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Care and Storage of Organic Produce…

January 26, 2012

I haven’t ever recycled a blog post before, but of all of the things I have written since starting the blog, this post is probably the most helpful and one we refer people to often.  A link to this post is permanently at the top of our site for easy reference.  I still find myself referring to it from time to time.   So, in the spirit of keeping things green around here, I am recycling…

Care and Storage of Organic Produce 
One of the most frequently asked questions we get at the markets is about how to properly store organic produce. The answer is… it depends on the produce. Here is a handy guide on the best ways to keep your fruits and vegetables fresh and flavorful for as long as possible.

Apples: Keep apples in the coldest part of the refrigerator. They do not continue to ripen after picked, but can have a shelf life of up to four weeks. Apples will soften after three weeks, but are fine for cooking after that.

Apricots: Apricots can have a shelf life of 5-7 days. They can be ripened on the countertop, but then need to be refrigerated after ripening.

Asparagus: Keep asparagus in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Best to keep upright with the cut end in an inch or two of water. Asparagus will stay fresh for up to ten days.

Basil: Cut ¼” off of the basil stems and place in a cup of water on the countertop. Storing basil in the refrigerator will blacken the leaves. If kept at room temperature, basil will stay fresh for 7+ days. Replace the water every other day.

Bee Pollen: If you are going to use Bee Pollen within a month, it is best to keep it in the refrigerator. If you would like to extend the shelf life up to two to three years, it may be kept in the freezer.

Beets: The root of the beet will stay edible for up to four weeks. It is best to store beets in the refrigerator. The greens on a beet stay fresh for five days. Separate the greens and keep refrigerated. Wash just before cooking.

Berries: Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries must be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Store in a plastic container that is packed loosely with ventilation or an open lid. Wash berries just before eating, excess water will lead to fungal growth. Blackberries, raspberries and strawberries have a shelf life of 3-5 days. Blueberries can stay fresh for 1-2 weeks.

Broccoli: Broccoli has a shelf life of one week. Keep broccoli in the coldest part of your refrigerator.

Brussels Sprouts: Brussels sprouts must be kept in the coldest part of your refrigerator. They have a shelf life of 3-4 weeks.

Cabbage: Cabbage can be refrigerated for up to two months. It is best anywhere in the refrigerator. Chinese cabbage only has a shelf life of two weeks.

Citrus: Citrus should be kept ideally between 42-50 degrees.

Carrots: Carrots are best stored dry in a plastic bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator. They can have a shelf life of one month. If they are stored wet they will begin to sprout. If stored out of a bag they will go limp and soften.

Cauliflower: Refrigerate cauliflower in the coldest part of the fridge. Cauliflower will stay fresh for 1-2 weeks.

Celery: Celery needs to be loose in a bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator. It can stay fresh for 1-2 weeks.

Cherries: Cherries can be washed and drained immediately, but then need to be stored in the refrigerator. Store cherries in an open container. They will have a shelf life of 2-6 days.

Chives: Store chives dry in a loose bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Wash just before using. They will stay fresh for 4-7 days.

Cilantro: Store cilantro in a cup of water in the refrigerator. Cilantro can have a shelf life of 7 days. Replace the water every other day.

Corn (Sweet): It is best to eat corn immediately. Sweet corn will retain its sweetness up to four days if kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator, but will lose some of its flavor.

Cucumbers: Cucumbers need to be refrigerated and will stay fresh for 3-7 days.

Dill: Wash and drain dill before refrigerating. It is best stored in a sealed container with a paper towel underneath to regulate the moisture. Dill can last 3-14 days.

Edamame: (Soy beans) Store edamame in the refrigerator unwashed. They will stay fresh for one week.

Eggplant: Eggplant will stay fresh up to 10 days. To ripen eggplant, leave on the countertop until soft (a little wrinkly), this is when it is the sweetest and most tender. Refrigerate after ripening.

Fennel Bulbs: Fennel likes the coldest part of the refrigerator. Keep the leaves dry and loose in a bag. Fennel can last up to three weeks.

Garlic: Garlic has the best flavor when eaten within 6 weeks, but it can be kept up to four months in the pantry.

