Fresh fruits and vegetables are nutritious, high in fiber and generally low in fat. If you're trying to eat a bit healthier, laying in a stock of colorful produce is a great way to improve your diet and tempt your palate.
However, they can spoil quickly if not handled properly. To avoid wasting your investment and missing out on the health benefits of your purchase, here are some simple steps you can take to keep your fresh fruits and veggies at optimum flavor.
How To Store Vegetables
For portability, fresh crunch and Vitamin A, carrots top the list of ideal healthy snacks. Thanks to the availability of baby carrots, many shoppers can purchase carrots that need no scraping!
For long-term storage of fresh whole carrots, remove the stem. While carrot greens can be pretty, they will limit the life of the carrot root.
Carrots, like many root vegetables, need air. Consider investing in vegetable bags, which allow air to flow around your produce, or poke holes in plastic storage bags to keep produce from molding.
Celery has long been considered a classic "diet" food; unfortunately, it has gotten a bad reputation as a bland food of little value. However, when properly prepared and handled, celery can be a delicious source of crunch, and of Vitamin K!
Since it's mostly water, wilting is the biggest risk to celery. For celery sticks, consider using the outer stalks with the strongest green pigment. Trim the ends of the stalk, then slice them into short lengths for dipping or just enjoying raw. You can store them in water or wrap them in paper towels before placing them in vegetable bags for optimum freshness.
If raw celery isn't your favorite, don't give up on this delicious vegetable! Fresh celery leaves and the pale inner stalk make an excellent addition to soups, and the rich green outer stalks are ideal in stir fries.
Potatoes store best in the dark, but can sprout there as well. Because potatoes are available (and cost effective) in large bags, it's tempting to buy them in bulk and stash them in the refrigerator. While you can store some vegetables in the fridge long-term, keeping potatoes too cold will negatively impact the flavor.
SEE ALSO: How To Freeze Potatoes
Per experts at Potato Goodness, potatoes should be stored at no colder than 50 degrees Fahrenheit / 10 degrees Celsius. Don't wash them until you're ready to use them.
Keep potatoes away from heat and out of the sun. You can use them after they've sprouted; simply cut away the area around the sprout before cooking.
Broccoli is an ingestable flower. This member of the cabbage family is a terrific source of Vitamins C, A and B-6, as well as fiber. Each portion of the broccoli stalk is edible, though you may want to peel the woody outer coating away at the base of the stalk.
Broccoli should be eaten quickly. Rinse it before you're ready to prepare it (or enjoy it raw) and allow it to dry. Never store broccoli in an airtight bag; this promotes mold.
An intriguing option for how to keep veggies fresh longer is to trim away the bottom of the stalk and place broccoli upright in a container of ice water. This water should be changed daily. This will keep the florets hydrated and crunchy for up to a week!
Lettuce comes in several formats and offers a variety of flavors and nutrients. As with most greens, lettuce is high in Vitamin A and fiber. When deciding how to store vegetables such as head lettuce like romaine, leaf lettuce such as arugula or tender head lettuce such as Boston or Bibb, air flow is critical.
How to keep lettuce fresh? Iceberg and romaine lettuce are generally purchased with cores intact. These cores should be removed before you store your lettuce. Per authorities with Cook's Illustrated, once the core is out you can wrap the lettuce loosely in paper towels and store in an unsealed plastic bag.
Loose leaf lettuce will need washed and spun dry. If you don't have a spinner, rinse your loose leaf lettuce in a colander, gently shake it as dry as you can get it, then line a plastic storage bag with paper towels and place the lettuce inside. Refrigerate this bag unsealed.
Bibb and Boston lettuce with roots attached can be stored as purchased. If no roots are attached, the lettuce can be wrapped in moist paper towels and stored in an open plastic storage bag.
How To Store Fruit
Bananas are an excellent source of fiber, potassium and Vitamin C. When purchasing bananas, consider going green for the longest shelf life. While green bananas are not unhealthy to eat, they can be somewhat bitter.
