Vegetable Victory: How to Best Preserve Produce

You know you need vegetables and you know you need plenty of ’em. But what you can’t figure out is how to prevent your fridge full of fresh, healthy produce from turning into a vegetable drawer full of mush!

Here are some tips you can use to preserve your produce:

* When selecting produce, make every attempt to select items that are near ripening, that have no bruises or brown spots and that do not appear wilted. If you must select produce with imperfections, be sure to either eat the damaged items first or, if you intend to store them, remove any damaged parts to prevent the spread of microbes that can speed deterioration.

* Although fruits and vegetables are often lumped under the same “produce” umbrella, the reality is, they don’t really get along that well, especially when it comes to ethylene. Turns out fruits are generally ethylene producers, while vegetables are ethylene sensitive, meaning that being in the company of fruits will make them spoil even quicker. There are, however, a few exceptions to the rule. Asparagus and tomatoes, for example, are two vegetables (well, sort of) that actually produce ethylene, while watermelon is somewhat of a cross-over artist and is one fruit that is actually very ethylene sensitive. The bottom line? To prevent upsetting the applecart (get it?) its best to keep your fruits and vegetables separated at all times.

* Every fruit and vegetable has an optimum temperature that can promote ripening while also staving off deterioration. Broccoli, lettuce and mushrooms, for example, need to be stored in a refrigerator, preferably at a temperature of between 34 degrees and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Avocados, eggplants, onions, squash and other root vegetables, meanwhile, are best left at room temperature.

* Rule of thumb: Fruits should be kept in a dry environment, and therefore should not be washed prior to refrigeration. Vegetables, on the other hand, require just the opposite, with vegetables keeping the longest when stored in plastic bags or other containers that help retain moisture and thus boost freshness.

* Most vegetables will keep best when stored in the crisper drawers at the bottom of the fridge. Not only are these draws the coldest spot in the fridge – what with that whole law of physics, cold air sinks thing – but the drawers can also be set to preserve moisture. Need motivation to stock up on more produce? The crisper drawers actually work best when they are two-thirds full.

* When storing leafy green vegetables such as spinach and lettuce, it is best to wash the leaves, wrap them in paper towels and then store them in an airtight container to preserve moisture. To prevent browning due to over-moisture, replace the paper towels every other day or so.

* Too much produce? Freezing is a great option for preserving the nutrient content of fresh produce. However, in order to freeze vegetables successfully, you must first blanch them, a process whereby you partially cook them for a few minutes – either in boiling water or in a microwave – and then prepare them for freezing. For best results, blanched produce should be frozen within two hours.

Do you have any special tricks to handle an abundance of rapidly decomposing produce?

mike 1630 Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

When Do Foods Really Go Bad?

13 Simple, Timeless Kitchen Hacks

10 Great Uses for Vinegar

Baby carrots aren’t the innocent juvenile veggie you thought they were.

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6 thoughts on “Vegetable Victory: How to Best Preserve Produce”

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  1. Thanks for taking my suggestion and creating an article like this, I know a lot of people including myself will find it helpful.

  2. I found it helpful!

    I wash & dry my greens pretty carefully, picking out anything even starting to turn, & mixing them all in a big plastic container. I shake the container & flip it over everyday so the condensation doesn’t stick to just one side. If the lid has moisture when I open it I’ll wipe it off & let the lid dry. My greens usually stay in good shape until they’re gone.

    When I save half a bell pepper I put it in a small ziploc with the cut side facing up, not against the plastic, and leave the bag open in the drawer. Saves the pepper from getting those mushy edges.

    Thanks for all the tips, very useful info. =)

  3. It is our pleasure, Jerry. Thanks for the suggestion! We always love to hear from our readers what they would like to see covered at Mark’s Daily Apple. Keep ’em coming!

  4. Thanks for the article. Vegetable crops develop water requirements which are specific to their variety, maturity, and the surrounding tmospheric and soil characteristics. It’s a good idea to choose your favourite vegetables to grow and plan beds for early, middle of the season and late varieties. It is important to protect your vegetable garden from wild animals looking for a tasty treat. Intake of the unsaturated vegetable oils from canola,peanuts, olive, flax, corn, safflower and sunflower which contain unsaturated.

  5. I’ve found the best way to avoid losing having veggies expire on me is to process them as soon as possible. This doesn’t necessarily prolong their shelf life, but it makes sure my family will eat them up faster. Our salad greens are washed and stored in the salad spinner, ready to go. Carrot, broccoli, green beans, and any other veggie we eat raw is washed, peeled, and chopped, then stored in a Ziploc bag. I roast huge batches of sweet potatoes, broccoli, leeks, zucchini, beets, or whatever we get in our farm box.

    By doing this ahead of time, I turn our veggies into convenience food. We can pack a lunch or throw together an awesome salad at a moment’s notice. Even better, the kids can graze for themselves on their favorite veggie snack.

  6. Might sound nutty, but I bought these green containers at the dollar store that I seen advertised on TV, they we called “always fresh containers” and they really work.

    They keep my fruits and veggies fresh 2-3 ties longer. I think they are suppose absorb gasses that the food puts off or something like that.

    I want to buy another set but they don’t sell them anymore. I’ve seen them online, so I’ll have to order them there.