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Home Storage Guide for Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

Properly and safely storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables at home is important for many reasons including:

  • to maintain the integrity of the product
  • to further ripen some fruit
  • to prevent spoilage
  • to prevent illness
  • to get the best value for your purchasing dollar

Improper storage of some whole fresh fruits and vegetables may cause deterioration of both their flavour and nutrition profile.

There are fruits that do not ripen further once harvested. Other fruits will continue to ripen after being harvested because they naturally produce a gas called ethylene, (e.g. apple. tomatoes, ripe banana). Ethylene triggers the ripening process; this in turn produces more ethylene gas, which further accelerates the ripening process. Exposure to this ethylene causes vegetable deterioration, therefore fruits and vegetables should be stored separately in the refrigerator. 

Some vegetables can be stored for several months if certain criteria are met. The ideal cold storage room (storage cellar) must be dry dark and cool (7 – 10o C) Basements, garages and cupboards in today’s homes are often not equipped to meet these three conditions, so plan your storage wisely. Storing large quantities of potatoes, onions, squash and rutabagas will not be economical if spoilage occurs.

Once fruits and vegetables have been cut, they should be used promptly or covered tightly and refrigerated for no more than two or three days. If cut produce is left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours it should be discarded.

In this section you will find information on the correct storage and handling of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as links to food safety tips for fruits and vegetables.

PROTECT YOUR FOOD DOLLAR

To get the best value from your fruit and vegetable dollar, follow suggested storage times, temperatures and special tips. Whole fruits and vegetables may be stored longer than the times indicated but their flavour and nutrition will deteriorate. Once cut, cover tightly and refrigerate. Use as soon as possible.

HOW TO RIPEN FRUIT

Some fruits do not ripen further once harvested and are ready to eat when you buy them (see *).  Other fruits will continue to ripen after being harvested (see ***).  Ethylene is a gas that is naturally produced by some fruit, e.g. apple. tomatoes, ripe banana.  Ethylene triggers the ripening process, which in turn produces more ethylene, which further accelerates the ripening.  Ethylene causes vegetable deterioration, so store fruits and vegetables separately in the refrigerator.  

It's easy to ripen fruit, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Place fruit in paper bag.  Loosely close the bag.
  2. Leave at room temperature but away from direct sunlight.
  3. Fruits ripen at different rates depending on the type of fruit and the temperature of the room.  Check on the fruit every day to ensure the best possible ripeness.
  4. To check ripeness, place fruit in the palm of your hand and gently squeeze.  If the fruit gives to light pressure and smells slightly sweet, it's ready to eat!  If it's not ready, leave it in the bag and check it the next day.  You  can hasten the ripening by adding a ripe banana or an apple to the bag. 
  5. Once the fruit is ripe, eat it right away for maximum flavour, aroma and texture or store it in the refrigerator for a short time.  

It's important to use only paper bags since plastic bags and containers trap moisture and air and will lead to spoilage.

FRUIT JUICE AND CIDER

Making and Storing Citrus Juices

A wide variety of citrus fruits, e.g. oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons and limes. etc. can be used to make homemade juices for drinking and using in recipes.  Fruit at room temperature gives more juice.  Roll fruit on counter top with the palm of your hand to break the juice sacs.  Cut in half crosswise and squeeze out juice by hand or with an electric juicer.

Freshly squeezed citrus juice can be refrigerated in a covered plastic or glass container for 2 to 3 days.

For longer storage, citrus juice can be frozen immediately after squeezing for 2 to 3 months.  Freeze in plastic containers, leaving 12 mm (1/2") headspace or freeze in ice cube tray and when frozen, transfer to an airtight plastic storage bag.  Seal, label, date and freeze all containers.

Apple Juice / Cider

Unpasteurized apple juice/cider is sold either fresh or frozen.  It can be found in the produce section of grocery stores or at roadside stands, farm markets and country fairs.  Unpasteurized juice/cider has not been heat-treated and needs to be handled differently than pasteurized juices.  To find out whether the juice is pasteurized or unpasteurized, check the label or ask the reatailer or producer.  Unpasteurized juice/cider has a shorter shelf life than pasteurized juice/cider.  Keep fresh unpasteurized juice properly refrigerated at 0 to 4oC (32 to 40o F) and consume prior to the best before date. 

