With this being the first year that I have planted a full garden, I have done a lot of research online and gotten advice from more experienced gardeners about the best way to store and preserve my veggies that I get from my garden.
All food contains natural enzymes that cause it to ripen, and eventually spoil, over time. Light, air and temperature also play a part in how fast food spoils. Storing garden produce in ideal conditions helps retain valuable vitamins and nutrients, and provides a controlled environment that prolongs shelf life.
Handle fresh food with care. Bumps and bruises break down the natural barriers of fruits and vegetables, leaving items vulnerable to pests and spoilage.
Tips for storing common garden produce:
- Wash leafy greens very well and wrap loosely in a flour sack rag. Store in fridge crisper drawer at low humidity.
- Don’t wash mushrooms until use. Store in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator.
- Most stone fruits like peaches, nectarines and plums store best in the pantry. The exception is cherries, which keep better in the refrigerator.
- Tomatoes are best stored in the pantry. To prevent tomatoes from ripening too quickly, do not store them with high-ethylene emitting foods. This tip also works in reverse; if you want to turn green tomatoes red store them with high-ethylene emitters in the pantry.
- Peppers, berries and grapes always last longer in the fridge.
- Store sweet corn in-husk, in the refrigerator until use, or cut kernels off the cob and freeze.
- Root vegetables keep best in cool, dark storage. If you don’t have a root cellar, store carrots, beets and turnips in the fridge for 2 weeks.
- Potatoes are light and temperature sensitive. They thrive in a cool, dark cellar atmosphere. No root cellar? Store in a covered bin in the pantry.
- Onions also require cool, dark storage, but resist the urge to store them with taters. Storing together causes taters to sprout prematurely.
|Fruit / Vegetable||Storage Method / Time||Tips|
|Melons (Watermelon, Honeydew, Cantaloupe)||At room temperature until ripe Refrigerator: 3 to 4 days for cut melon||For best flavor, store melons at room temperature until ripe. Store ripe, cut melon covered in the refrigerator. Wash rind before cutting.|
|Nectarines, Peaches, Pears||Refrigerator crisper: 5 days||Ripen the fruit at room temperature, and then refrigerate in plastic bags. Wash before eating.|
|Onions (Red, White, Yellow, Green)||Dry onions: Room temperature 2 to 4 weeks; green onions: Refrigerator crisper: 3 to 5 days||Store dry onions loosely in a mesh bag in a cool, dry well-ventilated place away from sunlight. Wash green onions carefully before eating.|
|Peas||Refrigerator: 2-3 days||The sugar in peas quickly begins to turn to starch even while under refrigeration, so eat quickly after harvesting. Store peas in perforated plastic bags. Wash before shelling.|
|Peppers||Refrigerator crisper: up to 2 weeks||Wipe clean and store in plastic bags. Wash before using.|
|Potatoes||Room temperature: 1 to 2 weeks||Store potatoes in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area away from light, which causes greening. Scrub well before cooking.|
|Summer squashes (zucchini, patty pan)||Refrigerator: 2-3 days||Wipe clean and store in plastic bags. Wash before using.|
|Tomatoes||Room temperature; once cut, refrigerator crisper: 2 to 3 days||Fresh ripe tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. Refrigeration makes them tasteless and mealy. Wipe clean and store tomatoes at room temperature away from sunlight. Wash before eating. (Refrigerate only extra-ripe tomatoes you want to keep from ripening any further.) Store cut tomatoes in the refrigerator.|
|Winter squashes, pumpkins||Room temperature for curing; then cool, dry storage area for 3 to 6 months.||Most winter squash benefits from a curing stage; the exceptions are acorn, sweet dumpling and delicate. Wipe clean before curing. Curing is simply holding the squash at room temperature (about 70 degrees) for 10 to 20 days. After curing, transfer to a cool (45 to 50F), dry place such as the basement or garage for long term storage. Do not allow them to freeze. The large hard rind winter squash can be stored up to six months under these conditions. Warmer temperatures result in a shorter storage time. Refrigeration is too humid for whole squash, and they will deteriorate quickly. The smaller acorn and butternut do not store as well, only up to 3 months. Store cut pieces of winter squash in the refrigerator.|
