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May 18, 2010

How To Store Produce Without Plastic

 

We don’t use plastic to store any of our vegetables or fruits. For example, we store carrots, whole or cut, immersed in containers of water. They will stay crisp in the refrigerator for weeks.  (Make sure to change the water frequently.) Celery works the same way.

how to store carrots without plastic

The Berkeley Farmers Market has put together a huge list of ways to store produce without plastic.   The market went plastic-free last year and is doing everything it can to encourage customers to not only bring their own bags and containers but to skip the plastic when they get home as well.  The information is listed below.  And here is a printable PDF version of the flyer, HowTo Store Fruits and Vegetables: Tips and tricks to extend the life of your produce without plastic (PDF).


How to Store Vegetables Without Plastic

Always remove any tight bands from your vegetables or at least loosen them to allow them to breath.

Artichokes‐ place in an airtight container sealed, with light moisture.
Asparagus‐ place them loosely in a glass or bowl upright with water at room temperature. (Will keep for a week outside the fridge)
Avocados‐ place in a paper bag at room temp. To speed up their ripening‐ place an apple in the bag with them.
Arugula‐ arugula, like lettuce, should not stay wet! Dunk in cold water and spin or lay flat to dry. Place dry arugula in an open container, wrapped with a dry towel to absorb any extra moisture.
Basil‐ is difficult to store well. Basil does not like the cold, or to be wet for that matter. 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.
Beans, shelling‐ open container in the fridge, eat ASAP. Some recommend freezing them if not going to eat right away
Beets‐ cut the tops off to keep beets firm, (be sure to keep the greens!)by leaving any top on root vegetables draws moisture from the root, making them loose flavor and firmness. Beets should be washed and kept in and open container with a wet towel on top.
Beet greens‐ place in an airtight container with a little moisture.
Broccoli‐ place in an open container in the fridge or wrap in a damp towel before placing in the fridge.
Broccoli Rabe‐ left in an open container in the crisper, but best used as soon as possible.
Brussels Sprouts‐ If bought on the stalk leave them on that stalk. Put the stalk in the fridge or leave it on a cold place. If they’re bought loose store them in an open container with a damp towel on top.
Cabbage‐ left out on a cool counter is fine up to a week, in the crisper otherwise. Peel off outer leaves if they start to wilt. Cabbage might begin to loose its moisture after a week , so, best used as soon as possible.
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.
Cauliflower‐ will last a while in a closed container in the fridge, but they say cauliflower has the best flavor the day it’s bought.
Celery‐ does best when simply places in a cup or bowl of shallow water on the counter.
Celery root/Celeriac‐ wrap the root in a damp towel and place in the crisper.
Corn‐ leave unhusked in an open container if you must, but corn really is best the day it’s picked.
Cucumber‐ wrapped in a moist towel in the fridge. If you’re planning on eating them within a day or two after buying them they should be fine left out in a cool room.
Eggplant‐ does fine left out in a cool room. Don’t wash it, eggplant doesn’t like any extra moisture around its leaves. For longer storage‐ place loose, in the crisper.
Fava beans‐ place in an air tight container.
Fennel‐ if used within a couple days after it’s bought fennel can be left out on the counter, upright in a cup or bowl of water (like celery). If wanting to keep longer than a few days place in the fridge in a closed container with a little water.
Garlic‐ store in a cool, dark, place.
Green garlic‐an airtight container in the fridge or left out for a day or two is fine, best before dried out.
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, collards, and chard even do well in a cup of water on the counter or fridge.
Green beans‐ they like humidity, but not wetness. A damp cloth draped over an open or loosely closed container.
Green Tomatoes‐ store in a cool room away from the sun to keep them green and use quickly or they will begin to color.
Herbs- a closed container in the fridge to kept up to a week. Any longer might encourage mold.
Lettuce‐ keep damp in an airtight container in the fridge.
Leeks‐leave in an open container in the crisper wrapped in a damp cloth or in a shallow cup of water on the counter (just so the very bottom of the stem has water).
Okra‐ doesn’t like humidity. So a dry towel in an airtight container. Doesn’t store that well, best eaten quickly after purchase
Onion‐ store in a cool, dark and dry, place‐ good air circulation is best, so don’t stack them.
Parsnips‐an open container in the crisper, or, like a carrot, wrapped in a damp cloth in the fridge.
Potatoes‐ (like garlic and onions) store in cool, dark and dry place, such as, a box in a dark corner of the pantry; a paper bag also works well.
Radicchio‐ place in the fridge in an open container with a damp cloth on top.
Radishes‐ remove the greens (store separately) so they don’t draw out excess moisture from the roots and place them in a open container in the fridge with a wet towel placed on top.
Rhubarb‐wrap in a damp towel and place in an open container in the refrigerator.
Rutabagas‐ in an ideal situation a cool, dark, humid root cellar or a closed container in the crisper to keep their moisture in.
Snap peas‐ refrigerate in an open container
Spinach‐ store loose in an open container in the crisper, cool as soon as possible. Spinach loves to stay cold.
Spring onions‐ Remove any band or tie and place in the crisper.
Summer Squash‐ does fine for a few days if left out on a cool counter, even after cut.
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 a days, place in the crisper if longer storage needed.
Sweet Potatoes‐ Store in a cool, dark, well‐ventilated place. Never refrigerate‐‐sweet potatoes don’t like the cold.
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.
Turnips‐ remove the greens (store separately) same as radishes and beets, store them in an open container with a moist cloth.
Winter squash‐store in a cool, dark, well ventilated place. Many growers say winter squashes get sweeter if they’re stored for a week or so before eaten.
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.

