From the CSU Extension How to make your produce last longer

Are you tired of throwing out a quarter of the produce purchased/grown because it goes bad before we can consume it?

This does not have to be the case if your store it effectively. Temperature and location of storage makes all the difference. Stored incorrectly, it hastens ripening or creates flavor and quality issues. Here are some guidelines to know what should be refrigerated and what can be stored on the counter out of direct sun and well ventilated.

Do not wash fruits or vegetables and keep the item whole until ready for use. Sort and dispose of any item that has turned bad to prevent contaminating others. Use the items that deteriorate quicker first (berries before melon) to get the best flavor. Fruit and vegetables should never be stored together. Designate a fruit drawer and a separate drawer for vegetables in the fridge and on the counter. Produce give off a ripening agent (ethylene gas) that can cause rotting or yellowing of other produce within a couple of days. Conversely, if the produce isn’t ripe yet this can help speed ripening. Put five items into a paper bag with one ethylene producing item, close the top and check it daily.

Cold-sensitive fruits lose flavor and moisture at low temperatures. Most vegetables and fruits do best when stored at room temperature in well-ventilated area. Refrigerate only after fruit and vegetable has ripened to help slow the progression for a short time. Bananas turn black and flavor is deterred when stored in the fridge. Tomatoes and watermelons lose flavor and deep red color if stored in fridge for more than a couple of days. Sweet potatoes develop an off flavor and hard core after being refrigerated.

Some items should never be stored in the fridge and never in same area (potatoes, onion, garlic, winter squash, and sweet potatoes). They can be stored instead in a cool area, dry, dark area (40-45 degrees).

After the fruit has ripened, increased their sugar content and color, they can be stored in the fridge for one to three days to preserve a little longer. UC Davis recommends that the food needs to “breath”. Cooler temperatures slow the breathing, and air-tight bags stops all breathing. Gas releasers are apricots, apples (granny smith and Fuji do not produce as much ethylene gas). Bell peppers, grapes, all citrus, berries, cantaloupe, and honeydew will deteriorate and should be refrigerated. Avocado, bananas, stone fruits and tomatoes should not be refrigerated.

Most vegetables do best stored in separate crisper drawer. Produce bags are very effective in prolonging the life of the item.

When ready to use the item, scrub it with a vegetable brush under cool running water. This has been found to be the most effective and safest method. Soaking increased cross contamination and is not recommended. Ready to eat prewashed packaged produce should also be washed under cool running water with agitation as possible.