However, if you buy them green and give them a little time, they will ripen to a beautiful yellow and develop the sweet flavor many of us love.
Once bananas are ripe, break up the bunch and wrap each stem in plastic wrap to delay the release of ethylene gas and slow the ripening process. You can also refrigerate bananas to further delay ripening.
Bananas need gentle handling. Bumps and bruises will increase the breakdown of starches into sugars and speed the ripening process. Select unblemished bananas at the store, transport them with care and store them at room temperature. There are some tools to allow you to hang bananas to reduce bruising; while these can be attractive, they're not necessary.
Apples are a great source of fiber and Vitamin C. For countertop fruit storage, apples can be a terrific addition to your diet and your decor! A selection of apples in different shades, arranged on a pretty plate, can be a great reminder to snack wisely.
If you are gifted with an abundance of apples, consider refrigerating most of them. When studying how to keep fruit fresh longer, it's important to note that apples stay freshest when kept around 35 degrees Fahrenheit / 1.5 degrees Celsius. Apples should never be stored below freezing as this will destroy the cellulose walls that give apples their crispness and they'll turn to mush.
For every 10 degrees Fahrenheit above 30, apples ripen and ultimately rot quickly. As the flesh of the apple moves from starch to sugar, they give off a lot of ethylene gas.
If you prefer your apples at room temperature and love the look of fresh fruit on the counter, you now have an incentive to eat them quickly!
Grapes are an excellent source of fiber, Vitamin C and potassium. They're ideally portable and work well with sweet and savory foods; consider serving sweet grapes with strong cheeses for a unique and flavorful combination.
There are several factors to consider when purchasing good grapes. Per food authorities with Real Simple, you want to make sure the grapes are firmly attached to their stems; once the bunches are picked, the stems start to wither. Loose grapes indicate a short shelf life at home. As possible, keep them dry, rinsing them when you're ready to eat them.
Skin thickness is a critical consideration when determining how to store fruit. Grapes have a very delicate skin and need to be kept cool. While they may look pretty on the plate, grapes need to be refrigerated for best flavor and shouldn't be stored at room temperature for long-term use.
There is nothing like the smell of a freshly peeled orange! Fans of this delicious fruit know that the selection and flavor of this produce will change as the seasons change; however, there are some constant factors to consider when storing fresh oranges for a delicious snack.
When buying oranges, study the skin of the fruit. Some fruit can be scarred early in development by bruising of the flower and budding fruit. If you notice pale yellow marks on the skin of the orange, be aware that these scars are not indications of spoilage, but of early damage. If, however, you notice breaks in the skin or any powdery mold, the fruit should be avoided.
Commercial growers keep oranges for weeks at 90 to 95% humidity and from 38 to 48 degrees Fahrenheit / 3 to 9 degrees Celsius. For home storage, refrigeration is best to keep your oranges at peak freshness.
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are all terrific sources of anti-oxidants and Vitamin C. While they're often available year round, these seasonal fruits are very delicate and generally taste best when bought close to the source and enjoyed soon after picking.
The best way to store fruit with such a short shelf life is prominently! Make sure you see these gems as soon as you open the refrigerator door.
Berries need to be monitored; their delicacy limits their long-term storage options. For optimum flavor and to avoid losing them to spoilage, rinse berries soon after purchase and allow them to dry completely before serving.
When deciding how to store fruit such as raspberries for later use, consider these two factors: moisture and pressure. Once rinsed, allow berries to dry completely on a flat surface to avoid berry to berry contact. This reduces the build-up of moisture between the fruit, limits the impact of ethylene outgassing and reduces the risk of bruising.
SEE ALSO: What Is Lychee
Fresh fruits and vegetables are the first portable snack. A crisp apple or crunchy carrot is a terrific source of fiber, anti-oxidants, and health. Treat your produce gently and pay careful attention to temperature when putting away your groceries.
Finally, be aware that there is no good long-term storage for some items. Produce such as strawberries and tender head lettuce are meant to be enjoyed quickly.