How to Store Fruit Without Plastic

Apples‐ store on a cool counter or shelf for up to two weeks. For longer storage in a cardboard box in the fridge.
Citrus‐ store in a cool place, with good airflow, never in an air‐tight container.
Apricots‐ on a cool counter to room temperature or fridge if fully ripe
Cherries‐store in an airtight container. Don’t wash cherries until ready to eat, any added moisture encourages mold.
Berries-Don’t forget, they’re fragile. When storing be careful not to stack too many high, a single layer if possible. A paper bag works well, only wash before you plan on eating them.
Dates‐dryer dates (like Deglet Noor) are fine stored out on the counter in a bowl or the paper bag they were bought in.  Moist dates (like Medjool) need a bit of refrigeration if they’re going to be stored over a week, either in cloth or a paper bag‐ as long as it’s porous to keeping the moisture away from the skin of the dates.
Figs‐ Don’t like humidity, so, no closed containers. A paper bag works to absorb excess moisture, but a plate works best in the fridge up to a week un‐stacked.
Melons‐ uncut in a cool dry place, out of the sun up to a couple weeks. Cut melons should be in the fridge, an open container is fine.
Nectarines‐ (similar to apricots) store in the fridge is okay if ripe, but best taken out a day or two before you plan on eating them so they soften to room temperature.
Peaches(and most stone fruit)‐ refrigerate only when fully ripe. More firm fruit will ripen on the counter.
Pears‐ will keep for a few weeks on a cool counter, but fine in a paper bag. To hasten the ripening put an apple in with them.
Persimmon
–Fuyu‐(shorter/pumpkin shaped): store at room temperature.
–Hachiya‐ (longer/pointed end): room temperature until completely mushy. The astringentness of them only subsides when they are completely ripe. To hasten the ripening process place in a paper bag with a few apples for a week, check now and  then, but don’t stack‐they get very fragile when really ripe.
Pomegranates‐ keep up to a month stored on a cool counter.
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.


One question I’m often asked is how to store loose salad greens without plastic. That’s a tough one. I don’t have a great answer. We actually don’t buy loose salad greens very often, opting for heads of lettuce, which are sturdier. Our strategy, if we did buy loose greens, would be to eat them right away and save hardier veggies for later in the week. (You can store chard in a glass of water too, like a bouquet.)

We also don’t freeze veggies and fruits  or buy them frozen. We eat what we can get from the farmers market when it’s available, and we don’t expect to have strawberries in December.

I’d love to hear about your produce storage ideas/challenges.

 



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122 comments
dori
dori

mushrooms should be stored in brown bag..if not used,will dry and then can be reconstituted with hot water..

manouchk
manouchk

Best place I found on internet. I'm trying to move plastic bag free here in Brasil!! Love the site!

robin
robin

I have great success storing loose salad leaves, herbs and most veggies in cotton/muslin bags, damp (wet and wring out well) in the veggie crisper of my fridge. The humidity helps darn near everything (not mushrooms or eggplant) tho, and they keep a really long time. 

