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A woman storing fruits and vegetables in plastic containers.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala — Fruits and vegetables are essential for a healthy lifestyle. However, sometimes it seems that produce goes bad before it can be eaten. A few simple steps to store fruits and veggies may help stretch those healthy items a bit longer for the family to enjoy.

“Enjoy those fruits and vegetables by remembering a few food safety tips such as wash hands before preparing or eating fresh produce, wash produce under cool running water, refrigerate produce after two hours of cutting, peeling or cooking them and use a refrigerator thermometer to check that the refrigerator temperature is 40 degrees F or below,” said Alice Moore, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System food safety and quality regional agent.

Storing Vegetables

Correct storage of vegetables after purchased from the grocery store, farmers market or picked from a home garden goes a long way in determining how long they can be consumed. Some vegetables need to go in the refrigerator to maintain the longest shelf-life. Others can remain on the countertop with no problems.

Refrigerated Vegetables

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Cabbages
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Collard Greens
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants
  • Green Beans
  • Green Onions
  • Herbs
  • Leafy Greens
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
  • Peppers
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash

Countertop Vegetables

  • Avocados
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Winter Squash

It is also vital to remember once vegetables are washed or sliced as part of a meal or snack, they must be put in the refrigerator. A tip for storing vegetables is to put them in clear containers so they’ll be easy to spot.

Storing Fruits

Fruits are a perfect snack when looking for something to munch on between meals or as a light side. However, just like vegetables, proper storage extends the life of fruit and keeps them tasting delicious. Some fruits can stay on the countertop, and others should be stored in the refrigerator. Like vegetables, fruits must go in the refrigerator if washed or cut.

Refrigerated Fruits

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Kiwis
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Countertop Fruits

  • Bananas
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Mangos
  • Melons
  • Peaches
  • Pineapples
  • Plums (to ripen)
  • Pomegranates
  • Watermelons

Space Needed

Some fruits and vegetables give off a gas called ethylene. This gas makes ethylene-sensitive fruits and vegetables ripen faster and spoil quicker. Storing those foods away from each other can make them last longer.

Ethylene-Making Fruits and Vegetables

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Nectarines
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Tomatoes

Ethylene-Sensitive Fruits and Vegetables

  • Apples
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants
  • Grapes
  • Honeydew
  • Kiwi
  • Lemons
  • Lettuce
  • Limes
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Squash
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Watermelon

Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

Freezing fruits and vegetables is another reliable way to ensure a long shelf life for produce. Buying produce in season when the price is lower and then freezing it to get the best value is a good option, but a few tips are helpful when doing so.

  • Berries and grapes are some of the easiest fruits to freeze and are best frozen whole.
  • Apples and pears freeze best when they are first turned into a sauce or filling.
  • Peaches, bananas and pineapple freeze well, but they are easier to peel, chop or mash before freezing.
  • Onions, green peppers, peas, squash, broccoli and carrots can be frozen. Rinse, chop and put in storage containers or freezer bags.
  • Greens like kale, chard and collard greens need to be blanched, cooled and dried on paper towels before freezing.
  • Corn and cauliflower can be blanched and frozen.
  • Potatoes can be frozen if peeled and chopped first.
  • Many vegetables can be added to sauces, soups or casseroles before freezing.

“It’s estimated that between 30 and 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted, so in addition to these food storage tips, another tip is to only buy as much as you think you’ll need,” said Sofia Sanchez, Extension specialist and registered dietitian.

More Information

For more tips on storing fruit and vegetables or additional nutrition tips, visit www.LiveWellAlabama.com or find Live Well Alabama on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

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