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Useful Storage Tricks For Fruits and Vegetables

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In the years gone by, most people didn’t have refrigerators or anything that came close to that modern appliance. People in poorer countries still don’t. Many people did have a ‘root cellar’, which was quite helpful, but these generally keep food cool rather than cold. Despite this, those people actually had fewer problems with spoilage of fresh produce than is common today.

Ironically, part of the problem with produce spoilage today is that almost everything is refrigerated. A lot of the knowledge about how to keep produce fresh longer has been lost over the years. This article is an attempt to change at least some of that. We’ll explore some good practices and bad practices.

Storing tomatoes

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Even if they are home-grown, people usually do the worst thing they can do to tomatoes; harvest them or buy them and then put them in the refrigerator. Tomatoes should *never* be stored in the fridge.

The reason is that refrigerators are usually set to maintain a temperature of 40 F or less. Tomato fruits are not cold tolerant. Storing them at temperatures so low causes the cell walls to freeze and burst. It also encourages the sugar in tomatoes to turn to starch. The result is bland tasting tomatoes that are mushier than they would be if they came right off the vine.

Quite a few people have remarked that homegrown tomatoes seem to taste better than store-bought. A large part of the reason is that the commercial tomatoes are kept cold for shipment and also in the storerooms of the store. This destroys flavor and texture. Sadly, people who harvest tomatoes and put them in the refrigerator are doing the same thing grocery stores do.

Store under-ripe tomatoes on a counter top and ripe ones on the counter or in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.

Onions

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Onion bulbs should never go in the refrigerator, either. A refrigerator is a damp environment and they can rot if they are refrigerated. They should be kept in a cool, dry place, out of sunlight so they aren’t encouraged to sprout and grow.

Potatoes

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Once again, nix on refrigeration. Spuds should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place. Darkness is important because light causes potatoes to try to sprout. If potatoes are kept too cold, the starch starts to turn to sugar.

Squash

Zucchinis, winter squash, and pumpkins should be stored in a dark, cool place. Don’t refrigerate them because they will go bad more quickly. It is also a good idea to wipe them down with a mild bleach or vinegar solution; 2 tablespoons bleach or 1/4 cup vinegar per gallon of water, before storage. This kills mold spores and helps to prevent them from molding. In the case of the bleach solution, be sure to rinse them well before use.

Bananas

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You guessed it, bananas should never be stored in the refrigerator. The countertop is fine for these fruits. If you have trouble with bananas becoming over-ripe too quickly, put a piece of aluminum foil over the stem end of the bananas. This slows the ripening process. If you have the opposite problem and need them to ripen faster, break the cluster of bananas apart so each fruit is separate.

Carrots

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Surprise, this is one that should be refrigerated. If you don’t use them before they become limber, you can revive them by putting them in iced water.

Mushrooms

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Mushrooms should be refrigerated, however, put them in paper bags for the refrigeration. This helps to lessen the amount of moisture that gets to the mushrooms, so the mushrooms don’t rot as quickly.

Another tip

In most cases, remove any plastic the fruits and vegetables come in. The plastic makes them ripen faster and concentrates moisture. The produce often rots because of this.

Many fruits and vegetables last longer when they are refrigerated, but not all of them do. In many cases, putting them in a refrigerator is one of the worst things you can do to them. You have little control over what was done to them before you get them unless you grow them yourself, but you can minimize the problem of storage if you acquaint yourself with the vegetables and fruits that should never go into the fridge.

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Written by Rex Trulove

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14 Comments

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  1. I got full marks from your excellent post BUT I also learnt something which could be very useful as bananas ripen at the speed of light here..so I will be wrapping that tinfoil on my hand of bananas as soon as I have finished typing. Thank you Rex.

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