Saving

Pantry, Counter, Fridge? Where To Store Produce For Maximum Shelf Life

photo: edmittance

No matter how good a deal you got on those in-season blueberries, tomatoes or basil, it’s money wasted if some of that produce goes bad before it makes it to the table.

It’s an all too common budget dent. Americans throw out roughly 14% of what they buy, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Worse, that figure is before factoring in the leftover food you scrape from your plate.

Knowing how long fresh fruits and vegetables last and where to store them for maximum shelf life leads to better deals. You can make smarter decisions about how much to buy of a particular food, and use more (if not all) of it before it goes bad. (That’s not to say you can’t keep peppers on the counter or oranges in the fridge, of course – just that if you opt to keep something in less than ideal storage conditions, you might need to eat it a few days sooner.)

The solution: Our handy storage guide below, compiled from chefs’ experience, as well as research by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, MealsMatter.org, Self magazine and the Food Marketing Institute. (Got your own tips to extend the shelf life of fruits and veggies? Post them in the comments.)

Apples

Store on the counter. Move any uneaten apples to the refrigerator after seven days. In the fridge or out, don’t store near most other uncovered fruits or vegetables — the ethylene gases produced by apples can ruin them (making carrots bitter, for example). The exception: if you want to ripen plums, pears and other fruits quickly, put an apple nearby for a day or so.

Artichoke

Refrigerate whole for up to two weeks.

Asparagus

Store upright in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with either an inch of water or with a damp towel wrapped around the base, just like you would have flowers in a vase. They’ll last three to four days that way.

Avocados

Ripen on the counter. Can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days once ripe.

Bananas

Store on the counter. Refrigerate only when ripe — they’ll last for another two days or so.

Beets

Remove green tops an inch or two above the crown. Refrigerate beets in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss, which leads to wilting. (They’ll last seven to 10 days.) Refrigerate greens separately, also in a plastic bag.

Berries

Grower Driscoll’s recommends refrigerating berries, unwashed and in their original container. Blueberries and strawberries should keep for five to seven days; more fragile raspberries and blackberries up to two days.

Broccoli

Refrigerate in a sealed plastic bag. It’ll keep for three to five days.

Carrots

Refrigerate in a sealed plastic bag for up to three weeks.

Cauliflower

Refrigerate, stem side down, in a sealed plastic bag. It’ll last three to five days.

Celery

Refrigerate one to two weeks in a sealed bag. Keep in the front of the refrigerator, where it’s less apt to freeze.

Citrus fruits

Store oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit on the counter. They can last up to two weeks.

Corn

Refrigerate ears still in the husk. They’ll last up to two days.

Cucumbers

Refrigerate, either in the crisper or in a plastic bag elsewhere in the fridge. They’ll last four to five days.

Garlic

Store in the pantry, or any similar location away from heat and light. It’ll last up to four months.

Green beans

Refrigerate in a plastic bag for three to four days.

Green onions

Refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Herbs

Fresh herbs can last seven to 10 days in the refrigerator. “When I use fresh herbs and store them in my refrigerator at home, I keep them in air-tight containers with a damp paper towel on the top and bottom,” says Raymond Southern, the executive chef at The Back Bay Hotel in Boston. “This keeps them fresh.”

Leafy greens

Refrigerate unwashed. Full heads will last five to seven days that way, instead of three to four days for a thoroughly drained one. Avoid storing in the same drawer as apples, pears or bananas, which release ethylene gases that act as a natural ripening agent.

Mushrooms

Take out of the package and store in a paper bag in the refrigerator, or place on a tray and cover with a wet paper towel. They’ll last two to three days.

Onions

Stored in the pantry, away from light and heat, they’ll last three to four weeks.

Peaches

Ripen on the counter in a paper bag punched with holes, away from sunlight. Keep peaches (as well as plums and nectarines) on the counter until ripe, and then refrigerate. They’ll last another three to four days.

Pears

Store on the counter, ideally, in a bowl with bananas and apples, and then refrigerate after ripening. They’ll last another three to four days.

Peas

Refrigerated in a plastic bag perforated with holes, they’ll last three to five days.

Peppers

Refrigerated, they’ll last four to five days.

Potatoes

Store them in the pantry away from sunlight and heat, and they’ll last two to three months.

Radishes

Refrigerate. They’ll last 10 to 14 days.

Summer squash

Refrigerate in a perforated plastic bag. They’ll last four to five days.

Tomatoes

Spread them out on the counter out of direct sunlight for even ripening. After ripening, store stem side down in the refrigerator and they’ll last two to three days.

Tropical fruit

Mangoes, papayas, pineapples and kiwifruit should be ripened on the counter. Kat Bretcher of Cottonwood, Ariz., ripens mangos in a paper bag in a cool place, and then refrigerates them for another two to five days.

Watermelon

Kept at room temperature on the counter, it’ll last up to two weeks, Bretcher says.

Winter squashes

Store on the counter for up to two weeks.

Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.