Summertime is well and truly here and, with it, the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. But like a contestant on America’s Got Talent who has only two minutes to change their destiny, the window of opportunity for some juicy summer berries or a crisp green salad – before mold and other unwanted visitors mark their territory – is tiny.
Luckily for you, we’ve put together a handy guide to ensure your five a day go the distance!
Know your gasses
Some fruits and vegetables produce a gas called ethylene, which can prematurely ripen other foods that are sensitive to it, so make sure you know which foods to keep away from others. For example, avocados, bananas and mangoes should be stored separately from apples, broccoli and carrots. A longer list can be viewed here.
Keep away from the stove
Natural gas has also been proven to increase ripening, so make sure you keep your produce far from the stove. Similarly, anywhere that produces smoke or heat is best avoided as this can also increase the amount of ethylene produced. Read more kitchen mold-busting tips here.
Yup, you heard that right. Giving your berries a hot bath before refrigerating them stops the onset of mold as the warm water – or, indeed, vinegar – kills off any spores, keeping them fresher for longer. Make sure you spread them out on a towel to dry before putting them away and only wash them again just before you plan to eat them as the moisture encourages mold growth.
Keep tomatoes out
Keeping tomatoes in the fridge not only rids them of their flavour but also compromises their texture as the cold damages the membranes inside the cell walls, and once the most tender part of the fruit – around the stem – bruises, it’s more likely to rot. Instead, put them in a paper towel-lined bowl with the stems at the bottom and keep away from heat sources and direct sunlight. The same goes for potatoes and onions, too.
Don’t leave …
… your leaves. Lettuce should be consumed within one to two days of purchase but wrapping unwashed leaves in a paper towel will ensure any excess moisture is absorbed, helping to keep any rotting at bay. If your leaves are looking a bit tired (hey, it happens to the best of us), simply wake them up with an ice bath. Sprinkling them with a bit of salt also helps to draw out extra wetness.
Bust banana myths
Whilst a ripe banana skin may turn brown a few hours after being refrigerated, what lies beneath is perfectly edible – and protected from ripening further thanks to the cold temperature. (Never judge a book by its cover, and all that!) But if you do prefer your bananas yellow, place them in a sealed plastic bag before refrigerating to keep them looking that bit more palatable. Another handy tip: Wrap banana stems in plastic to slow down the spread of ethylene.
Oranges, lemons and limes can last for up to a week in a cool, dark place, but you can extend their lives by storing them in a mesh bag in the fridge.
Cutting the leaves from the top of a pineapple and storing it upside down will help to redistribute the sugars that sink to the bottom, helping it to last for longer.
Nothing says ‘avocado friendly’ better than a squirt of lemon juice, as the citric acid will help prevent browning for at least a day (and make it taste extra yummy, too!). Storing it with large chunks of onion will also help prevent oxidation, thanks to the same gasses that make your eyes burn when chopping them!
And while we’re on the topic …
… avoid cutting lemons in half. Instead, puncture the skin with a fork so that you can squeeze out what you need without the rest of it drying out.
Storing carrots with water will prevent them from drying out as they thrive in moisture. If you’d prefer not to soak them in water, wrapping them in bubble wrap will do the trick, too (and provide endless entertainment!). Apple slices bathed in slightly salted water for five minutes, before being dried and stored in an airtight plastic bag in the fridge, will also prevent them from browning, whilst storing asparagus as you would a bunch of flowers (covered and placed in the fridge) will help keep it moist enough until you’re ready to cook with it.
Moisture is a mushroom’s worst enemy, causing that super slimy, less-than-appealing texture. Storing them in a brown paper bag, in the fridge, will trap the wetness whilst enabling them to breathe.
Dress your onions …
Wrapping your onions in pantyhose (yes, you heard correctly) allows just enough air to reach them, helping them stay fresher for longer. Top tip: Use a new pair to avoid your dinner tasting of feet.
… and your celery
Wrapping this vegetable in silver foil will allow ethylene to escape, unlike a plastic bag which causes moisture loss and, therefore, faster spoilage. Carrots can also be stored like this, too.
Spring in its step
Chop and freeze spring onion inside an empty water bottle, shaking out what you need each time before putting the rest back in the freezer.
Herb ice cubes
No, we’re not suggesting an alternative cooler for your summer drink; chopping any leftover herbs and storing them in an ice cube tray – filled with water (or, if you’re feeling extravagant, oil) – before freezing, is a handy way to pop out what you need when cooking. You can also store them like you would a bunch of flowers – if you’re planning to consume them relatively quickly. Herbs can also be dried – simply tie loosely together and hang.
Fruit with stones, such as nectarines and mangoes, should ripen in a fruit bowl before being transferred to the fridge.
Contrary to popular belief, cucumbers are sensitive to temperatures below 50°F and should, therefore, be kept outside the fridge – according to a University of California study.
Don’t keep produce in the door of the fridge as the temperatures will fluctuate – stick to the drawers for more consistency.
If you can see you’re not going to finish consuming your fruit and veg in time, simply chop them up and freeze for a future occasion. Make sure you blanch them in hot water beforehand, as this neutralizes bacteria.
Compost any rotten produce as soon as you spot it so it doesn’t spoil your other food.
Yes, the thought of it might be enough to tear your hair out, but a clean fridge, that is not packed to the brim and at the optimal temperature, makes for happy, mold-free inhabitants.
We don’t know about you, but all that talk of fruit and vegetables has made us hungry! Happy munching!
Enjoyed this? Check out our 10 of the Moldiest Foods on the Market