The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

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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140 Comments on "How To Store Produce Without Plastic"

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What do you mean by a wet towel? A wet fabric towel or a paper towel?

How do you store lettuce in a non-plastic airtight container in the fridge? What is an example of a type of container that you might use?

Kind Regards,

Richard.

Thank you this is awesome

What about storing fresh ginger? I’ve been wrapping it in a paper towel and then storing it in a plastic bag, but it tends to mold. If I leave it just out, it tends to shrivel. What’s the best way to store fresh ginger and turmeric?

Put it unpeeled in a glass jar and cover with white wine. Lasts for weeks and the wine can be used to flavor sauces, etc. Use just as much as you need and put the rest back.

Just keep it loose in the fridge. It will keep for many weeks

freez it!

It is better to twist the top of beetroot rather than cut it off. If you cut it off it will bleed when you cook it.

Interesting article, but I would think this would use a good deal of water. Which as we all should know, is not a resource to be squandered.

Not if you use the water on your plants

Thank You!!!! I’ve been looking for ways to get rid of plastic when it comes to produce!

Much appreciated. For leafy greens I wash and shake off excess water and wrap in thirsty towel

I keep lettuce and loose salad greens in a thick cotton kitchen rag, well thigh, in the fridge.

Whoops forgot to mention I also find if I wash the berries (blueberries, strawberries, etc) immediately after I get home from the store in vinegar diluted by water. Then air dry and store in a bag or jar. They don’t seem to last much longer and less likely to get moldy.

I’ve found keeping lettuce and kale in mason jars in the fridge work very well as well. They seem to keep so much longer this way and not wilt.

The best way to keep basil is in a vase. If you don’t have a way to grow your own, buy at the store with long stems attached. Keep it out on the counter or on your kitchen table just like freshly cut flowers. It lasts more than a week and makes the room smell so good!

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

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

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.

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.

This is a fantastic resource!
But no mention of how to store grapes- sealed container or no? Moisture added?
Thanks!

Do you buy romaine head lettuce or regular head lettuce?

Romaine is hearty and healthy. Store with humidity but with air circulation for all lettuces. We eat several heads of lettuce a week. It’s a mainstay in our household.

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.

Nice list Beth, thank you!!
So nice to see an inquiry from Hari about plastic-free shipping!!

Hi Beth,
I work for an Online store. You can check out the store at

https://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 advise whether we can avoid doing this.

Request you to revert to me on the following mail id
hkreddy@bigbasket.com

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… Read more »
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,… Read more »

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!

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

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

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… Read more »

What ‘Salad in a Jar ‘site?

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.

It doesn’t waste water if you use it to water your plants. :-)

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

This guide was written by the Ecology Center in Berkeley, CA, so I’m sure there are some changes that would need to be made depending on the climate.

I’ve read that storing lettuce, celery and broccoli in tin foil keeps it crisp – might work for loose salad greens!

http://preparetodaywardnewsletter.blogspot.ca/2012/02/storing-produce.html

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

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

Absolutely!

One other thing – one way to prepare hachiya persimmons is to hang them. Found this: https://thesecretyumiverse.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-hanging-dried-persimmons-hoshigaki-0131492/

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.

problem is … some newspapers have bpa in the ink… then what?

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

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.

We actually have a small kitchen but still find ways. For the produce that does better outside the frig, I often store it all together in a large bowl on the table. I also hang baskets down the wall as a way to keep the counters clear.

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

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)

I tried growing basil in a pot in my Oakland front yard last summer, and it was pathetic. I think maybe we don’t get enough sun here. I haven’t seen basil for sale with the roots, but I will look for it.

Is it okay if the airtight containers are reusable plastic?

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.

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

and mushrooms while I’m here ;)

Store mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator.

what about Ginger

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.

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

Good to know! In our house, it doesn’t last very long because we eat it up pretty quickly after buying it. :-)

We keep ginger outside refrigerator in a basket with garlic. I don’t know if that’s the right way to do it or not, but it works for us.

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.

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!

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

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… Read more »

lseitter, very interesting. What do you think was the difference between the ice cooler and the refrigerator?

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

I’m not sure that keeping veggies stored in water, that you even through away every few days, will keep their nourishing qualities. As far as I know they loose all their vital contents like vitamins etc.

Hi Kinifee. I agree that it’s important to eat produce as quickly as possible to get the most nutrients from it. But I don’t know of any better way to keep carrots and celery crunchy without plastic, even for just a few days, besides immersing in water.

I have found you don’t have to keep them in water to keep them crisp. I leave them in the produce draw and when needed if they seem a bit limp, I sit them in ice water for awhile and they crisp right up.

I would love to see shelf life for each item displayed~Great site. Thank you for the info :)

Great information! Thanks for the great article.

Be sure to call all the companies whose products you purchase and ask them why they don’t use recyclable packaging — and if they do use recyclable packaging be sure to call them and say thanks.

I have learned that nutrients stay in the food when dehydrated, so this is what my choice is for off-season fruit and vegetables.

That’s a great idea too. I had a guest poster from Rodale.com a while back who wrote about that very thing on this blog. https://myplasticfreelife.com/2010/10/dry-summer-produce-to-keep-through-winter-plastic-free/

Loose salad greens: Put the salad greens (washed and spun dry) in a salad bowl cover with a plate and refrigerate. No reason for extra dishes.

I love the bowl/plate method for storing lots of foods that you are going to eat fairly soon. I do it with small bowls and saucers, too. The nice thing is they are stackable.

vacuum seal mason jars esp for leafy vegs works for longer storage.

Hi Crunchy4Life. For leafy veg, so you add water to the jar or not? How long does it last? And how do you not grow mold? And are you referring to lettuce or things like chard, kale, spinach? I would love more details.

google salad in a jar for some reason i wasnt able to copy and paste link

@Beth Terry We do this method for loose salad and it keeps for 2 weeks or more. We got our vaccum sealer just for the mason jar attachment aspect. It keeps all of all spices etc. fresh while in dry storage.

Here’s what I found: http://www.salad-in-a-jar.com/family-recipes/salads/salad-in-a-jar It looks like a great idea if you already have a vacuum sealer.

My Suburban Homestead

I just use mason jars for everything. Freezer-safe mason jars are widely available, and a good use for all those leftover lids that you cannot reuse.

Me too! My refrigerator and freezer and just full of mason jars and other reused glass jars.

I take lingerie bags to the grocery store and farmers market. At home I store everything in glass whether with water or without. Usually canning jars. Trying to get away from the plastic but I havent found anything to put my hubbys sandwich’s in that stay fresh in a ice cooler. Any idea’s????

I use cloths (dish towels, etc…) to wrap my hubby’s sandwiches — he takes his lunch in an old fashioned metal miner lunch box . That way he also has a cloth napkin too. I also wrap his fruit in that too. Works great – no plastic, no paper.

Hi. I love the stainless steel sandwich container from LunchBots. Here’s my post those, as well as a few lunch bags. https://myplasticfreelife.com/2015/08/my-favorite-plastic-free-sandwich-and-snack-baggies-and-containers/

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