Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No Tomatoes in the Fridge: Produce Storage Guide

      We've all been through one of those sad moments; finding that once beautiful bunch of greens, those plump perfect blueberries, now more of a brown stew in the back of the crisper.  Fridge clean out days can sometimes feel like tossing money down the drain (or to the chickens in my case).

      A 2002 University of Arizona study found that the average US family throws away 470 pounds of food a year - roughly 14% of all food brough into the home!  What a tremendous waste!

      There are a lot of things you can do to avoid having your perishables perish.  Making meal plans, taking leftovers in lunches (both grown ups and kids!), learning to perserve, and proper produce storage.  Look for future posts on using meal plans to avoid food waste and on quick and easy methods to perserve foods.  Today, I'm going to run over some very handy, and often little known, food storage facts.

      With just a little bit of thought into where and how you're storing your various produce items, you can drastically increase their life expectancy.  How do you store your produce right now?  If you're like most US Americans, you throw all your fruit in one drawer in the fridge and all your veggies in another.  Sometimes they're in bags from the store, sometimes they're not.  The bananas might hang on a hook or sit near the cereal.  Some fruit might go in a bowl, apples, bananas, maybe some grapes or other fruits, all together on the table. 

      Did you know that there are some items that should not be stored together because they will go bad faster?  Apples, bananas, and pears all together in a fruit bowl?  Only if you want black bananas and mealy pears.

      Tomatoes in the fridge?  Not if you want that fresh tomato flavor.  The same goes for peppers.

      And that big bowl/bin/basket of onions and potatoes?  Bad idea.  The potatoes absorb the onions' moisture and cause them to go bad faster.

      Then there's ethylene.  Ethylene is a gas produced by ripening produce, which can, in turn, ripen or speed decay in other produce.  Have an underripe plum?  Put it in a paper bag with a ripe banana.  The ethylene given off by the banana will quickly ripen the plum.  This is also the reason that avacadoes and tomatoes can be ripened just by sitting in a paper bag - they are both big gas producers.  It is also why you don't want to put high ethylene fruit like apples, bananas, and stone fruit together in a bowl - especially with lower ethylene or already ripe fruits.

      Now, all of this can seem like kind of a firehose.  Who really has the time or the space in their brain to remember specific storage instructions for every different produce item you might store throughout the year?  I sure as heck don't.  That's why I've put together this handly little chart of what goes in the fridge, what doesn't, and low ethylene foods that should be stored away from high ethylene foods.

For more information on produce storage, check out:
Farm Fresh to You - excellent list of produce with detailed storage instructions.
Cornell Food Storage Factsheet
Vegetarian Times Article


Katherine said...

We always have produce that goes bad, but you can only expect some food to last so long. Our fruit never lasts long enough to go bad, but we never eat enough lettuce to use it all before it goes bad, and that always makes me sad.

I used to eat all our leftovers for lunch, but now with my new "restrictive" diet, leftovers just don't sound appealling.

MiMi said...

I knew that about the bananas...I won't store ANYTHING next to bananas, ever!

Nadine Hightower said...

I never put apples in the fridge. I don't like them cold. They may go bad quicker but I just buy less. I have never liked to put tomatoes in the fridge... I just don't like cold tomatoes. ICK!! But I didn't know about potatoes and onions... Good piece of advice!
but I have followed all those guidelines most of my life. Just habits learned from my granny.

Lourie said...

The banana skins will go black, but will not be mushy. They will be at the sweetness you enjoy. Cool right. This post is great! And yes, I totally throw away stuff.

Erika said...

This was a great post thanks for sharing this info. I never put my tomatoes in the fridge learned that one a few years back. I really liked the list of what to store in water in the fridge and I plan on trying that asap. I didn't know that you should keep peppers out on the counter top... Learn something new everyday! :)

Hilda said...

Brilliant! I'm totally printing this out and putting it on my fridge, thanks so much! I try to use everything and make leftover lunches, but we still end up throwing a lot away.
Another tip is to use food that's about to go old in skin or hair care! Like I hate eating super soggy tomatoes but they're still great in skin care. Here's a post I wrote about that a good while back with some tips on how to use leftover food in skin and hair care: http://hildablue.com/2011/05/05/throw-it-in-you-face-instead/