There is a low risk of becoming ill from consuming unpasteurized juice/cider.  People in high-risk groups such as children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most susceptible.  People in these high-risk groups are advised to consume pasteurized juice/cider or bring unpasteurized juice/cider to a boil before consuming it. 

WASHING FRUITS & VEGETABLES

With the exception of leafy greens, fresh fruits and vegetables should not be washed before storing.  Washing will hasten deterioration of the produce.  It is best to wash produce just before preparation or eating.  Wash produce under clean, cold  running water.  Wash produce even if the skin will be peeled off.  It is important to use clean cutting boards and utensils when preparing produce.   

Leafy greens such as iceberg, romaine, Boston, Bibb, green & red leaf lettuce and spinach will keep fresher if washed before storage.  Follow these easy steps.  

1.  Wash with clean, cold running water.

2.  Discard wilted or blemished leaves.

3.  Carefully dry in salad spinner or on paper towels.

4.  Store in salad spinner or wrap lettuce loosely in paper towels and store in sealed plastic bag or container.

5.  Use within 1 week.

Lettuce turns pinkish-brown due to oxidation (being cut and exposed to oxygen) or due to exposure to ethylene.  You can still use the lettuce if you trim off the brown ends first.  Lettuce and spinach purchased in airtight packages should be refrigerated "as is", then opened and washed just before using.

TODAY'S ROOT CELLAR

Some vegetables can be stored for several months if certain criteria are met. The ideal cold storage room must be dry, dark and cool (7o to 10oC). Basements, garages and cupboards in today's homes are often not equipped to meet these three conditions so plan your storage wisely. Storing large quantities of potatoes, onions, squash and rutabagas will not be economical if spoilage occurs.

FRUIT STORAGE GUIDE

FRUIT

ROOM TEMPERATURE STORAGE

20 to 22oC /
68 to 72 oF

REFRIGERATOR STORAGE 

4oC / 40oF
(Unless otherwise indicated, store in plastic bag or covered container)

SPECIAL TIPS

* ready to eat, no
   ripening needed

** ethylene sensitive

*** ethylene producer

Do not store ethylene sensitive produce with produce that produces ethylene.

APPLES
- August to January
- February to July


No
No


2 months
2 to 3 weeks in perforated plastic bag in crisper

*** Apples will absorb odours from potatoes, onions and other fragrant produce.  They tend to soften 10 times faster at room temperature.

APRICOTS

Until ripe

1 week (ripe), uncovered

***

ATEMOYA/CHERIMOYA

Until ripe

3 to 5 days (ripe)

For best flavour, serve cold.

AVOCADOS

Until ripe

2 to 5 days (ripe)

***

BANANAS

Until ripe

1 to 2 days, uncovered (ripe)

If refrigerated, banana skin will darken but it will remain fresh.

**Unripe bananas.

***Ripe bananas.

BLUEBERRIES

No

10 days, loosely covered

* Store in shallow container.

CARAMBOLA (STAR FRUIT)

Until ripe

1 week (ripe)

***

CHERRIES

No

3 days

* Sweet cherries will absorb odours from fragrant produce.  Select cherries with stems since stems prolong shelf life.

COCONUT

1 to 2 weeks

1 to 2 weeks, whole, uncovered

* Refrigerate grated coconut for 1 week.

CRANBERRIES

No

2 weeks

*

GRAPEFRUIT

1 week; store loosely in open or perforated plastic bag

1 month; store loosely in open or perforated plastic bag

* Grapefruit produce odours that are absorbed by meat, eggs and dairy products.

GRAPES

No

5 days

* Grapes will absorb odours produced by leeks and green onions.

KIWIFRUIT

Until ripe

1 to 2 weeks (ripe)

** Unripe kiwifruit.

*** Ripe kiwifruit.

LEMONS & LIMES

1 week; store loosely in open or perforated plastic bag

1 month; store loosely in open or perforated plastic bag

* Lemons and limes produce odours that are absorbed by meat, eggs and dairy products.

LYCHEE/LONGAN

No

1 to 2 weeks

* For best flavour, choose fruit that is full, heavy and not cracked.

MANGOS

Until ripe

3 days (ripe)

***

MELONS
- most types, e.g. cantaloupe, honeydew, casaba, Crenshaw, Santa Claus, etc.




