How often have you opened the crisper on a Tuesday to find the beautiful produce you picked up at the Sunday farmer’s market has already wilted? This common produce storage problem is even worse when you opt for organic food; conventional produce is specifically designed to be hardier and easier to transport. Meanwhile, gorgeous organic produce can often have only the shortest of shelf lives.
But not all is lost. Here are our top produce storage tips for five of the most perishable items in your kitchen.
The speed at which avocados move from underripe to brown and stringy is such common knowledge, it has even become the topic of memes. But there are a few ways to keep your avocados fresh and delicious for more than just a few hours.
Firstly, consider storing your avocados in the fridge. While avocado certainly tastes better at room temperature, keeping avocados at a colder temperature can preserve them for up to two weeks. Just let them come up to temp before digging in.
Halved or chopped avocado is yet another worry for those who enjoy this high-fat fruit on the regular. In just a few hours, diced avocado can go brown, leaving it unappetizing and mushy. But this problem can be avoided by adding a bit of acid – lemon or lime juice work great – before storing.
Onion chunks also help avocado from going brown; add a few to the container where you’re storing your avocado, or turn your chopped avocado into a delicious guacamole before refrigerating.
Common produce storage lore dictates that we chill berries without washing them to keep them from going bad. But as it turns out, the exact opposite is true.
The New York Times reported in 2009 that much of the reason why berries go bad so quickly is because the skins carry mold spores, which rot the fruit almost instantly – even if the berries are kept cold.
As soon as you bring fresh berries home, then, the goal should be to kill these spores, which you can do easily by dousing them in an acidic solution: a vinegar-water bath made with one part vinegar to eight parts water (or even an all-natural produce wash like Eatcleaner, made with citric acid and naturally antibacterial sea salt) can help extend the shelf life of your berries.
From the Organic Authority Files
Wash and dry them well, then store them in a container lined with paper towel or a dishtowel until ready to consume.
No one likes to eat lettuce that has gone brown, but it seems that no matter what you do, your spring mix is destined for sliminess.
Many of us grew up washing lettuce and storing it in plastic bags with damp paper towels to keep it fresh and crisp. Some home cooks even recommend exhaling into the bag before closing it to introduce carbon dioxide into the lettuce’s environment, which ostensibly extends its shelf life.
But the Kitchn tried all of these common techniques and found that while the paper towel hack is a good one, using a container rather than a bag kept lettuce fresher longer. Stuff the container as full as possible to reduce contact between the lettuce and the air, and store it in the crisper drawer, separate from apples, pears, or tomatoes, which release ethylene gas that can cause lettuce (and other delicate produce) to spoil.
Potatoes should be a pantry staple that you can keep around forever, but too often, they sprout far before we get the chance to cook them up. This has a lot to do with the fact that folks often store their potatoes near other produce also kept at room temperature: specifically onions. But food safety experts at Penn State found that when onions release moisture and certain gases, they actually cause potatoes to sprout and spoil faster.
Store potatoes alone, and keep them somewhere cool and dark. A cellar is ideal, but a cool cupboard will do nicely.
Research from the University of Idaho also shows that clove, spearmint, and peppermint can keep potatoes from sprouting, so consider throwing some dried herbs in with your spuds.
5. Fresh Herbs
Speaking of herbs, there might be nothing more infuriating than buying a whole bunch of parsley or cilantro only to have the majority of it go bad before you can ever use it. To keep your fresh herbs looking – and tasting – their best, treat them like cut flowers.
This technique from Simply Recipes calls for snipping off the stem ends and setting the herbs in a glass of water, ensuring that only the stems are submerged but the herbs themselves remain dry.
Cover the herbs with a plastic bag, and they should stick around for over a week. Whether you keep the herbs on the counter or in the fridge will depend on the herb in question: cilantro does better in the fridge, while basil does better at room temperature.
Related on Organic Authority
Proper Food Storage: 10 Fruits & Veggies to Keep Out of Your Fridge
Waste Not, Save a Lot: How to Plan for the Farmer's Market
15 Amazing Food Storage Containers that Aren't Plastic Wrap