Grapes: Grapes have a shelf life of 3-10 days. Keep in the coldest part of the refrigerator in an open container.

Greens: All leafy green vegetables need to be kept as cold as possible in your refrigerator. When buying greens do not tie a knot in the plastic bag. Greens, and all produce for that matter, need to be allowed to breathe. Greens are still alive after cutting and to keep them in a tied bag suffocates them and starts to break them down. The bag does not need to be kept wide open, but it needs to be open enough to allow the air to exchange while keeping the greens protected.

Green Beans/String Beans: Store green and string beans loose and dry in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Honey: Honey should never be refrigerated. Raw Honey (such as the types we sell) should also not be heated above 100 degrees. Raw Honey can be warmed when it crystallizes to restore it to a liquid consistency.

Kohlrabi: Keep in the coldest part of the refrigerator, loose and dry in a plastic bag. Keeps for four weeks.

Leeks: Leeks have a shelf life of 7-10 days. Keep in the coldest part of the refrigerator, loose and dry in a plastic bag.

Melons (Honeydew & Cantaloupe): Melons will stay fresh for up to two weeks after ripening. Keep melons on the countertop until ripe. Refrigerating will slow or stop the ripening process. Cantaloupes will smell ripe from the stem end when they are perfect.

Mint: Mint has a shelf life of 2-5 days. Cut the stems and place in a cup of water on the countertop or in the warmest part of the refrigerator. If too cold, the leaves will begin to blacken.

Mushrooms: Mushrooms need to be stored loose in an open container in the coldest part of a refrigerator, never store in a plastic bag. They will stay fresh for 1-2 weeks.

Nectarines: Keep nectarines on the countertop loose and separated on a platter, until just soft. Fruit should sit on its shoulders. Once ripe, eat within 12 hours or refrigerate. Nectarines can stay ripe in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.

Okra: Keep in the coldest part of the refrigerator, loose and dry in a plastic bag. Keeps for 3-7 days.

Onions (Dry skin): Onions can keep for four weeks either in the pantry or in the refrigerator.

Onions (Green): Green onions must be kept in the refrigerator. They can keep fresh for 3-14 days.

Oregano: Do not wash oregano before storing. Keep oregano loose in a bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator. Best if used immediately, but will keep up to five days.

Parsley: Store parsley in a cup of water in the refrigerator. Parsley can have a shelf live of 7 days. Replace the water every other day.

Parsnips: Keeps parsnips in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Store dry in a bag. Like carrots, if parsnips are wet they will begin to sprout, and left out of a bag, they will go limp.

Peaches: To ripen peaches, keep on the countertop loose and separated until just soft. Eat or refrigerate within 12 hours of ripening. Peaches may be kept refrigerated for 3-5 days after ripened.

Pears: To ripen pears, keep on the countertop loose and separated until just soft. Eat or refrigerate within 12 hours of ripening. Pears may be kept refrigerated for 3-14 days after ripened.

Peas (Black-eyed): Keep refrigerated. Shell peas as soon as pods soften. Black-eyed peas have a shelf life of 10 days.

Peas (English): English peas are sweetest when eaten 1-4 days from harvesting. They can have a shelf life up to three weeks when refrigerated loose in a bag. Shell peas as soon as pods soften.

Peas (Snow, Sugar Snap): Keep in the coldest part of the refrigerator. They will last 3-14 days.

Peppers (Green – Sweet; Hot; Red – Sweet): Refrigerate loose and dry. All have a shelf life of up to 2 weeks.

Plums: To ripen plums, keep on the countertop loose and separated until just soft. Eat or refrigerate within 12 hours of ripening. Plums may be kept refrigerated for 3-5 days after ripened.

Potatoes (Irish): Keep potatoes in the pantry or the warmest part of the refrigerator. They will keep in the pantry for up to four weeks; and will keep up to four months if refrigerated. Very cold temperatures will lead to increased sugars in the potato and will intensify the sweetness.

Potatoes (Sweet): Sweet potatoes can have a shelf life up to eight months depending on the variety and handling. Never refrigerate sweet potatoes. Store them in the pantry. They ideally like 55-65 degrees, but will tolerate 80-degrees and higher.

