How to Store Fresh Produce So It Lasts Longer
Katy Green is a Produce Field Inspector with Whole Foods Market. She works with farmers to make sure the highest-quality produce arrives in our stores. With a decade of experience, she knows fruits and vegetables inside and out. Get her expert storing tips below.
From stacks of perfect avocados to rows of juicy heirloom tomatoes, it’s easy to fill your shopping cart with fresh fruits and vegetables in our Produce department. But once you’ve taken your bounty home, how do you make sure it all stays fresh? We get this question a lot, actually. So to help you enjoy our produce for as long as possible, I’ve chosen popular fruits and vegetables and offered up my best storing tips.
Tomatoes dislike cool temperatures, so it’s best to store them on your countertop. The chillier environment in your fridge can make tomatoes soft and mealy, rather than juicy and crisp. Need to ripen tomatoes quickly? Place them in a brown paper bag with a banana.
Quick science lesson: As bananas ripen, they release ethylene gas. Trap this gas in an enclosed container or bag, and it can help speed up the ripening process of other fruits — like tomatoes. Yes, it’s weird. But it does work!
Store avocados on your countertop until they reach desired softness. You can also place them in the refrigerator to slow down the ripening process. Need to ripen your avocado quickly? You guessed it. Place it in a brown paper bag with a banana or apple.
Store apples in the refrigerator, ideally in the crisper drawer where it’s more humid. I also like to place them in a plastic bag with a few holes poked through — this helps to trap humidity while also releasing ethylene gas that apples emit when they ripen.
Bananas are notorious for making everything around them smell like, well, bananas. For that reason, store them on your countertop away from other fruits and veggies. Need to ripen a green banana quickly? Place it in a brown paper bag with an apple and let ethylene gas work its magic.
Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.)
Store fresh berries in the refrigerator — and don’t rinse them until you’re ready to eat them. Want to enjoy your berries year-round? Freeze them. Rinse and let dry in a single layer. Then, place on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer safe container or bag, then add to smoothies, pile over oatmeal or bake into pies.
Cucumbers can be stored in your refrigerator, but their ideal temperature is actually 50 – 54°F. Keep them in the warmest part of your fridge, such as along the door, and try to use them within a couple of days. For extra protection, you can wrap cucumbers in paper towels and place them inside an open plastic bag.
Whether it’s an entire head or individual leaves, lettuce is delicate and shouldn’t be washed until you’re ready to use it. Store it in the refrigerator in an open plastic bag and add a few paper towels to soak up loose water. Leftover washed and chopped lettuce? Store it in a mostly closed zip-top bag with a damp paper towel.
Potatoes like cool, dark and dry environments. A root cellar is ideal — but a well-ventilated container like a basket or open cardboard box works just fine. If you can, keep your potatoes between 45 – 55°F and away from sunlight, which is a trigger for sprouting.
Store celery in the refrigerator. Try this trick: Trim the bottom of your celery stalks, then wrap in a damp paper towel. Wrap again in aluminum foil, then place in the crisper drawer of your fridge.
Fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, basil, etc.)
Treat fresh herbs like a bouquet of fresh flowers. Trim at least half an inch from the bottom of the bunch and place in a cup of water. Store the cup in the refrigerator away from the coldest area, making sure to change out the water daily. You can also wrap herbs in a damp paper towel and store them in an open plastic bag. Basil and mint are the sole exceptions, as they are sensitive to colder temperatures. Store these on your countertop in a cup filled with water.
Don’t see your fruit or vegetable on this list? Just ask a Produce team member. They’re happy to share storing tips for any of our produce — and tell you the best ways to cook it too!