How to store fresh produce – From A to Zucchini.

What’s the best way to store fresh produce?
Do you ever buy fresh fruits and vegetables, toss them into the produce drawer and forget about them?  Then a few days later you open the drawer only to discover that  it’s all spoiled?  (‘Fess up, because I know I’m not the only one….)

 There’s a proper way to store fresh produce, and as I am about to launch into a new work-out routine and a healthier diet, I thought I would finally determine the proper ways to store it all.  I read up on it… I googled all over the place, and this is what I found.

Updated: In addition to researching this post, I tried many of these techniques myself and they worked great.

It kind of comes down to which fruits and vegetables give off the natural gas, ethelyne.
Ethelyne can affect the other fruits and veggies that they are stored next to.  (That’s the premise of the Debbie Meyer GreenBags .)  You don’t need to buy special bags, but you do need to know which produce doesn’t play nicely with others.

Apples – Do not wash until just before eating, keep them sealed in the plastic produce bag, in the refrigerator. They give off a lot of ethelyne gas, so don’t store them next to anything else.
Avocados – Keep them at room temperature.  If you need one to ripen quickly, put it in a brown paper bag along with a banana.  If it is ripe and you need to slow the ripening process, put it in the fridge.

Bananas – They produce more ethelyne gas than any other fruit.  Keep them away from other produce,   on the counter-top, away from other produce.  Once they are ripe you can stop the ripening process by putting them in the fridge, just be sure to put them in a sealed bag.  The skin will turn black, but the fruit will be fine.
Beans (snap, string or wax) – Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.  Do not wash until just before use.
Bell Peppers – Store loosely in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.  Should keep for up to a week.  These freeze beautifully if you wash, core and seed them.  Cut into strips or leave whole.
Berries – You know when you buy berries and they look like they have a dusty layer one them…? That is called bloom, and it serves as a natural preservative.  Never wash berries until just before use.  Pick through them and throw away any berries that are bruised or molding.  Store loosely in shallow containers, cover with plastic and keep them in the refrigerator.
Broccoli & Cauliflower – These need to be kept in their wrapping/packaging and kept in the fridge.  Do not wash until just before using.

Cabbage – Keep in the fridge, in a plastic bag. Do not wash until just before using
Carrots – Whole carrots?  Wash them thoroughly.  If they have green tops, cut off all but an inch.  Wrap them in a damp paper towel, seal in a plastic bag and store in the crisper drawer.
“Baby” carrots? I just discovered that I should stop buying them… but if you still do, you can put them in a plastic container, covered in water.  Be sure to change the water every few days.  (Note: this may reduce the flavor of the “baby” carrot.)
Celery – Give it a rinse, loosely wrap it in a paper towel, then tightly wrap the entire stalk in aluminum foil and keep in the crisper.  It will keep fresh and crisp for weeks.  (I actually have had celery that I bought to make stuffing at Thanksgiving still be fresh and crunchy for Bloody Marys on New Year’s Day! Amazing!)

Cherries – Store in the fridge in a plastic bag.  Do not wash until just before eating.
Citrus – Since citrus fruits have thicker skin, they are easier to store.  They’ll stay fresh for about 2 weeks in the fridge, about a week on the counter.  It doesn’t matter if they are near other produce.

Corn – Husks on? Store loose and uncovered in the fridge.  Husks off?  Wrap in foil and store in the crisper drawer. It will keep for 1 to 2 days.
Cucumber – Store in plastic bag in the refrigerator. Do not wash until just before use.
Eggplant – Wrap in plastic and refrigerate.
Garlic – Store at room temperature. Whole heads will last 3 to 5 weeks, but once cloves are separated, they will last about 10 days.

Grapes – Do not wash until just before eating, as they also have a bloom.  Store them in the fridge, in the plastic bags they come in, or poke holes in a plastic bag to allow for air circulation.  They say they should last up to 2 weeks.  (I have never seen them last longer than a week before getting shriveled up and gross…)
Jalapeno Peppers – Store in plastic bag, in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
Kiwi Fruit – store at room temperature until ripe, then cover with plastic and refrigerate.  Will keep for about a week.
Lettuces, Leafy Greens & Spinach – Wash, wrap loosely in paper-towels, then bag it… paper towel and all.
Melons – Store at room temperature until ripe, then refrigerate. They will keep for about a week.
Mushrooms – Do not wash until just before using.  Pre-sliced? Store in the refrigerator in their original packaging. They will last for about a week. Whole?  Store loosely in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator
Onions – Store in a cool, dry place that has good air circulation.  (Store in the fridge if you don’t have such a place.) They will keep for 2 to 3 months.  DO NOT STORE WITH POTATOES.  (If next to each other they spoil faster.  Who knew?)