Susan
Susan

In answer to storing loose salad greens, try glass mason jars.  I wash my greens and dry them thoroughly, then pack them in the storage jars where they stay fresh about a week.  I've even used my FoodSaver jar attachment to keep them fresh a little longer.

Hez
Hez

This is a fantastic resource!  

But no mention of how to store grapes- sealed container or no?  Moisture added?  

Thanks!

ANN BURNETT
ANN BURNETT

Do you buy romaine head lettuce or regular head lettuce?

veganmama
veganmama

Nice list Beth, thank you!!


So nice to see an inquiry from Hari about plastic-free shipping!!

Hari
Hari

Hi Beth ,

I work for a Online store , you can check out the store at www.bigbasket.com , 

I wanted to know from you on whether there is a solution to ship Fruits & Vegetables without using Plastic trays or covers . We currently Shrink wrap all the fresh produce with cling file or pack them in Plastic covers or pack them in punnets .please advice whether we can avoid doing this .

 Request you to revert to me on the following mail id 

hkreddy@bigbasket.com

Rgds

Hari




ChristinaMinniti
ChristinaMinniti

Hi Beth,

 

I was wondering, does your Farmer's Market run all year long? I recently moved from Phoenix AZ (where Farmer's markets have pretty much anything you could want all year around), to Salem MA. And, I've found that my Farmer's market not only stops selling fruit in November and December (doh) but actually closes altogether from Jan-Jun. I don't have a car, so I usually shop at the small grocer down the street rather than bus it to a Whole Foods. The problem is, all of their greens and much of their produce is in plastic. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!

Kathy H
Kathy H

From market or garden, all my fruits, herbs & vegs go into a clean sink along with filtered cold water & 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar.  They soak for up to 20 minutes, rinse & are placed in produce bags - our family's discarded cotton shirts sewn up.  Works great & I make them for family & friends, extending the knowledge!

 

darrisbnelson
darrisbnelson

I just checked out the 'Salad in a Jar' site . . . fabulous!! I really don't like the idea of purchasing a plastic gadget but this may be the exception for me! I realize this is an old post but would love to know if anyone has tried storing uncut greens in a Glass Lock container in the fridge. The recommendation above is to put greens in an airtight container which surprises me. I've always thought they needed a bit of air (unless vacuum sealed) and moisture to be in an optimum environment.

 

Thanks for this post and for all you do to educate us Beth!

plastic vs water
plastic vs water

it's great to be plastic-free and all, but it seems a little impractical.  I mean, covering the veggies with water and having to replace the water often?  That's wasting natural resources even further...especially if you say they can keep for weeks--and if there are multiple fruits and veggies that's even more water per that would be replenished over and over during the weeks.

helene
helene

aloha, i love the idea of plastic free life, i"m just wondering about some of the things yous ay to store on a cool counter...i live in Hawaii where it is never cool and the humidity is high....also if you dont put stuff in the icebox your house will be infested with all kine bugs within a few hours....everything in my house goes straight to the icebox...any suggestions?  mahalo

naturalmothers
naturalmothers

I love this! What a mine of information. I'm going to print this off to keep! 

I would feel honoured if your were to share your posts with us at Seasonal Celebration Sunday @ Natural Mothers Network! Rebecca x

KATIA EMI
KATIA EMI

Hi. Great ideas!!! on the other hand, perhaps it´s wise to buy consciously what´s needed for the week or day (whenever it´s possible) so we won´t waste energy with storage (fridges, water, containers etc...) and whatever we buy won´t go bad...it´s something I´ve been thinking on doing. @Decio Alexandre

johnkawakami
johnkawakami

I do what my mom discovered - just wrap the food in newspaper.  The paper gets moist in the crisper and helps to regulate the humidity.

Helen Jefferson
Helen Jefferson

This advice is generous and appreciated. I have a large kitchen but still lack the cool counter that is often mentioned. And even the space needed for the onions and garlic out of my garden will tax my storage capability. My guests would be walking around the food on the tile floors if I carried out all your advice, I abhor plastic but many folks don't have the luxury of space you recommend.