Pumpkins: Pumpkins hate refrigeration. Keep them in a cool, dry pantry and they will last up to eight weeks.

Radishes: Radishes need to be washed, drained and then refrigerated in a container with a paper towel or cloth underneath to regulate the moisture. Radishes have a shelf life of 1-2 weeks.

Rhubarb: Store rhubarb in a loose, dry plastic bag in any part of the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for up to three weeks.

Rosemary: Store rosemary dried and loose in a bag in any part of the refrigerator. Wash only just before using. Rosemary will keep for 1-2 weeks.

Rutabaga: Store rutabaga in a loose, dry plastic bag in any part of the refrigerator. It will stay fresh for 2-7 weeks.

Sage: Store rosemary dried and loose in a bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator. Best if used immediately. Wash only just before using. Sage will keep fresh for one week.

Squash Blossoms: Refrigerate squash blossoms immediately. Store in a lidded container with a moist paper towel underneath. Remove the internal portion of the blossom, keeping the leaves intact, before preparing. Squash blossoms have a shelf life of 1-3 days.

Squash (Summer): Refrigerate all summer squash. It will keep for 3-10 days.

Squash (Winter – Acorn, Butternut, Delicata, Hubbard and Kabocha): Do not refrigerate! Keep these squash varieties in a cool pantry. They will last for 3-8 weeks.

Squash (Winter – Butternut, Spaghetti): Store in the pantry. Do not refrigerate. They will keep for 3 weeks to 4 months.

Tarragon: Store tarragon dried and loose in a bag in the warmest part of the refrigerator. Best if used immediately. Wash only just before using. Tarragon will keep fresh for one week.

Thyme: Do not wash! Store loose in a bag in any part of the refrigerator. Thyme will stay fresh for 1-2 weeks.

Tomatoes (Big Slicing): To ripen keep on the countertop loose and separated on a platter until just soft. Keep tomatoes on its shoulders, like peaches or nectarines. Once ripened, refrigerate for 3-5 days.

Tomatoes (Cherry): To ripen, store in an open container on the counter. Once ripe, eat or refrigerate within 12 hours. Cherry tomatoes will keep once refrigerated 7-10 days.

Turnips: Store loose and dry in any part of the refrigerator. Turnips have a shelf life of 1-2 weeks.

Watermelon: Counter storage will not helping ripen a watermelon. Watermelon are much more tolerant of pantry or refrigerator storage than other melons. They have a shelf life of up to 2 weeks.

 

In general the colder you keep produce (with the exception of freezing) the longer you will be able to extend the shelf life and freshness. We would advise whenever you shop a farmer’s market take an empty ice chest with some sort of cooling material in it for your purchases. Keeping your produce cool on the way home will make a huge difference versus transporting them in a hot car when you leave. You will notice that we keep our refrigerated trucks running during the markets. We bring out our produce one bin at a time to replenish our stock as needed. We also keep crushed ice on our root vegetables to keep them moist and cold. This is to make sure you have the freshest produce possible.

Getting to Know Your Refrigerator:
 To help you find the optimal temperatures for storing your produce, we suggest you get to know the zones of your refrigerator. Take a thermometer and store it in the different areas of your refrigerator and write down the temperatures in of these zones, such as the crisper drawer, the meat and cheese drawers, and the higher shelves.

Keep the thermometer in each area overnight, when you are not opening and closing your refrigerator (and thus changing the temperatures), to get an accurate reading. All refrigerators can be adjusted to make them colder, if necessary. Knowing the different temperate zones will help you find the ideal areas to keep your produce fresh longer.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2012 12:07 am

    Apples will keep longer of loosely wrapped in newspaper, they rot when touching each other. Carrots last longer with tops pulled off.

  2. Sheryl permalink
    February 7, 2012 2:14 am

    As with everything you post, this is exceedingly helpful so thanks. I find that the produce I purchase at McClendon has an amazing ‘shelf-life’ when stored properly and if I plan properly I rarely waste any food.

  3. Emily permalink
    February 8, 2012 1:02 pm

    so helpful. thank you!

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