Pears – If they aren’t ripe, store them at room temperature.  Once they ripen, place them in a plastic bag and store them in the fridge.  They will keep for about a week.
Peaches, Plums, Nectarines & Apricots – Store at room temperature until ripe, then store in plastic bags in the refrigerator until ready to eat.  They will keep from 3 to 5 days.  Do not wash until ready to eat.
Pineapple – Store at room temperature until ripe, then store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Potatoes – Store in a cool, dry, dark place that has good air circulation. They will keep for 2 to 3 months.  DO NOT STORE WITH ONIONS.  (If next to each other they spoil faster.  Who knew?)  Sweet Potatoes keep at room temperature for a week or in a cool dark place for about a month.

Tomatoes – Store them in a cool, dry place.  Don’t store them in plastic bags as the trapped ethylene will make them ripen more quickly. Once ripe, you can put them in the fridge to slow the ripening process, but let them come to room temperature before using them.

Zucchini – Refrigerate in a plastic bag.  Do not wash until just before using.

Be sure to check out my posts on keeping herbs fresh  and on how to chop and freeze fresh herbs for later use.

Did I miss anything?  Do you have any great tips to share?  Leave them in the comments and let me know.

Happy eating!

****UPDATED 2/9/12  This comment from a reader, regarding Asparagus:
Asparagus is actually something that can last for a couple weeks if stored properly (thanks Alton Brown and Good Eats). When you get them home, cut off about half an inch on the ends. Put enough water in the bottom of a jar or wide drinking glass to cover the bottoms about 3/4″ to 1″ (you don’t want half the stalk to sit in water). Put a ziploc baggie loosely down over the top of the stalks to keep some of the moisture around them. Store in the fridge! It’s that easy. When I learned this, I no longer hesitated in picking up asparagus whenever I was at the grocery store. I have some now in my fridge that has lasted about two weeks already.

****UPDATED 2/25/15 There had been a printable associated with this blog post, available through Scribd.  However, it has disappeared from the Scribd site.  Sorry for any inconvenience.

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  1. says

    This post is wonderful! You’ve done so much homework–thank you! I shudder to think how much money I’ve wasted over the years on produce that’s gone bad. I’ve never seen a list as comprehensive as yours!

  2. says

    AWESOME list! Love it. I’m going to have to pin this.

    Also, MacGyver recommends putting under-ripe produce (for instance if your toddler likes to pick your tomatoes no matter what color they are… *ahem*) next to bananas at room temperature to ripen them.

  3. says

    Pinned it! Thanks so much for all your hard work. You should check out to help you in trying to be healthier. It’s free and FULL of great information in regards to all things healthy. I love it.

  4. says

    As I try to buy mostly organic produce it is always a more expensive war against time. Thank you for the tips.
    You are SO SMART not to buy the baby carrots anymore. Truthfully real carrots taste better too. :)

  5. says

    Thanks for such a great resource! Just a couple of other things I have learned over the years: bananas will not ripen so quickly if you take them apart at the stem` don’t leave them attached in a bunch. I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes! Also, the best way I have found to ripen tomatoes is to store in a brown paper lunch bag on top of the refrig. The warmth and the ethylene work together to make a gorgeous red color! Thanks again!

  6. Anonymous says

    I’m sorry, but I read this article and had to post a comment b/c so much of this is, well, just wrong. For instance, never wrap carrots in a damp cloth, the moisture will cause the carrots to rot. For centuries carrots were harvested and stored in a root cellar stored in a bed of straw and they kept all winter! Keeping them cool and keeping them from getting wet keeps them fresh and they will last for months. Corn in the husks dries out very quickly w/out some way to keep moisture in. If you’ve ever been to a farmers market in the morning and evening, have you ever noticed that the corn, unless it’s been kept on ice or in a refrigerated truck, is dried out and sort of limp by the end of the day? It’s b/c the husks do nothing to keep in moisture. If you place fresh corn in a plastic bag in the fridge it will keep crisp for about 5 days. After that it will still be edible but the sugars will have turned to starch and it will be less appealing but still usable in dishes. Tomatoes should never be put in the fridge b/c cold changes the flesh texture and they will become mealy and mushy. Celery does not have to have any special care. I keep mine in the crisper loosely in a plastic bag and it keeps for several weeks If you separate the stalks they will wilt faster, so keeping it whole is best. Broccoli and cauliflower can be washed and cut up and stored wrapped in a paper towel in a plastic bag in the crisper for weeks before they go bad. In fact, keeping them whole, w/out washing them and w/out wrapping them in a paper towel will cause them to rot faster. Apples shouldn’t be refrigerated, it changes the texture of the flesh and makes them mealy. They will keep on the counter for about a week, but really this depends on the variety as some are just naturally engineered to last longer. Ask as your farmers market and they will tell you all of the above.