Becky
Becky

Fantastic information in this post! Pinning immediately! Thanks for putting this out there. I am stopping by from Frugally Sustainable. Have a great week!

Sean Whitney
Sean Whitney

If you can find greenhouse basil with the roots still attached, take it home and put it in a tall glass and enjoy fresh basil for weeks or longer.  I can find it at our local grocery store or the farmer's market (which we take home and plant outside)

tb
tb

Is it okay if the airtight containers are reusable plastic?

clnewcomb
clnewcomb

Awesome list!  I will be sharing this - thank you, thankyou, thankyou!

chuck_
chuck_

and mushrooms while I'm here ;)

chuck_
chuck_

what about Ginger

venkat1926
venkat1926

useful. but you are thinking of cold places like higher latitudes. Here in Chennai in India most of the time it is hot and cannot follow many of these storage instructions. 

alex
alex

Salad: go for the whole plant, including roots, and put on water, like flowers. Keeps surprisingly long, even not refrigerated!! if this is not possible, keep in moist teatowel, fluffy and airy, in fridge. Do not press or compress, though!

 

Regina
Regina

Lettuce keeps very well when stored washed and dried in a bag made from a terry towel in the crisper.

lseitter
lseitter

We grow our own leaf lettuces for most of the year and made an interesting observation.  Last week we picked a large amount of lettuce for a farmer's market, but didn't sell much of it.  We had put one large bag of ice in the bottom of a cooler and laid the lettuce on top.  When we got home we decided to just eat off it until it was past the "eatable" point and then give it to our farm animals.  We didn't replace the ice and left the cooler outside the back door.  One week later we finally gave what was left to the animals and not because it had gone limp or bad, but because the cooler itself was needed.  I am amazed at how long the lettuce held up.  You should also be able to put the leaf stems into a bowl of water in the fridge and have them remain fresh.  We never wash the whole leaf until we are ready to eat it.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

@ANN BURNETT I buy a head of butter lettuce... when I buy lettuce.  Honestly, I don't really like lettuce, but that's just a personal thing.

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

 @ChristinaMinniti Hi.  Our farmers markets in the Bay Area do run all year long.  In areas with real seasons, people get creative about eating locally.  (Check out the book "No Impact Man" to find out what he ate in NYC in the winter.)  I would imagine that the produce from the shop down the street is imported from far away? Let me know if that's not right.  But are there winter vegetables like cabbage, etc. that are not wrapped in plastic?  One strategy is to figure out what is in season and try to stick to those foods in the winter, although it could leave you with not much variety.  Another strategy is to see if there is anyone in your area growing produce in the winter and connect with them... or try growing some of your own greens yourself.  Things like kale and chard are super easy to grow and like cool (but not freezing cold) weather.  Other people can produce in glass during the summer to have in the winter.  I don't have a car either and either take the bus or my bike to Whole Foods.  It just requires planning ahead.

Kikimouse
Kikimouse

 @Kathy H I like this idea. What is the cider vinegar for? Just cleaning? Or does it somehow extend the shelf life?

BethTerry
BethTerry moderator

That's really up to you.  It depends on if you are comfortable storing your food in plastic.  Many plastics contain chemical additives that can leach out into foods, and manufacturers are not required to disclose what chemicals they have used.  Even "food safe" plastics have been found to leach chemicals.

Jen
Jen

 @chuck_ I follow a Japanese trick: peel and slice the ginger, pour sake over it, and store it in a glass container in the fridge. Lasts forever and adds a slight umami flavoring which is nice in almost everything.

 

Kikimouse
Kikimouse

 @chuck_ I keep ginger in a paper bag in the fridge, seems to last quite a long time

Kathy H
Kathy H

ACV acts as an anti-microbial to rid produce of parasites & pests. 

 

AnnaPapercircle
AnnaPapercircle

@aka jules @johnkawakami some newspaper printing places give away free end rolls of newsprint. One of those rolls can last a long time.

Carebags
Carebags

 @BethTerry I think the difference is that the ice cooler contains more moisture. Live plants like lettuce carrots broccoli etc. need moisture

 

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