There’s no denying that refrigerators are one of the best household innovations - a perfect haven to store leftovers and keep seasonal bounties farm-fresh. But not every produce responds equally to refrigeration; some may need extra care and prepping before popping them in the fridge.
Home-grown or store-bought, in this article, we’ll share time-tested hacks for storing veggies in the fridge to keep them flavorful and nutrition-packed.
A Clever Little Invention Called Crisper
Fruits and vegetables last longest if they’re stored in the fridge’s crisper drawer. What is a crisper? It’s a plastic storage bin typically located at the bottom section of a refrigerator, equipped with its own set of humidity sliders and air vents. As you’ll find out later in this article, some veggies hold up better in high moisture conditions. A crisper drawer allows you to toggle humidity levels to create a perfect storage environment, depending on the type of produce.
Be Wary of Ethylene Gas
Some fruits and vegetables like apples, bananas, avocados, pears, peppers, and tomatoes release ethylene gas during different stages of their ripening. While it’s good to speed up the ripening, over-exposure to this gas causes not-so-savory side effects in some produce. For instance, eggplants develop brown spots, carrots become bitter, and broccolis turn yellow. It’s a good idea to keep the ethylene off-gassing produce away from those sensitive to it.
How to Store Different Types of Veggies in the Fridge for Maximum Freshness
In order to prolong freshness, the temperature in your refrigerator should typically hover in the range of 33 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That said, different vegetables require different types of storage - there are some that should never be refrigerated, while others should make their way into your fridge’s crisper drawer ASAP. Some varieties need to be prepped a little to retain maximum freshness during their stay in the fridge.
Let’s take a quick look at different produce and the storage conditions they need to stay their best.
Storing lettuce is a tricky affair, and here are a few things you must keep in mind. For starters, don’t wash lettuce unless you’re planning on eating them right away, as too much moisture can speed up rotting. On the other hand, the drying conditions of a refrigerator can cause it to wilt. So grab some mesh produce bags, preferably made of cotton. Even better if it’s organic. The airy design of organic cotton mesh bags keeps molds and wilts at bay.
We recommend slightly dampening the bags to keep the lettuce heads from drying out in the crisper. Since lettuce is very sensitive to ethylene gas, store it away from produce like pears, apples, and tomatoes.
2. Kale and Other Leafy Greens
The first step to keeping your leafy greens (think kale, collard, bok choy, and spinach) fresh is to sort and remove the slimy, brown, mushy ones. Now, remember to hold off on washing them unless you’re ready to eat them. You could store them like lettuce or inside a container sealed with a cotton flour sack towel. Another trick to keep them crispy is to wrap them in paper towels or damp kitchen towels to soak up any extra moisture and put them back into any resealable bag. This way, they’ll stay good for a week or two.
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Fight the temptation to wash your store-bought cucumbers unless absolutely necessary. However, if you’ve picked them off a stall at your local farmers market and they’re caked with dirt, holding off on rinsing might not be an option. Once washed, dry them properly and wrap them in a tea towel before placing them on a higher shelf in the fridge - not the crisper. Also, make sure to keep them away from ethylene gas-producing fruits and veggies. They will keep for up to five days when stored this way.
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4. Bell Peppers
When stored correctly, bell peppers can stay fresh in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks. But let’s go back a step to when you’re selecting them at the grocery store. Here, you might want to pick ones that are firm with smooth skin and a green stem. Steer clear of peppers that have black spots or are wrinkled. Don’t wash them till you’re ready to eat them. Now, carefully place them in a breathable muslin bag and pop them in the crisper bin at a low humidity setting. If the peppers are chopped, put them in an airtight container and use within three days. If you don’t plan on eating them anytime soon, consider freezing them where they can keep up for six to eight months.
Here’s the thing about Asparagus: it has a fairly short shelf life and tends to go floppy quickly. It should be ideally eaten right after you buy it instead of letting it sit around. As far as refrigerating it goes, asparagus stalks should be trimmed off a little from the top and kept upright in a jar with a bit of water - about an inch or two deep. The water will keep the stalks fresh and stall the limping. Now place the jar in the fridge with a plastic bag covering the top, preferably in the crisper, and consume within three to five days.
6. Zucchini and Summer Squash
A little care can go a long way in making produce like zucchini and yellow squash last longer. Start by wiping them clean and storing them in the crisper in high humidity settings. Make sure to place them in an airy cloth bag and adjust the crisper lever to stop the external air from creeping in. Under these conditions, your stock of zucchinis should stay fresh for a week, after which they’ll start showing signs of shriveling. If you want them to stick around for longer, pop them in the freezer in an airtight container once you’ve blanched and dried them completely.
Cabbage heads can last quite long in the crisper drawer with minimal fuss. However, we recommend not rinsing cabbage and keeping the heads intact - much like lettuce. Once you chop them, they tend to lose their vitamin C quotient pretty quickly and only last for up to three days. Full heads, on the other hand, can last for a couple of months. Just check on them every week or two to remove the softer, discolored bits, and you’re good to go.
Prolonging the freshness of corn starts in the grocery store. Choose only those that come with their husks if you don’t plan on immediately consuming them. Then, keep it unwashed and unpeeled with an extra layer of protection - like a plastic or paper bag inside the crisper drawer. If you want to relish them in their sweet glory, use them within two days. The longer you’ll keep them in the fridge, the starchier they’ll get. Freeze the cobs after blanching them if you’re looking for a longer storage solution.
Broccoli needs good airflow to stay fresh. So, make sure you only store it in perforated, airy plastic bags or mesh produce bags. Also, avoid washing the crowns, as storing wet broccoli attracts mold and speeds up spoilage. For longer storage, look towards the freezer. Place blanched florets on a sheet pan and freeze them. Once frozen, transfer them into a freeze-safe bag and consume them within six months.
Mushrooms have a relatively short shelf life and will last, at best, for 3 to 5 days under refrigeration. Storing them on the kitchen counter is a definite no-no, and so is washing them before putting them in the fridge. As far as storage container goes, you can keep mushrooms in the perforated packaging they came in or inside an airy mesh produce bag. Their high water content requires breathable storage conditions since sealed plastic bags can trap moisture and trigger rotting.
Carrots can keep up for up to two to three weeks in your fridge’s crisper drawer. You just need to follow a few steps to make sure they last that long. Start by shaving the green bits off of them to stop them from drawing moisture. Keep the peels on as they provide an extra layer of protection - removing them can cause carrots to dry quickly and lose their crunchy texture. Next, store these unwashed, unpeeled carrots in airtight jars wrapped in paper towels in the crisper bin.
Celery is rich in moisture and can go floppy fairly quickly. To keep the stalks crisp for longer, you need to keep the moisture content intact. Here’s how you can do it: Wrap them in aluminum foil with open edges or a damp tea towel and put them in the crisper unit. This will help keep the moisture in while allowing ethylene gas to escape.
Wouldn’t it be marvelous if the salad greens were as crispy and crunchy when you ate them as when you’d bought them? With the right refrigeration technique, you don’t have to wonder. Use the tips and tricks we explored here today to keep your favorite veggies flavorful with their texture intact for longer.
For broccoli, mushrooms, lettuce, bell peppers, or any other produce that needs an airy storage container, you can count on Organic Cotton Mart’s mesh produce bag. Made from 100% certified organic cotton knit fabric - these versatile bags are a breathable, reusable, and eco-conscious solution for produce shopping as well as storage. Explore our catalog to check our mesh and muslin storage bags, pure cotton tea towels, and more.