Growing your own food has tons of health and financial benefits. You save money and a trip to the grocery store just by having a home garden. Having a garden is a way to ensure you are eating the freshest produce possible. Knowing how to store your freshly picked produce is crucial to its lastability. Some foods run the risk of spoiling the other foods around them if not stored properly.
When harvesting your beautiful bounty, it is important to know how to keep that food fresh for as long as you can. This also reduces your food waste in the long run. Statistically, Americans throw away 1 pound of food per person each day. That’s a lot of food waste.
Many fruits, such as tomatoes and bananas, produce ethylene gas, a ripening agent that influences the ripening of other fruits and vegetables around them.
Here are the fruits and vegetables that you should store away from one another:
Cucumbers and Other Vegetables
Despite popular belief, cucumbers are best stored out on the counter. Oftentimes, they are stored in one of your crisper drawers in the fridge.
However, when cucumbers are stored next to other fruits in a drawer, they will spoil more quickly due to ethylene gas omitted from the fruit. Cucumbers are extremely sensitive to ethylene gas.
If you prefer cold cucumbers to room temperature ones, store your cucumber in the fridge for just a few days, far away from any other fruit or vegetable.
Squash and Apples
Some varieties of squash can last up to 6 months when stored at room temperature. It is an awesome vegetable to have in your garden because of it’s lastability. However, squash cannot be stored next to the other fall favorite, apples.
Apples cause squash to yellow and spoil when stored too close. Pears and other ripening fruit are not ideally stored next to squash, either. Store squash in an open wicker basket with lots of ventilation, away from apples and pears.
Onions and Potatoes
While both onions and potatoes taste delicious together, they should not be stored together.
Onions cause potatoes to soften and spoil. Potatoes are best kept in a similar fashion as squash; a wicker basket in an open, ventilated area. You can even store your potatoes with squash! Onions can be kept separately at room temperature. A good friend of onions is garlic. Garlic and onions can be stored together at room temperature with no ill side effects.
Treat fresh herbs like flowers in a vase. Once harvested, rinse and thoroughly dry your herbs, leaving the stems and roots as intact as possible.
Be sure the leaves are dry so they do not become soggy. In a cup, mason jar, or vase, place your herb bouquet stem-side down and fill your cup with water. Be sure all stems are submerged.
Store each individual herb that you have in a separate glass, do not put different herbs next to each other. Herbs can stay fresh for about two weeks on the counter this way.
Bananas and Apples
Have you ever bought a big bunch of bananas, only to eat a few before the rest of them go bad? You are either eating all your bananas at once, or throwing them away after they ripen too much, too quickly. By separating your banana bunch, you can keep the whole bunch fresh for much longer.
Keep some bananas out on the counter, and the rest in the fridge. You can eat a banana one day, and a few days later still have a similarly ripened banana.
Bananas can sometimes be referred to as the “killer fruit”, in that they emit so much ethylene, that they “kill”, or ripen, any fruit or vegetable nearby. This is also why they are stored away from all other produce in the grocery store. Keep your bananas away from your apples, oranges, potatoes, squash, or anything else stored on your counter.
In a similar fashion, unripe avocados can be kept next to bananas in the fruit bowl. The bananas will promote ripening in the avocado. Since avocados can be expensive, it is best to enjoy them when they are perfectly ripe.
Root Vegetables and Onions
Root vegetables are some of the most nutrient-rich foods on earth, due to absorption of nutrients directly from the soil they grew in. In order to keep root veggies fresh, you will want to store them in a cool, dark place.
If you have a root cellar, that would be the perfect environment for these vegetables. Since that is not feasible for everyone, storing them in a paper bag creates a similar environment and keeps your vegetables fresh and nutrient dense.
Bag each variety separately and store in your coolest, most dark area of your house. The separation will organize your root veggies and keep them fresh. Do not store near onions, as the root veggies can rot due to onions being nearby. Do not wash any of the variety’s roots, as they will rot faster. Simply shake off excess dirt from the roots. Label each paper bag for easy usage.
Strawberries and Peaches
Strawberries have a lot of nooks and crannies for mold to develop. Be sure to only wash your berries as you are ready to eat them, and not before.
One way to combat mold growth after washing is by mixing three parts water to one-part plain vinegar. Submerge your strawberries in this solution briefly before draining and rinsing carefully.
The vinegar solution will help stop mold from forming inside those nooks and crannies. Dry your berries completely on paper towels or inside your salad spinner. Store in a ventilated container.
Strawberries are affected by ethylene, contrary to popular belief. If storing strawberries, be sure to store away from ethylene-producing fruits such as bananas or peaches.
Apples and Oranges
The classic fruit bowl image has some flaws in it. The main flaw is that apples and oranges should never be stored together in the same place. Both fruits emit ethylene, causing one another to spoil.
It is perfectly safe to keep your apples and oranges in the fridge, but be sure that they are away from each other. Oranges should be stored in a mesh bag that is breathable. They will mold quickly if stored without access to oxygen.
Tomatoes and Garlic
Tomatoes should never be stored in the fridge. Storing a tomato in the fridge causes the tomato to become mushy and tasteless. The unique sweetness and texture of a fresh tomato from the garden will flourish when stored at room temperature.
Tomatoes are a fruit that also emit high levels of ethylene gas. Onions, garlic, apples, bananas, and other foods kept out on the counter should be stored away from tomatoes. To avoid ripening too quickly and rotting.
Carrots, Asparagus and Celery
All three of these veggies are very popular in home gardens. They all can be stored in similar ways. Carrots, asparagus, and celery all love water, and thrive in wet environments.
The best way to preserve them is to cut them into sticks, and submerge them completely in water. Place them in a tall glass of water with at least 1 inch of water covering them. Do not store the vegetables together in the same water container. Have different water storage for each variety.
Once all veggies are submerged, they can go in the refrigerator. This method allows the vegetables to stay crisp and fresh for much longer. Storing in plastic would give the ethylene nowhere to go and cause mold. You can also wrap your fresh carrots, asparagus, and celery tightly in foil and store in the fridge.
Fresh Corn and Pumpkin
There is nothing like fresh corn picked straight from the plant. You want to keep those kernels plump and juicy. To do that, you will need to keep the husk on the corn when storing. Store your husk-on corn in the front of the fridge, where it is slightly warmer.
Do not store for more than a few days. Environments that are too cold will dry out the corn.
You will also want to store your corn away from other produce, shucked or not. Corn is susceptible to rotting due to ethylene gas, so store away from strawberries, onions, potatoes, and bananas.
It is so important to diligently research proper food storage, especially when harvesting from your own home garden. Different foods have different storage instructions, so check to see what storage methods you will need for your garden.
Knowing how to store each fruit and vegetable properly will keep your harvest fresh for a long time. Also keeping moisture and pests away from your food stock is crucial to its sustainability.
What food storage tips and tricks have you discovered over the years?
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