How to Extend the Life of Fresh Produce

The Way You Store Them Makes a Big Difference

Variety of vegetables and fruits.
The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Are you tired of throwing out fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are moldy, brown, or wilted? The way you store your fresh produce can make a big difference. Some fruits and vegetables benefit from moisture and low temperatures, while others are best kept dry or at room temperature. You might buy root vegetables with their green tops because they are fresher than those without, but it's better to cut off the tops for extended storage.

Instead of throwing the vegetables in the fridge in their original packaging, spend a few extra minutes repackaging to make them last longer. Here are some tips and tricks to make your produce go the extra mile.

Asparagus

Trim asparagus spears
The Spruce Eats / Teena Agnel

The tender tips of asparagus spears quickly wilt when stored in the grocery store wrapping. To keep it longer, add about 1 inch of cold water to a tall glass. Cut off about an inch of the stem end of each spear. Stand the asparagus up in the glass, making sure all of the stem ends are in the water. Tent the tops of the spears with a plastic bag and refrigerate for about one week. 

Berries

Blackberries in a bowl with vinegar-water solution
The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Berries often go bad before we have a chance to eat them all. One way to slow the growth of bacteria is to give them a quick soak in a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Drain and rinse the berries and let them dry thoroughly before storing them in a paper towel-lined container.

Celery

Celery sticks in water.
The Spruce / Diana Rattray

It might surprise you to learn that celery lasts longer when tightly wrapped in aluminum foil. The downside is that you can't see the celery's condition without unwrapping it and checking from time to time. Celery is 95 percent water, so it makes sense to store it in water. Cut the celery into shorter lengths and pack them into a container; cover with water and store in the refrigerator. 

Corn on the Cob

Steamed corn on the cob ingredients
 The Spruce

Keep ears in their husks and wrap in moistened paper towels. Place the wrapped ears in an unsealed plastic bag and store it in the crisper drawer.

Cucumbers and Summer Squash

Summer squash wrapped in plastic.
The Spruce / Diana Rattray

There's a reason those seedless cucumbers are shrink-wrapped. The best way to keep whole cukes and summer squash fresh longer is to wrap them tightly in plastic wrap.

Ginger

Grated ginger.
The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Put ginger root in a plastic bag with as little air as possible. Store it in the refrigerator crisper drawer. To make ginger root last longer, you can freeze it whole or sliced. Or peel it and grate it and then store it in an airtight container in the freezer. 

Lettuce and Tender Greens

Leaf lettuce on paper towels.
The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Wash lettuce leaves and dry in a salad spinner or with paper towels. Wrap them loosely in dry paper towels and store them in an open plastic bag. The paper towels absorb excess moisture, which keeps the lettuce crisp and fresh longer. Check the lettuce occasionally and replace the paper towels if it is too moist.

Onions

Onions in pantyhose.
The Spruce / Diana Rattray

One ingenious way to store onions is in the legs of pantyhose! Cut a leg off a clean pair of pantyhose and fill it with the onions, tying a knot between each onion. To remove the bottom onion, cut it out just below the last knot. Another advantage is that there's less mess in the storage bin.

Parsley and Cilantro

Parsley and cilantro in jars.
The Spruce / Diana Rattray

These tender herbs come in bunches and, even when stored properly, it can be difficult to use it all before it goes bad. Store washed and dried bunches in plastic bags with a folded sheet of paper towel. To extend the life of these essential herbs, chop them and freeze them in water in ice cube trays. The herbs can't be used as a garnish, but they'll be ready to drop into soups, stews, and other cooked dishes.

Potatoes

Potatoes in a mesh bag.
The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Always separate potatoes and onions. Onions release gases that can cause potatoes to sprout prematurely. Moisture is the enemy; if the potatoes were packaged in a plastic bag, remove them to a mesh bag or basket.

Scallions

Scallions in water.
The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Did you know you can regrow scallions? When you cut off the root ends, put them in a small amount of water. Check them frequently; replenish the water and change the container as necessary.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Tomato storage is a little trickier. Store unripe tomatoes on the counter until they ripen. Fully ripe tomatoes are best stored at around 55 F. This can be a real challenge. Author Harold McGee, in his book, On Food and Cooking, recommends taking tomatoes out of the fridge a day or two before eating to give them time to recover their flavor. A wine refrigerator is another excellent option.

Surplus Vegetables

Mixed leftover vegetables to freeze.
The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Have a lot of odds and ends sitting around? When you have extra vegetables you know you won't be using right away, cut them up, and blanch them in boiling water following these time guidelines. Drain the blanched vegetables and pack them into freezer bags; freeze and use them for soups and stews.