8 Neat Tricks to Keep Fruits and Veggies Fresh
Nothing ruins your appetite faster than opening the crisper-drawer and finding a crime-scene. Save money and heartache with these 8 simple tips for protecting your produce until you’re ready to eat it.
- Learn to Love Lemons. Because of their high acidity, lemons have natural anti-bacterial properties, which also makes them great for stopping the hungry little microbes responsible for rotting fruits and veggies. So the next time you slice up some produce to cook or store in the fridge, rub a little lemon juice on it to keep it from browning.
- Wait to Start Slicing. The instant you cut fruits and veggies open, you expose them to the air, and an invisible clock starts counting down. For the freshest possible flavor, wait to slice your fruits or veggies until just before you’re ready to eat them. And if you’re cooking, resist the urge to chop all your ingredients at the very beginning—wait until that ingredient is called for in the recipe. If you can’t do that, submerge your sliced produce in a pot of cool water until you’re ready to use it.
- Don’t Refrigerate Your Tomatoes. There’s a delicate balance to storing tomatoes. The colder they’re kept, the longer they’ll last—but the longer they’re chilled, the weaker their taste. For the best possible flavor, buy your tomatoes slightly unripened, store them at room temperature, and use them as soon as possible.
- Keep Leafy Greens Dry. All living things need water to survive, and the same is true of bacteria. That’s why we keep baking soda in the fridge: to prevent moisture from inviting food-spoiling microbes to come hang out. When it comes to storing leafy vegetables like lettuce and chard, moisture is the silent killer: the more they’re exposed to, the faster they’ll rot. So before putting your leafy greens in the fridge, get them as dry as possible, then wrap them in a paper towel, to prevent moisture from condensing on the surface.
- Store Fruits and Veggies Separately. One bad apple can spoil the bunch—literally. Many kinds of produce, as they rot, give off ethylene gas, a hormone that plant-cells use to communicate with one another when it’s time to ripen. But fruits generally produce more ethylene than veggies, which are highly-sensitive to it. The result is that spoiling fruit can actually make produce spoil even faster. So remember: your fridge has two crisper drawers for a reason. Use them.
- Go Bananas. Bananas are a major producer of ethylene, which also makes them a handy tool. If you have other fruit you’d like to ripen more quickly, stick it in a paper bag, and throw an apple or banana in with it.
- Treat Herbs Like Delicate Flowers. Think about the things you do when you bring home flowers: you trim them and put them in water, so they stay alive longer. The same logic works for fresh herbs. For the freshest flavor, trim your herbs, put them in a vase, cover it with a plastic bag, and stick it in the fridge. Just be sure to change the water once a day.
- Grill Your Leftovers. If you’ve got rapidly-ripening produce sitting in your fridge and no idea what to do with it, fire up the grill. It not only extends the shelf-life of your produce (cooked veggies can be kept for 3–7 days in the fridge) but it also makes a seriously tasty side with a shockingly intense flavor, thanks to the caramelizing effect heat has on natural sugars. And if you need some sizzling seasonal recipes, check out the new summer issue of Savory Magazine, available in stores or online now.