We’re real sticklers for avoiding food waste wherever we can. For ethical and financial reasons, there’s nothing worse than clearing perfectly usable food from a fridge!
The fact is though a phenomenal amount of fresh fruit and vegetables still finds its way to landfill due to waste every year.
What can you do to minimize that waste in your own kitchen though?
In this article we’ll explain how to store fruit and vegetables the right way, so you can plan out your meals properly, and get more from your leftovers too.
With these tips in mind you’ll find more of that food making its way into your household’s stomachs – and less into landfill.
How the ripening process works
Before we move onto the storage details, it’s important to understand what happens as fruit and vegetables ripen.
As each item ages, it produces more and more of a compound called ethylene. Fruit produces this stuff much more quickly than vegetables, however.
For that reason, it’s important to store these items separately (unless you want to ripen something faster – more on this towards the end).
Where should I store specific foods?
We have a tendency to think that all the food we want to preserve should go into the refrigerator. Not everything needs to be put into cold storage to maintain its freshness though.
Some produce is perfectly fine to store at room temperature, all of the time. Other items need to be left at room temperature until they ripen, at which point they should be moved into the refrigerator
Here are some of the most common fruit and vegetables, and how they should be stored in each case.
These items can be left in regular storage at room temperature.
- Garlic *
- Green beans
- Onions *
(* A quick note here. It’s always worth storing items like onion and garlic far away from other items. Anything that’s too pungent will naturally spread its aromas around!)
Ripen Before Refrigeration
These items are much-improved if you leave them out at room temperature to ripen, before placing them in the refrigerator to preserve their freshness:
The following items will stay fresh for longer if you place them in the refrigerator as soon as you get them home from the shops.
- Brussels sprouts
What about sliced fruit and veg?
Once you’ve peeled or sliced your fruit and veg, you’re on a bit of a ticking clock.
Most leftover produce – or ingredients you’ve prepared in advance – will be perfectly fine for around five days, just as long as you store them correctly.
To do that, first of all make sure you place the prepared produce in a truly airtight container once the skin has been removed.
That sealed container should then be placed in the refrigerator.
Take what you need, when you need it, then ensure you’ve sealed it back up again when it’s returned.
(Consider labelling your containers as well, so you can track the date the contents were first prepared.)
There are a few fruits that really don’t work well with this approach, however, and no matter how much care you take with them.
Apples, pears and bananas in particular have a tendency to go brown quite quickly after peeling.
Even if you store them in an appropriate container in the fridge, they really won’t last as long as other fruit and vegetables.
It’s much better to store these items according to the guidelines further up the page, and use them as and when they’re needed.
How to ripen food faster
Some of the produce listed in this guide require ripening before you place them in the refrigerator.
If you want to speed that process up, there’s a tried and tested method that works really well.
The secret comes from the ethylene production detailed at the start of this guide. By placing an apple or banana in a paper bag with the item you want to ripen, you’ll speed that process up.
Remember though that the more delicate the aroma and flavor of your “target” produce, the more it will be impacted by the presence of these more pungent ethylene-incubators!