You shop at the farmers market and return armed with a bounty of fresh produce. Put it all in the fridge and move onto the rest of the day’s business. But you might be surprised to come home and find some of your new purchases shriveled or wilted even before dinner that night.
Some fruits and vegetables actually do better at room temperature than in the cold for preservation, flavor and nutritional benefits.
There are some general rules of thumb to follow when it comes to storing produce, like these from The Washington Post:
Fruits and vegetables are like oil and water. They don’t mix well, so try to keep them separate. Why? Many fruits produce ethylene gas, which acts like a ripening hormone and can promote spoilage.
Vegetables need to breathe. Poke holes in the plastic bags you store them in, or keep them in reusable mesh bags. An airtight plastic bag is actually the worst choice for storing vegetables, as they need circulation to prevent spoilage. And keep them loose. Veggies don’t like crowds.
Don’t clean produce until you’re ready to use it. Washing fruits or vegetables before storing them makes them more likely to spoil, because dampness encourages bacteria growth. The exception is lettuce, which we’ll talk about later.
I have a food storage chart on my fridge that I refer to when in doubt. Here are tips for some of the most common stumpers:
Fruits: Apples, berries, apricots, cherries and figs.
If you’re finding apples at the market now, they are from last year’s harvest. Cold storage is a solid tool for preserving the integrity of the fruit. While I try to eat only what’s in season, I do use apples in my fresh juices. Keep yours in the chiller, too.
Put your fresh berries in a glass container lined with a dry paper towel. Wash only when ready to use.
Veggies: Artichokes, asparagus, green beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots (trim off tops, which can cause carrots to go limp), cauliflower, celery (some people wrap it in foil), green onions, herbs, leafy greens, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms (in paper bag), peas, radishes, summer squash (zucchini) and corn (in the husk).
— Ripen on the counter and then refrigerate:
Avocados (I have saved many batches of guacamole by doing this. Or cut them up and freeze. Great in smoothies), citrus, pears and plums
— Room temperature only:
Bananas, cucumbers (this one still surprises me. They actually hate the cold and will spoil faster. Cucumbers are sensitive to ethylene gas, so keep them away from bananas, melons and tomatoes), mangoes, melons, persimmons, pineapple (these could actually go in the “once ripe” category, too. Or chop and freeze), pomegranates, eggplant, peppers, ginger (I refrigerate mine if I don’t use within a week) and winter squash.
For potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic and onions: Keep away from light. I store mine in a drawer. But separate onions and garlic from potatoes as they have a tendency to sprout.
Tomatoes get mealy and tasteless once chilled. The exception is after one is cut you can put flesh side down on a small plate and refrigerate short term.
Baked Zucchini Fries
It’s zucchini time! This is a hit with all ages and one of many ways to use this prolific vegetable.
Extra-virgin olive oil spray
4 medium zucchini
1 cup dry bread crumbs or almond meal
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese (omit to make these dairy-free)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground paprika (sometimes I use smoked)
1/8 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. sea salt
2 large farm-fresh eggs
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and brush parchment with olive oil.
To cut your zucchini into fries, cut each zucchini in half crosswise. Cut each half lengthwise into halves or in thirds, and each one of those pieces into 4 sticks or into 1/2-inch wide sticks.
In a shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, red pepper and salt. In a separate shallow dish, beat eggs very well.
One by one, dip each zucchini stick into the egg mixture, then into the breadcrumb mixture. Shake to remove any excess and place on the baking sheet.
Once all are coated with breadcrumb mixture and on the prepared baking sheet, spray with olive oil.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, flipping over halfway to ensure browning on both sides. Serve plain or with marinara sauce or ranch dressing.