-watermelon

Until ripe








Few days

3 days (ripe), whole, uncovered

 


1 week, whole, uncovered

*** Always refrigerate cut melon; cover well and store away from other produce.  Use cut melon within two days


**

NECTARINES

Until ripe

1 week (ripe)

***

ORANGES

1 week; store loosely in open or perforated plastic bag

1 month; store loosely in open or perforated plastic bag

* Oranges produce odours that are absorbed by meat, eggs and dairy products.  .

PAPAYA

Until ripe

1 week (ripe)

*** Only store fully or half-ripened papaya in the refrigerator since cool temperatures shut down the ripening process.

PASSION FRUIT

No

1 week (ripe)

***

PEACHES

Until ripe

1 week; store uncovered in a single layer

***

PEARS

Until ripe

2 to 3 days; store uncovered in a single layer

***Pears are ripe when flesh around stem gives to gentle pressure.

PERSIMMON

Until ripe

3 days (ripe)

***

PINEAPPLE

No

3 days, uncovered

* Pineapples will absorb odours produced by avocados and green peppers.

PLANTAIN

Until ripe

2 to 3 weeks (ripe), uncovered

Plantains must be cooked before eating. Do not refrigerate unless very ripe.

PLUMS

Until ripe

3 to 5 days (ripe)

***

POMEGRANATES

No

3 to 4 weeks

*

PRICKLY PEAR

Until ripe

1 to 2 days

*

RASPBERRIES

No

1 to 2 days, loosely covered in shallow container

*

RHUBARB

No

5 days

* Rhubarb will absorb odours produced by avocados and green onions.

 

STRAWBERRIES

 

No

1 to 2 days, loosely covered in shallow container

* Wash in cool water with the cap attached.  For optimal flavour allow strawberries to reach room temperature before eating.

TANGERINES

1 week; store loosely in open or perforated plastic bag

1 month; store loosely in open or perforated plastic bag

* Tangerines produce odours that are absorbed by meat, eggs and dairy products.

VEGETABLE STORAGE GUIDE

VEGETABLES

ROOM
TEMPERATURE STORAGE

20 to 22oC /
 68 to 72 o F

REFRIGERATOR STORAGE 

4oC / 40oF

(Unless otherwise indicated, store in plastic bag or covered container)

SPECIAL TIPS

**ethylene sensitive

***ethylene producer

Do not store ethylene sensitive produce with produce that produces ethylene.

ARTICHOKES

No

1 week

Sprinkle with water before storing.

ASPARAGUS

No

4 days

Wrap base of stalks in damp paper towel then place in plastic bag or store with stalks upright in water.

BEANS- 
green & wax


No


5 days

** Beans are susceptible to chilling injury which results in surface pitting and "russeting".

BEETS

No

3 to 4 weeks

Remove tops before storing.

BELGIUM ENDIVE

No

2 to 3 weeks

** Keep dry and away from light.

BROCCOLI

No

5 days, store in perforated plastic bag in vegetable crisper

**  Exposure to ethylene gas hastens yellowing of the broccoli buds.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS

No

5 days, store in perforated plastic bag in vegetable crisper

** Exposure to ethylene gas hastens yellowing and can cause leaf separation.

CABBAGE

-green & red

-Chinese


No

No


2 to 3 weeks

1 week, tightly wrapped with plastic wrap

** Exposure to ethylene gas hastens leaf separation and loss of green colour.  Cabbage will absorb odours from apples and pears.

CARROTS
-young

-mature


No

No


2 weeks; covered

3-4 weeks; covered

** Remove tops before storing.  Exposure to ethylene gas will make carrots taste bitter.  Carrots absorb odours from apples and pears.

CAULIFLOWER

No

1 week for whole head

**

CELERY

No

2 weeks

Celery will absorb odours from apples, carrots, onions and pears.

 

CORN-ON-THE-COB

 

No

In husks: 2 to 3 days

Husked:  1 to 2 days, wrapped in damp towel

Corn will absorb odours from green onions.  It is best to use fresh corn-on-the-cob as soon as possible because once they are picked the natural sugars turn to starch quickly.

CUCUMBERS

-field or greenhouse

No

1 week

** Exposure to ethylene gas will turn cucumbers yellow.

EGGPLANT

No

5 days

** Eggplant will absorb odours produced by ginger root.

GARLIC

Few weeks to several months in a dry, cool, dark, well ventilated location

No

Storage time varies with maturity. Refrigeration may cause sprouting.