|Apples||Room temperature: 1-2 days; refrigerator crisper: up to 1 month||Ripen apples at room temperature. Once ripe, store in plastic bags in the crisper. Wash before eating.|
|Asparagus||Refrigerator crisper: up to 3 days.||Once picked, asparagus loses quality quickly. Wrap the base of a bunch of asparagus with a moist paper towel, place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. Wash before using.|
|Beans, green or yellow||Refrigerator crisper: up to 3 days||Store in plastic bags. Do not wash before storing. Wet beans will develop black spots and decay quickly. Wash before preparation.|
|Broccoli||Refrigerator crisper: 3 to 5 days||Store in loose, perforated plastic bags. Wash before using.|
|Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Radish, Turnips||Refrigerator crisper: 1 to 2 weeks||Remove green tops and store vegetables in plastic bags. Trim the taproots from radishes before storing. Wash before using.|
|Berries (Blackberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries)||Refrigerator crisper: 2-3 days||Before storing berries, remove any spoiled or crushed fruits. Store unwashed in plastic bags or containers. Do not remove green tops from strawberries before storing. Wash gently under cool running water before using.|
|Brussels sprouts||Refrigerator crisper: 1-2 days||The fresher the sprouts, the better the flavor. Remove outer leaves and store fresh sprouts in plastic bags. Wash before using.|
|Cabbage||Refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.||Store, after removing outer leaves, in perforated plastic bags.|
|Chard||Refrigerator crisper: 2-3 days.||Store leaves in plastic bags. The stalks can be stored longer if separated from the leaves. Wash before using.|
|Collards||Refrigerator crisper: 4-5 days||Collards store better than most greens. Wrap leaves in moist paper towels and place in sealed plastic bag. When ready to use wash thoroughly. Greens tend to have dirt and grit clinging to the leaves.|
|Corn||Refrigerator crisper: 1 to 2 days||For best flavor, use corn immediately. Corn in husks can be stored in plastic bags for 1 to 2 days.|
|Cucumbers||Refrigerator crisper: up to 1 week||Wipe clean and store in plastic bags. Do not store with apples or tomatoes. Wash before using.|
|Eggplant||Refrigerator: 1-2 days||Eggplants do not like cool temperatures so they do not store well. Harvest and use them immediately for best flavor. If you must store them, store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Be careful as it will soon develop soft brown spots and become bitter. Use while the stem and cap are still greenish and fresh-looking.|
|Herbs||Refrigerator crisper: 2 to 3 days||Herbs may be stored in plastic bags or place upright in a glass of water (stems down). Cover loosely with plastic bag.|
|Lettuce, spinach and other delicate greens||Refrigerator crisper: 5 to 7 days for lettuce; 1 to 2 days for greens||Discard outer or wilted leaves. Store in plastic bags in the refrigerator crisper. Wash before using.|
Ideal food storage conditions for pantry, fridge and freezer:
The ideal temperature range for the pantry is 50-70 degrees F. Keep the pantry dark and dry. Store fresh food in brown paper bags, cardboard boxes and bins to reduce humidity.
Set your refrigerator temperature to 34-40 degrees F. Purchase an inexpensive fridge thermometer if your fridge doesn’t provide a reading. Most refrigerators have crisper drawers with humidity controls. Set humidity at LOW to store high-ethylene emitting fruits and veggies like tomatoes, apples and pears. Store ethylene-sensitive produce such as cucumbers and leafy greens at HIGH humidity. Loose, breathable bags are best for fridge storage.
The freezer temp should be 0 degrees F or less. Freezer bags, jars and vacuum packs prevent freezer burn by controlling air and moisture.