  7. says

    Hi Anonymous,
    Thanks for your comment. Prior to writing this post I scoured the internet, read tons of kitchen and food articles and tried out a few things myself. With regard to the carrots, celery and apples, I have had a very different experience.
    Tomatoes and corn should be used as soon as possible once they’re ripe.

  8. Anonymous says

    I shop at the farmers markets, and don’t use any plastic bags, whatsoever, when shopping. Only mushrooms go in paper bags.
    I can’t believe you advocate using SO MUCH plastic. Not only that, but it sounds like you suggest using throwaway plastic bags.

    I store my fruit and veg either in the crisper, or in glass containers in the fridge.

  9. says

    Argh! No one is advocating using SO MUCH plastic. No one is advocating wasteful practices. I try my best to be environmentally responsible… I reuse plastic wraps whenever I can (including using the packaging the products sometimes come in…) It’s a balancing act… do you save space in a landfill, but add to the air pollution by making multiple trips to the store. (And keep in mind not everyone has a Farmer’s Market within walking or bike riding distance.)

  10. says

    I thought I’d let you know that once a pineapple is picked it stops ripening. The best way to get a good pineapple is to smell it. The sweeter the smell the better it will be. Putting it in the fridge will keep it from rotting. Or you can leave it on your counter if you are going to eat it soon. But if you leave it on the counter in order to get sweeter you will just end up with a rotten pineapple. I hope that helps.

  11. says

    I buy pineapples fairly regularly, and I have found that if I let them sit, their skin (rind?) starts to turn from green to a kind of golden color. Once I can smell them on the counter I know that they are ripe and we eat them then. I have actually found that they do sweeten sitting on the counter.

  12. Anonymous says

    Some of this stuff is totally wrong. Many fruits and veggies have bacteria on the skin that if left in place, cause rapid spoilage. I always wash my berries within one day of buying and if they don’t get eaten within a week, they are still edible 7-8 days later. If I leave them unwashed, they’ll last 3-4 days. Same thing with grapes.

    Both sweet and white potatoes last for *months*. I grew up in the country where root cellars are fairly common. Trust me, you can dig a potato in August and still eat it at Christmas time. I don’t even bother keeping mine in the basement and I have had homegrown squash and sweet potatoes sitting around for several months that are still perfectly edible.

  13. Anonymous says

    Asparagus is actually something that can last for a couple weeks if stored properly (thanks Alton Brown and Good Eats). When you get them home, cut off about half an inch on the ends. Put enough water in the bottom of a jar or wide drinking glass to cover the bottoms about 3/4″ to 1″ (you don’t want half the stalk to sit in water). Put a ziploc baggie loosely down over the top of the stalks to keep some of the moisture around them. Store in the fridge! It’s that easy. When I learned this, I no longer hesitated in picking up asparagus whenever I was at the grocery store. I have some now in my fridge that has lasted about two weeks already.

    p.s. This is also the proper way to store your fresh herbs. Just like flowers, cut off the ends and put in water. A ziploc bag or even the plastic grocery bag you brought it home in set loosely over the top of the leaves keeps the herbs from drying out in the fridge. Lasts so much longer!

  14. Anonymous says

    When will everyone learn that just because it’s on the internet or in a magazine doesn’t mean it’s true. I have been involved in foodservice…specifically involving the prep and storage of produce for almost 20 years and a good part of this post is WRONG. The tips you are providing will cause people to lose money and waste food. This link is circulating on Pinterest and is being repinned by people that are using this info as reference and it should be taken as “opinion” only!

  15. says

    My dear anonymous commenters: I researched this post and have tried many of the techniques myself. It is NOT “opinion only.” Washing berries and grapes makes them spoil faster. Perhaps the laws of physics work differently in your kitchen… mine last longer unwashed.

    • Billie says

      Vivienne, you can’t please everyone; it’s impossible! If you offered free glazed doughnuts, some would complain that they weren’t chocolate frosted.
      I do appreciate all the work that went into compiling this list.

  16. says

    Thanks for this!! Now maybe I can actually buy and use fresh produce before it goes bad!

    I do have one question… Maybe it’s a dumb one, but what do you mean by “plastic bags”? Does it have to be a sealable ziploc, or do you mean like the little produce bags you put the stuff in at the grocery store?

  17. says

    This is great! I have been doing most of what you suggested for years except with carrots I just store them in the crisper in the bag they came in and I totally agree about those little baby carrots (don’t even buy them). And potatoes and onions I have been storing together for years and They very rarely rot. But I do have a question, what about peppers? I store them loose in my crisper and they seem to last longer then when I leave them in the plastic bag they come in….

