Have you ever opened the crisper only to take out a plastic bag of green goo and wonder whether it was zucchini, cukes or some other mysterious veggie you forgot about?

While it's a good idea to keep track of what you have on hand at all times, with the cost of food these days, it's also important to treat delicate items like produce in such a way that they can last as long as possible.

First- a little education.

When storing fresh fruits and vegetables, you have to consider “temperature, ethylene, and airflow—the big three,” said Emily Gove, sales strategist in fresh produce at Equal Exchange. A lot of produce keeps well in the refrigerator, while some items like potatoes, onions, and garlic are best left at cool room temperatures.

And then there’s ethylene gas, which some fruits—such as apples and bananas—naturally release. It hastens the ripening (and eventual decay) of certain types of produce that are ethylene-sensitive, like cabbage, leafy greens, lettuce, and broccoli, just to name a few. Whether you refrigerate or not, you should keep ethylene-sensitive fruits and veggies separate from the gas-emitting ones.

Produce that keeps best at room temperature needs air circulation. Plastic bags equal premature spoilage. Even if the bananas, potatoes, or onions you bought came in a perforated plastic bag, they’ll last longer if you take them out and let them breathe.

Most refrigerated produce stays fresh longer when sealed, whether in zip-top plastic bags, reusable silicone pouches or containers with tight fitting lids.These containers hold in moisture, preventing produce from dehydrating, and they help protect sensitive produce from the effects of ethylene gas. You can use produce bags from the grocery store, too.

Want a quick reference? Here you go!  Feel free to PRINT THE CHART

 Graphic courtesy of the New York Times.

Lean and Green Recipes Cookbook- Low Carb for Everyone (Optavia compliant & food counts included)

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Lean and Green Recipes Cookbook- Low Carb for Everyone (Optavia compliant & food counts included)