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Ask the Readers: Extending the life of fresh produce?

Today’s question comes from Shannon:

I love fresh produce. I especially love getting it on sale. However, I can’t stock up for a month because it will go bad. How can I extend the life of my fresh produce? -Shannon

I’ve found that certain fruits–such as apples and citrus fruits–can keep in the refrigerator for up to 3-6 weeks. So when I find a good deal on a quality batch, I’ll often buy enough to last for the next two to four weeks.

Other fruits and vegetables don’t fare so well, but I often freeze those I’m able to buy them on a great sale. Chopped onions and green peppers freeze well and can be used in soups, stews, and casseroles once thawed. You can see my method for freezing tomatoes here.

Bananas and berries are exceptional when frozen and used in smoothies. I also often use frozen bananas in Banana Bread or muffins.

How do you extend the life of your fresh produce? Tell us about it in the comments.

Have a question you’d like me to pose for our weekly Ask the Readers feature? Email it to me and I’ll be glad to consider doing so.

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  • Guy G. says:

    Great ideas. I’d never thought to go to walmart and McD’s for coupons on those particular days.

    Thanks again,

  • Ruby Leigh says:

    Even if I freeze bananas after they go past the point of no return – you know dark brown. When I take them out to use them in banana bread, I find that the banana bread is easier to mix up and turns out better! (more moist)

  • Cher says:

    Here is a fabulous list of tips from farmer Monte http://www.lospoblanosorganics.

    Citrus is best kept at room temperature of 60-70 degrees and used within two weeks. Do not store in plastic bags.

    • Berries and Cherries are best covered in the fridge. Don’t wash until you use them – too much moisture in the package speeds spoilage.

    • Avocados and Bananas are best stored and eaten at room temperature. Both will ripen with time. To speed ripening of green bananas store them in a paper bag with an apple in a warmish place. If they still don’t ripen after 1 week, they have been transported at a low temperature, and you might as well make chutney of them. If you don’t use the whole avocado in one sitting, store the remainder with the pit intact in a bag in the fridge – the pit will keep the fruit from discoloring

    • Apples are best kept in the fridge, stored loose-they need to breathe to stay crisp. Use within a month.

    • Eggplants, Potatoes, Onions, Winter Squash, Rutabagas, and Sweet Potatoes are best kept moderately cool, no lower than 50 degrees. A cool, dry dark place is best- on the counter, in a cupboard or basket.

    • Apricots, Peaches, Pears, Nectarines, Mangoes, Kiwis, Plums and Melons should be ripened before refrigeration, stored in plastic bags when ripe. Melons should be used as soon as possible after ripening.

    • Tomatoes should be kept uncovered at room temp, but can be refrigerated if very ripe. All other fresh vegetables belong in the refrigerator.

    • Green Beans and Peas should be kept in plastic bags or containers. They’ll last 3-5 days in the fridge.

    • Corn should be kept in its husk in the fridge. Eat it as soon as possible because its sugar quickly turns to starch, causing it to lose its flavor.

    • Carrots, Radishes, Turnips, Beets, and Parsnips should be stored in plastic bags. They’ll last two weeks in the fridge. Take tops off carrots before storing, leave greens on radishes, turnips and beets, with both roots and tops in the bag.

    • Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Scallions, and Summer Squash will last 4-7 days in plastic bags in the crisper.

    • Spinach, Kale, Chard, Lettuce, Salad Greens, and Cooking Greens have the same crisper life and should be kept in plastic bags. Any bunch greens can be freshened by cutting an inch of the bottom stalks and soaking the entire bunch in cold water for 10 minutes. Place in a plastic bag in the fridge for a few hours to revive.

    • Peppers and Cucumbers should be stored in the crisper, and washed before use.

    • Cauliflower, Fennel, Jerusalem Artichokes and Leeks wrap in plastic and use within a week.

    • Cabbage and Celery have a fridge life of up to two weeks. Wrap celery in plastic.

    • Parsley and Cilantro are best with bottoms of stems trimmed, placed upright in a jar of water in the fridge. Basil can be stored upright in a jar of water at room temperature, or in an open bag on the counter. These three all do well frozen also (they will loose texture but not taste).

    • Thyme and Rosemary should be stored in the fridge in bags for up to a week, after that they can be brought out onto the counter to dry. Dry herds should be stored tightly in a jar.

    • Asparagus is delicate and should be used within 2-3 days, wrap in a damp towel and store in plastic bags or bins.

    • Mushrooms do well kept in a cool, dark place in a bag. Do not wash until ready to use.

    • Ginger will keep in the fridge for a week or two, but for longer term should be frozen in a bag or jar. You can easily grate the root direct from the freezer.

  • karen stamatopoulos says:

    When buying green onion from the store, I find bunches with the largest amount of root system. After I use the product, or even if I haven’t & it has wilted terribly, I plant it either indoors or outdoors & it comes back to life & lasts forever.

  • WilliamB says:

    Don’t wash till you’re ready to use.

    When you do wash produce, dry it REALLY WELL. Wet produce goes bad more quickly.

    Use the special baggies for produce, they can double the life or longer. My old ones (not as good as the new versions) kept a head of romaine good for over a month.

    Store items in the proper part of the fridge or counter. There’s a lot of into out there about this; Cook’s Illustrated and Consumer Reports are very reliable sources.

    Herbs & scallions will last longer if you treat them like flowers: put in a cup of water.

    If something’s about to go bad, cook it. That’ll extend the life of broccoli another week, onions another two weeks. If you still haven’t eaten it, freeze it (well labeled, of course).

  • I am a Tupperware consultant, and swear by my Tupperware Fridgesmart products! They keep berries and carrots fresh for so much longer than normal! They are definitely worth their price!

  • Ashley says:

    Keeping fruit in a plastic bag helps prolong its life immensely. And it doesn’t have to be one of the expensive “green bags” – any old grocery bag will work!

  • Lots of wonderful tips on here, and it was interesting to see the same things pop up over and over. I linked to this on my weekly roundup, the post is under my name. Thanks!

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