep for approximately a couple of weeks.
Broccoli – if you’re not going to eat your broccoli within a day or two of purchase, store it in a micro-perforated bag in your fridge and it will last about a week. Buy broccoli heads with firm not rubbery stems.
Cabbage – generally the harder the cabbage the better it will keep, so choose cabbage heads that are firm and heavy. Place cabbage in a bag in the salad drawer of your fridge. Red, green and white cabbage should last about two weeks and savoy about one week.
Kale – is best kept bagged in your fridge. It can be frozen as it comes or blanched before freezing. Curly and cavolo nero are best eaten within a week of purchase.
Greens (spinach, swiss chard, rocket and watercress) – generally speaking greens have a short shelf life. If you don’t plan to eat them within a couple of days, consider soaking and drying them as soon as you get them.
Soaking & Drying Greens
This process takes about ten minutes but results in greens that last days longer than they would normally.
To do this submerge the greens in a bowl of cold water and soak for two to three minutes, swirling occasionally, to dislodge dirt, debris and bugs.
Lift the leaves out of the water into a strainer and then throw the water away. If you then put the leaves back into the strainer you will be covering them in debris – so don’t do this.
Repeat the soaking process two to three times until the water is clear. The cold water increases the greens internal moisture and slows the ageing process of the leaves, prolonging freshness.
Dry with a salad spinner or towel to remove as much water as possible. Storing wet greens results in faster decay. Line your storage bag or box with sheets of kitchen paper to absorb the remaining water if they’re not completely dry.
Store in your fridge’s salad drawer.
Cucumber – contrary to what you might think, cucumbers are best stored at room temperature. Fridges turn them watery and speed their demise. They’ll last a week or so but are best eaten as soon as possible.
Avocado – should be stored on the kitchen worktop and consumed within a day or two when ripe. You can put a ripe avocado into the fridge to slow decay. Cut avocados brown quickly. To slow browning, always store the half with the pit.
Tomatoes – for their best flavour, keep them at room temperature in a ventilated plastic box or the cardboard container they come in. Tomatoes will last on a worktop for up to a week depending on how ripe they were on purchase. During the summer if you want to extend their shelf life put them in the fridge, but return them to room temperature 30 minutes before eating.
Bananas – store on the worktop if unripe but refrigerate if you want to slow spoiling of ripe bananas. Don’t refrigerate unripe bananas as they won’t ripen properly. If you’re not going to eat them within a day or two, it’s best to chop them up and freeze them to use in smoothies or desserts.
Apples - keep best if you store them in the salad drawer of your fridge. Apples that are harvested in the summer can be stored for one to two weeks. Autumn apples can be stored for a month or more.
Pears – store unripe pears on your worktop and consume soon after they ripen. To preserve ripe pears longer, refrigerate them to last a few extra days.
Grapes - chill grapes as soon as you can to slow their rate of decay and preserve their flavour and nutrient content. Place them in a micro-perforated bag or permeable bag with tiny holes and store them in the salad drawer
Lemons & Limes – will last at room temperature for about a week. They’ll keep an additional week in the fridge. If you’re not going to use them within that timeframe, squeeze the juice, or slice them and freeze. Make sure you add a layer of greaseproof paper between each layer of citrus slices when freezing.
In My Top Anti-Viral & Immune Boosting Foods Plus Nutrients blog post, I recommend eating at least 10 or more varieties of fruit and vegetables per day.
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