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Fall Time is Harvest Time - Produce Hacks

If you’ve been enjoying the summer farmers' markets, then you’ve likely encountered issues with eating all the fresh fruits and veggies you purchased before they started going bad. This can be so frustrating, and you end up losing your money because of this. A study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics found that the average U.S. household wastes nearly 32% of food each year. Avoid waste and save your time and money with these produce hacks.

Start fresh

Selecting the freshest fruits and veggies is the first step to getting the longest storage life in your kitchen. Leafy greens should be richly colored and without any limp or yellowing leaves. When choosing root vegetables, cabbages, squash, and onions, they should be heavy for their size and without blemishes or soft spots.

Keep Your Herbs in Water

Just like cut flowers, herbs do not survive for long if not placed in water. Store herbs such as cilantro and basil with their stalks immersed in water in a jar.

Store Fruits and Vegetable Whole

Cutting fruits or veggies only when you’re ready to use them enables you to get the most of their nutritional value. Most fresh produce also spoils faster if its insides are exposed to air.  

Keep Your Perishables Away from Heat

Exposure to high temperatures increases the rate at which fruits and vegetables ripen. Avoid keeping your fresh produce near stoves, gas cooker tops, toasters and other appliances that emit heat.

Revive veggies with water

If your fruits and veggies are a little too soft or have gone limp, a little bit of water can help a lot, simply trim and hydrate. Learn more about which fruits and veggies can be brought back to life in a simple water bath here.

Don’t store certain fruits and veggies together

When it comes to the ripening process and fresh produce, all fruits and veggies fall into one (or more) of three categories: ethylene producers, ethylene sensitive, and not ethylene sensitive.

Some fruits—such as apples and bananas—naturally release ethylene which speeds up the ripening (and eventual decay) of certain produce, like cabbage, leafy greens, lettuce, and broccoli, to name a few. Avoid storing ethylene producers near anything that’s ethylene sensitive. Learn more about which fruits and veggies to avoid storing near each other here.

Consider the conditions

When storing fresh fruits and vegetables, you have to consider “temperature, ethylene, and airflow. A lot of produce keeps well in the refrigerator, while some are best left at cool room temperatures.

Room temperature guides

Produce that keeps best at room temperature needs air circulation. Plastic bags equate premature spoilage. Even if the produce you bought came in a perforated plastic bag, they’ll last longer if you take them out and let them breathe.

Refrigerated temperature guides

Most refrigerated produce stays fresh longer when sealed, whether in zip-top plastic bags, reusable silicone pouches, or containers with tight-fitting lids. These containers hold in moisture, preventing produce from dehydrating, and they help protect sensitive produce from the effects of ethylene gas.

Fridge Basics

The ideal temperature for keeping foods fresh is at or slightly below 40°F. If it gets much colder than that, tender foods like salad greens and herbs will freeze; if it gets warmer than 40°F, foods can spoil. To help the items in your fridge last longer you need to keep it clean, this way you leave no room for molds and other bacteria to grow. Also, most refrigerators have what are called crisper drawers, to store fruits and vegetables. Vegetables tend to do best in a high humidity crisper, while fruits keep longer in a low humidity crisper.

Produce examples

Potatoes and sweet potatoes

  • Don’t refrigerate.
  • Store in a cool, dark place with relatively high humidity.
  • Allow air circulation.
  • Keep separate from onions, bananas, and other ethylene-producing items.

Other roots and tubers

  • Remove any leafy green tops.
  • Refrigerate in a plastic bag for the longest life.
  • For a shorter term (up to two weeks), store loose in your crisper drawer.

Onions and garlic

  • Don’t refrigerate.
  • Store in a cool, dark place with low humidity.
  • Allow some air circulation.
  • Keep separate from potatoes and sweet potatoes.


  • Dry mushrooms before storage.
  • The plastic wrapped containers mushrooms come in can cause them to rot faster.
  • Store in dry and breathable packaging (like brown paper bags) to absorb moister and allow airflow.

Cabbage and its cousins

  • Refrigerate in sealed containers.
  • Uncut heads can be refrigerated without a bag.
  • Once cut, seal in an airtight container.

Winter squashes

  • Store at room temperature.
  • Keep away from bananas and other ethylene producers.

Leafy greens

  • Refrigerate unwashed.
  • Seal in zip-top plastic bags.

Apples and pears

  • Refrigerate in a plastic bag.
  • Use a crisper drawer designated for non-ethylene-sensitive fruit, such as strawberries, blueberries, navel oranges, and raspberries.


  • Store unripe at room temperature.
  • Once ripe, refrigerate loose, and separate from apples and pears.

Citrus fruit

  • Store on the countertop for up to a week.
  • Refrigerate loose for longer storage.

Fresh produce has many benefits and is a great way to eat healthy. It shouldn’t be something you have to avoid simply because your worried items will spoil quickly. Hopefully, these tips will help your fruits and veggies stay fresh longer, stretch your dollars, and you enjoy the harvest without worry.



Sources & enhanced by Credit Union of Denver:                                             

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