GINGER ROOT

No

2 weeks

 

GREENS
-lettuce varieties include iceberg, romaine, Boston, Bibb, green & red leaf, spinach

-other varieties include collards, dandelion greens, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, turnip greens


No




No


1 week for lettuce varieties, wash prior to storage


2 to 4 days for other varieties, do not wash prior to storage

**  Exposure to ethylene gas  increases "russet" spotting.

HERBS

-including basil, thyme, tarragon, chervil, oregano, cilantro, mint, etc.

No

4 to 7 days, put stems into water and cover with plastic bag

Fresh basil is susceptible to cold, so keep at the front of the refrigerator and use as soon as possible.  Hardier herbs such as oregano, rosemary and sage will last longer than more delicate herbs such as basil, dill, chives..

MUSHROOMS

-including white, crimini, oyster, enoki, shiitake, portabellos, morels, etc.

 

No

 

 

5 days in paper bag

Mushrooms will absorb odours from green onions.  Just before using, rinse in cool water (do not soak), or wipe with a damp cloth or soft vegetable brush. 

Morels require thorough washing to remove sand.  Mushrooms bruise easily - do not store other vegetables on top of them.

ONIONS
-green onion, leeks


- cooking







-sweet


No


3 to 4 weeks in single layer, in mesh bag in a dry, cool, dark, well ventilated location



1 to 2 weeks in single layer, in mesh bag in a dry, cool, dark, well ventilated location


1 week

 

No







1 month, uncovered

***Tightly wrap any cut pieces of onion and store away from other produce.  Use in 2 to 3 days.

Cooking onions will absorb odours from apples and pears.  Cooking onions draw moisture from vegetables they are stored with which may cause them to decay.


Sweet onions have a greater water and sugar content than cooking onions.  This makes them sweeter and milder tasting, but also reduces their shelf life.

PARSNIPS

No

3 to 4 weeks

 

PEAS

-snow peas/sugar snap peas

No

1-3 days; store loosely in plastic bag

**

PEPPERS
- sweet bell peppers
- hot peppers: including jalapeno, Serrano, habanero, etc.


No

No


1 week

1 to 2 weeks

**

POTATOES

- new


- mature

 

 


No


1 to 2  weeks in paper bag, in a dry, cool, dark, well ventilated location


1 week




No

Potatoes will absorb odours produced by pears.  Only new potatoes can be refrigerated.

If mature potatoes are refrigerated dark spots can occur and an unpleasant sweet flavour will develop when cooked. 

If kept in warm temperatures, potatoes will sprout and shrivel.  Exposure to light causes potatoes to turn green.

Trim any green area away before cooking.

  

PUMPKINS

1 week; whole, uncovered in a dry, cool, dark, well ventilated location

 

No

 

RADISHES

No

2 weeks

Remove tops before storing.

RUTABAGA

1 to 2 weeks

3 weeks, uncovered

 

SPROUTS

-including alfalfa, mung bean, soybean and lentil, etc.

No

3 to 4 days

Just before using, wash and drain sprouts thoroughly.

SQUASH

- summer/soft shelled including zucchini, yellow crookneck and straightneck, patty pan, etc.


- winter/hard shelled including spaghetti, Hubbard, butternut, buttercup, acorn and turban, etc.


No

 

1 week, whole, uncovered in a dry, cool, dark, well ventilated location


1 week

No

Summer squash have a tender skin and need to be trimmed but not peeled before preparing and eating.  The rind and seeds are edible.

**  Hubbard squash and other dark skinned squash turn orange-yellow in the presence of ethylene gas.  Winter squash have a thick skin and need to be trimmed and peeled before preparing and eating. 

Most varieties also need to be seeded.

SWEET POTATOES/ YAMS

1 week, whole, uncovered in a dry, cool, dark, well ventilated location

No

** Sweet potatoes and yams can be used interchangeably in recipes.

TOMATOES

3 to 4 days, uncovered, out of direct sunlight, until ripe; when ripe use in 1 to 2 days

No. 

 Stops ripening and affects flavour.

***Refrigerate only when well ripened, but will affect flavour

TURNIP

No

1 week

Turnips need to be scrubbed but not peeled before preparing and eating.