Fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive, so it's good to know the best way to store them so they stay fresh longer. Here are 5 foods you shouldn't refrigerate.
Here are some guidelines and tips for getting a longer shelf life out of your fresh fruits and vegetables, whether you grow your own or not.
Produce isn't getting any cheaper, so we need to know the best ways to store our favorite fruits and vegetables so they last longer. Incorrectly storing them can spur bacterial growth, and destroy the texture and flavor.
Most produce lasts longer when refrigerated. And this can trap us into believing the refrigerator is the best home for everything. But many fully ripened fruits and vegetables are best left on the counter or in a cool, dark area such as your pantry.
Here are 5 popular fruits and vegetables that shouldn't be refrigerated that might surprise you.
Food scientist Harold McGee states in his book On Food and Cooking: "anything other than fully ripe tomatoes really suffer after refrigeration in every way—flavor development, coloration, and mealy texture".
Leave on the counter while they ripen. They can touch each other, but don't pile them up in a bowl. They need air to be circulating around them. And other than cherry and grape tomatoes, turn them upside down for best results.
Fully Ripe Tomatoes
All studies suggest the best thing you can do with a fully ripened tomato is to eat it now, and not store it at all. But as much as I love tomatoes, I can only eat so many of them at once.
Leave fully ripened tomatoes on the countertop for up to 3 days. But if your kitchen is super warm and humid, they will begin to decay and should be refrigerated.
It turns out, fully ripened tomatoes are fine in the refrigerator for a few days without affecting the flavor and texture. The folks at Serious Eats did extensive testing on this in a very interesting study.
Place a cut tomato with its cut side down on a plate, cover with plastic, and refrigerate. You can also add a slick of olive oil on the cut side. The idea is to protect the exposed side of the tomato from oxygen.
#2. Potatoes (both white and sweet potatoes)
A few years ago, I was invited to spend a week with the Idaho Potato Commission. We visited farms, watched potatoes being harvested, and visited several factories that process potatoes.
Along the way, we learned why Idaho potatoes are the fluffiest when baked (and best over-all potato). It's all about the lava based soil in Idaho that provides a unique growing environment. I highly recommend Idaho grown, if they're available in your area.
Store potatoes in a cool, dark place. Around 50˚F is optimal. Do not keep them on your countertop in the open, and don't refrigerate. A cellar is optimal, but that's not always practical.
If the temperature is too cold, as in a refrigerator, the cold turns the starch in the potatoes into sugar. This affects how the potatoes taste and how they cook. For example, any French fries from those potatoes will be much more prone to burning.
Instead, keep potatoes in a box, drawer, or paper bag in a cool, dry place. If the coolest area is your kitchen countertop, just be sure they're kept in a breathable container that protects them from sunlight.
These kitchen storage containers are designed for storing potatoes, onions and garlic.
But a way less expensive option is to use a hole punch to punch a bunch of holes in a paper bag, and store them in there. The paper bag should be closed the top with a big paper clip. You may want to use a magic marker to write what's in the bag, and the date you stored them.
This post gives a tutorial on how to make your own.
If your potatoes begin to sprout and / or turn green, they are past their prime and are in the early stages of decay.
White Potatoes Recipe
Sweet Potatoes Recipe
Keep whole watermelon, cantaloup and honeydew on the counter for the best flavor. U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers found watermelons stored at room temperature have significantly more antioxidants and other nutrients than watermelons kept in the refrigerator.
Plus think about the space you save in the refrigerator!
Once cut, store melons wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 days.
#4. Onions, Garlic and Shallots
Store onions, garlic and shallots in a cool, dark, dry place with good air ventilation - just like potatoes.
If you use paper bags with holes punched in them as described under the Potatoes section, lunch sized bags work best for these items.
As a note: Don't store onions in the same bag with potatoes. Onions emit gases that can hasten sprouting of the potatoes. Additionally, both potatoes and onions release moisture, which leads to faster spoilage.
Hard-skinned squash includes butternut, kabocha, pumpkin, acorn and even delicata squash. These varieties are also often referred to as winter squash.
Summer squash refers generally to zucchini and yellow squash, which has a softer skin. Spaghetti squash is often placed in this category.
Hard skinned squash varieties are best stored between 50˚ - 70˚F in a dry, dark place, with good air ventilation. Both high humidity and / or temperatures lower than 50˚F shorten their storage life.
Thanks to their hard skin, these types of squash can last as long as 6 months in ideal storage conditions, like a cellar.
The thin skins of summer squash makes them more susceptible to decay, and cold temperatures can accelerate that process. Summer squash kept at 45˚ - 50˚F temperatures can last up to 2 weeks in storage. But if they're stored at colder temperatures, for example in the refrigerator, that storage life reduces to 4 - 5 days.
I should add, not everyone agrees with this, and many recommend storing summer squash in perforated bags in the crisper drawer. But there's some consensus among farm and eduction / research related websites that this shortens the storage life.
Winter Squash Recipe
Whichever you choose, summer squash should be consumed within a few days of purchasing it, for the best flavor.
Summer Squash Recipe
Want more vegetarian and vegan dish ideas? I can help you. I have three newsletters for different topics: 1) Vegetarian Recipes, 2) Vegetarian Meal Plans, and 3) Vegetarian Tips for helping you to move to a more vegetarian diet. Choose which newsletters are most relevant to your lifestyle and you'll also get my 5 SECRETS TO FUSS-FREE VEGETARIAN DINNERS.
I hope this information helps you as farmer markets open up all over the country and we get ready for the bounty of late spring, summer and autumn.