Posted on June 19, 2012 - by

How to Store Produce Without Plastic

At this time of the year, your kitchen is probably full of strawberries, tomatoes and sweet corn, the abundant pleasures of summer produce. In fact, between farmers markets, CSA shares and our gardens, sometimes it’s hard to know where to store all those fruits and vegetables, especially if you’re trying to avoid using plastic bags. So, we were thrilled to discover a handy list of storage tips from the Berkeley Farmers Market. Take a look at these ideas for creative and waste-free ways to extend the life of your produce, in and out of the refrigerator.

  • Asparagus—Place the upright stalks loosely in an glass or bowl with water at room temperature. Will keep for a week outside the fridge.
  • Basil—Difficult to store well. Basil does not like to be cold or wet. The best method here is an airtight container/jar loosely packed with a small damp piece of paper inside, left out on a cool counter.
  • Beets—Cut the tops off to keep beets firm, and be sure to keep the greens! Leaving any top on root vegetables draws moisture from the root, making them loose flavor and firmness. Beets should be washed and kept in an open container with a wet towel on top.
  • Beet greens—Place in an airtight container with a little moisture from a damp cloth.
  • Berries—Don’t forget, they’re fragile. When storing, stack them in a single layer, if possible, in a paper bag. Wash right before you plan on eating them.
  • Carrots—Cut the tops off to keep them fresh longer. Place them in closed container with plenty of moisture, either wrapped in a damp towel or dunk them in cold water every couple of days if they’re stored that long.
  • Corn—Leave unhusked in an open container if you must, but corn really is best the day it’s picked.
  • Greens—Remove any bands, twist ties, etc. Most greens must be kept in an air‐tight container with a damp cloth to keep them from drying out. Kale, collard greens, and chard do well in a cup of water on the counter or fridge.
  • Melons—Keep uncut in a cool dry place, out of the sun for up to a couple weeks. Cut melons should be in the fridge; an open container is fine.
  • Peaches (and most stone fruit)—Refrigerate only when fully ripe. Firm fruit will ripen on the counter.
  • Rhubarb—Wrap in a damp towel and place in an open container in the refrigerator.
  • Strawberries—Don’t like to be wet. Do best in a paper bag in the fridge for up to a week. Check the bag for moisture every other day.
  • Sweet peppers—Only wash them right before you plan on eating them as wetness decreases storage time. Store in a cool room to use in a couple of days, place in the crisper if longer storage is needed.
  • Tomatoes—Never refrigerate. Depending on ripeness, tomatoes can stay for up to two weeks on the counter. To hasten ripeness, place in a paper bag with an apple.
  • Zucchini—Does fine for a few days if left out on a cool counter, even after cut. Wrap in a cloth and refrigerate for longer storage.

For the full list of storage tips, see the handout from the Berkeley Farmers Market. Have storage tips of your own to share? Leave a comment with your ideas below!

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  1. Visit My Website

    June 20, 2012

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    Charlotte Vetter said:

    Heard this tip recently from someone who learned it from their grandmother: put the unwashed strawberries in a glass jar with a lid. They keep in the fridge for up to four days – I tried this recently, and it works!



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    June 22, 2012

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    Athenaise said:

    I recently harvested wayyy too much oregano. It keeps really well for a few weeks in a glass of water at room temperature. (Remove leaves from the bottom of the stalk-where it is immersed in water- to prevent it from going bad).



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    June 22, 2012

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    Athenaise said:

    I have found that ‘rehydrating’ old carrots is pretty easy; put them in a bowl of water in the fridge overnight!



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    June 22, 2012

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    Bill Scott said:

    Except in a few instances,yYour article “How to store produce without plastic” doesn’t say if the method described is for inside or outside the fridge. Any help with this?



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    June 22, 2012

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    Mariovich said:

    I use those green compostable bio-bags for storing just about everything. They breathe. The lack of accumulated condensation results in your veggies, etc., not getting wet or slimy.



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    June 22, 2012

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    Eric said:

    If basil is still attached to reasonably long stems – such as when you buy it by the bunch at a farmer’s market – then it stores for several days at room temperature with the stems submerged in a glass of water. I do it all the time.



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    June 22, 2012

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    Andrea said:

    What about for those of us living a desert without air conditioning. My house is hot and dry in the summer. Anything left out wilts or dries very fast. Am I stuck with the refrigerator?



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    June 23, 2012

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    Charity said:

    For reviving and storing parsley the best way is to rinse off and let dry off a bit, trim the ends off and put in a jar or tall glass with water and then place in the fridge. This will last a long time! If you can’t use it all at once, then making sure it is dry and clean, chop into bits and store in the freezer in a container or zip-lock (ok it is plastic but…) and use as much as you need at a time. Keeps fresher and tastes like it should not like the dried stuff that tastes like cardboard.

    Lettuce can be revived and stored in the fridge wrapped in a damp towel – which is refreshed each time you use the lettuce (or again in it’s plastic sack with a little water included)

    Green Peppers, in season can be cleaned and chopped up – to the size you like to use them and stored in the freezer until you need them. They will taste good and fresh in soups, casseroles, etc – but are not good in salads from the freezer.



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    June 24, 2012

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    Kathy M said:

    Andrea,

    I’d get an air-conditioner, or, think about moving out of the desert!



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    June 24, 2012

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    Val said:

    I store most produce unwrapped in large covered plastic bins in the fridge with a “freshie” in each bin. See http://www.producefreshies.com
    The non-toxic chemical in the tiny packet absorbs ethylene gas which causes spoilage. After 3 months the packets can be opened and used as organic fertilizer. Works like a charm – no plastic bags, no work.



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    June 25, 2012

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    Linda Moore said:

    Refrigerate uncut avocados when fully ripe. After cutting, if you will use only half, leave the pit in the other half. It will keep longer in the refrigerator.

    Also…

    Don’t throw out the seller’s packaging too quickly. Growers and sellers put a lot of money and research in determining what will give you the longest shelf life.

  12. Carole said:

    You can leave avocado pits in guacamole, stored in the fridge to help keep it from turning brown.
    Also to store basil easily, trim your plants, put the pieces in a glass of water, change the water daily and keep on the counter. Basil usually will thrive this way, last indefinitely and usually grow roots . Then you can either use it or plant the new plants with their new roots in your garden.



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    July 27, 2012

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    maria said:

    Thanks for this article. I know my readers will love it and plan on sharing it in a facebook group that I created called “HEALTHY ALTERNATIVES”. Besides potential health complications from plastic, I like knowing that it is greener to use less plastic wrap.

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