  18. Bethina says

    Thank for sharing your results with us. I did find you through Pinterest. Some of your tips Ive been using for years (like not washing berries until just before use and keeping tomatoes out of the fridge) and some Ive never conciously thought about before now. My experience with unripened pineapple, plums, nectarines, pears has been simple. I don’t make a big deal about searching out the “best or ripest” because I ripen them myself in a paper bag in the pantry. I’ve had some super sweet fruit this way that started out hard as rocks and green as can be, especially pineapples! You just need patience. Pineapples can take up to 3 weeks. Good luck on your search for healthier eating. There is tons of info on the web. I hope you find resources you trust. I would enable my email but don’t have google and I’m not sure how. Sorry.

  19. Anonymous says

    Thanks for this Post very informative!! How do you suggest other peppers?? Anything special… Ps I re-use plastic bags for everything… The annomymous people just want somewhere to complain. :) keep on posting!!

  20. Anonymous says

    Dan! Then enlighten us with corrections – do you have a handy quick reference you could refer us to as most of us are not chefs and thus will not be spending the amount of time and energy you have to learn ALL the ins and outs… Your rationale is good, but educate us. I’m pretty sure whether I follow her list or stick with what I’ve been doing with produce, I am in error on a lot of it and would love to improve, as would everyone who pinned this article – how do we do better?

  21. says

    Boy this is a lot of information and it seems to have sparked quit the debate on the “true” right and wrong way of doing things. I will be combining the truths that work for me, with the experience and knowledge that you have gained by trying things out in your own kitchen with the information you researched on the internet and draw my own conclusion. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do in life, research it ourselves, lean on our own experiences along with those of our friends, draw our own conclusions and make our own decisions?

    On a separate note, does it seems that some people are getting a little too worked up on where to store produce after it’s purchased or is it just me? All I can say is that all of this food talk has made me a little hungry, I think I’ll go choose a piece of fruit from the fruit bowl, you know the one that’s sitting out on the counter holding all of my fruit, except the berries of course, in one collective place ethelyne gases and all…GASP!

  22. says

    I read on Pinterest (my new obsession! :)) that you can dunk fresh berries in a mix of water and vinegar (10-1 ratio) and it will kill any mold spores & berries last for weeks. Not that I’ll ever actually put out the effort to try it :)

    Thanks for the info about potatoes! Apparently I need to find separate homes for my onions, potatoes and bananas :)

  23. says

    Wow, Viv! This was a great post full of wonderful tips and some valuable information that I’ve never heard of before! Thank you so much for taking the time to research this for your loyal readers and giving YOUR PERSONAL tips and tricks for us to try.

    Don’t you love how blogging is a part of freedom of speech? I will be pinning this on my pinterest account so I can use it as a reference guide.

    Who knew that talking about food storage could be such a hot topic item! Love you, Viv~


  24. says

    Since I’ve been keeping a home for 35 years, I’ve learned a few things over the years. I agree with the first anon commentor in everything she had to say and it has been that way in my home as well, but I will also say that the amount of humidity & the temperature in your home will affect each & every fruit & vegetable you are storing. A friend of mine cant keep any veggies in her veggie crisper drawer longer than a week & they all rot. Not so in mine. I leave stuff in there for weeks & momths sometimes with no rotting at all. There isnt a one size fits all where fruit & veggies are concerned. You must do what works for you. I store my potatoes & onions in a cart with baskets & have never had a problem with them rotting faster. They usually keep for months unless I buy onions that are at the end of their season, then they go to root/rot/green. I store my carrots in the original bag they came in (I dont do the baby carrots either) and they store well for months that way in my frig. One other thing that will affect a fruit or veggies storability is fresh from the garden/farm produce will rot much faster than produce gotten from most grocers since they have been sprayed with enzyme inhibitors &/or waxes to make them last longer and seal them from air which is what causes their oxidation & eventually rot.

  25. says

    I have had experience with the water and vinegar bath recommended above–it’s my only way of dealing with strawberries now (wash in dilute water/vinegar solution). I also rinse out the (usually plastic) container and put the strawberries back in. No mold!

    I do know that cabbage and bell peppers together are a no-go–the peppers will go soft and slimy.

  26. says

    I am so glad I found this! And for all those Anon commenters out there.. Grow up. Every climate is different, and everyone has different ways of doing something. Show some respect. Secondly, do you have any tips for storing Bell Peppers??

  27. says

    Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing wisdom through such amazing suggestions. Storage in in fact a challenge and is not easily maintained for people like me. I am sure your post will be a great help :)

  28. Kim says

    I found your page, as I was googling on how to store zucchini. My main wonder was if to store at room temp, or in the refrigerator???? Thanks!

    • vivienne says

      Thanks for your comment. Zucchini – Refrigerate in a plastic bag. Do not wash until just before using.

  29. says

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  30. says

    Great pictures, the vegetables look so fresh and yummy! I’ll try your zucchini advice, they are so great, thanks for sharing the other tips also!


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