Knowing how to store vegetables is important for the home cook. Vegetables taste better and last longer when properly stored. And if you’ve spent money to buy them or spent time preparing the garden, planting the seeds and harvesting the produce, you want the best, freshest, most delicious vegetables, right?
So here are some good things to know:
Most vegetables will be stored in the refrigerator. Some refrigerators have a drawer with a little sliding knob to control the humidity (two drawers are extra nice!). Sliding the control knob to low humidity opens a vent which allows moisture to escape that particular drawer. Setting the knob to high humidity closes the vent and keeps the humidity in the drawer. Some high-end refrigerators have computerized controls to set humidity levels. And some refrigerators have no humidity controls at all, but there are ways to control humidity even with the most basic refrigerator.
Vegetables (and fruits) with skins that we typically peel, or that can rot or go moldy should be stored at low humidity. That includes all squashes (summer and winter), mushrooms, turnips/rutabagas, and okra. Vegetables that will eventually wilt and go limp and lifeless need high humidity. That type of vegetable includes anything in the lettuce and leafy greens families, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, asparagus, cucumbers and leafy herbs. It will help, when thinking about a particular vegetable, to decide if it’s the type that would rot (like an old Jack-O-Lantern that we forgot about) if it were too old, or would it just be a limp and floppy, like the carrot that stayed in the fridge too long and we didn’t notice it, and now it droops)? If it will turn black and rot, then it needs low humidity. If it will flop over, it needs moist humid conditions.
Don’t store vegetables packed too tightly together, and don’t keep vegetables near most fruits. Apples and pears, for example, when stored near vegetables, will cause rotting to happen pretty quickly.
If you don’t have a fridge with special drawers or a drawer without controls, try these methods: for the low humidity vegetables, store them unwashed in paper bags with holes poked in them or loosely wrapped in paper towels so humidity can escape. (Of course, you’ll wash them when it’s time to use them). For high humidity vegetables, wash them first and store them in damp paper towels or in plastic bags. Leafy herbs and vegetables with stalks (celery, asparagus, etc) can be set in a container with water so the stalks can soak up moisture.
Don’t wash low humidity vegetables before storing them. Wash them right before serving them or cooking with them. High humidity vegetables will benefit from being washed prior to being put in the refrigerator.
Here’s a summary:
Low Humidity, Don’t Wash Before Refrigerating, Store in Paper:
Turnips and Rutabagas
High Humidity, Wash Before Refrigerating, Store in Plastic:
Lettuce and Spinach and Leafy Greens
Fresh leafy herbs (like parsley and cilantro)
Some vegetables, like potatoes and onions, should not be refrigerated and should be stored in dry cool conditions. Tomatoes are best when kept on a cool counter top at room temperature.
One more food safety rule to keep: raw meat and poultry and fish should be stored on the bottom shelf of the fridge, and fresh foods like vegetables and fruits should always be stored on a shelf above the meat or poultry or securely in the crisper drawers. That way, you don’t risk any juices from the raw meat dripping or seeping or splashing onto the vegetables.
Next blog: what to look for when selecting vegetables!