Keeping Fruits and Veggies Fresh

Katie and her horseThis is a guest blog by Katie Krebs

Katie is a pediatric Registered Dietitian with CentraCare, working with children and their parents in both a hospital and clinic setting.  Her passion for nutrition and health extends into her life outside of work. Katie enjoys active hobbies such as swimming or paddle boarding at the lake, riding horse, playing volleyball, camping, and outdoor adventures when traveling. She also enjoys cooking and trying new foods or recipes. She lives with her husband on a small hobby farm which is home to egg-laying chickens, horses, and a cat.

Every time I go to the grocery store, I find another great deal on fresh produce. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are in abundance and less expensive during these beautiful summer months. However, purchasing more fresh produce can also result in throwing away more food when it spoils. Here are some tips to keep your produce fresh and avoid wasting food and money.

When to refrigerate

Certain fruits and vegetables can actually decrease in quality of flavor and texture when placed in the fridge. Others need to ripen on the counter first, then can be refrigerated. Here is a quick guide of which fruits and vegetables should be stored where. Sliced fruits and vegetables should always go straight to the fridge.

table of fruits and vegetables and how to store them

*Can be placed in the refrigerator for short period of time (up to 3 days). Use quickly after removing from fridge. Table adapted from University of California, Davis Postharvest Technology Center

Refrigerator storage tips

Some fruits produce higher amounts of ethylene gas which causes ripening, especially apples, stone fruits, pears, peaches, bananas, cantaloupe, and mangoes. Most vegetables are sensitive to ethylene so should be stored away from the ethylene producing fruits. Keep veggies in a crisper drawer with high humidity. Be sure not to overfill your fridge drawers as tightly packed produce spoils more quickly. Fruits and vegetables should also be stored in a perforated plastic bag, providing some moisture. Non-perforated plastic bags can cause too much humidity, speeding up bacteria and mold growth. Snip the stems of herbs and asparagus and place them upright in a cup of water, like flowers in a vase. The top of the herbs can then be covered loosely with a plastic bag or moist paper towel.

Counter Top Storage

Keep produce away from direct sunlight. A bowl is a great place to store fresh fruit and offers a great snack to anyone walking by! Tomatoes are sensitive to cold, losing their firmness and flavor at temperatures below 40 ◦F, so should be stored on the counter. Vegetables such as garlic, onions, and potatoes do best in a cool space such as a basement. They should be well ventilated which could be achieved by hanging them in a perforated bag to allow air flow.

Plan ahead

Some fruits and vegetables will ripen quickly regardless of how they are stored. Spend a little time Sunday evening writing down potential meals for the week, including the fruits and vegetables you currently have on hand or would like to purchase. This will save time when trying to think of meal ideas and help avoid tossing rotten produce.

Utilize freezer space

Keep fruits and vegetables longer by storing extras in the freezer. Frozen fruits are great in smoothies, sauces, or desserts. Frozen vegetables can be cooked and added to a wide variety of dishes. I like to toss a bag full of them into pasta or rice while they are cooking to add nutrition, flavor, and color to any meal (without adding any more dishes to wash!)

Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to improve your family’s health and nutrition. Use these tips to make the most of your food dollars!

Enjoy your fresh fruits and veggies!
Katie Krebs RD, LD
Pediatric Dietitian
Centracare Health: St Cloud Hospital – Health Plaza