One of the easiest ways to reduce food waste at home is storing your fruits and vegetables properly so they last longer. For example, did you know that a quick vinegar rinse will extend the life of your strawberries? Or that you should treat your herbs like flowers and put them in water? Here, we've rounded up 10 of the most common tried-and-true tricks for keeping your produce fresh for as long as possible. Even a small change can make a difference!
Rinse Berries In Vinegar
Moisture is often the enemy of fresh produce, causing it to spoil and mold quickly. And while berries are certainly prone to this issue, they’ll last the longest if you give them a vinegar rinse first. The vinegar kills any spoilage-inducing bacteria on the berries without affecting the flavor.
Pick through the fresh berries, discarding any bad ones, and add them to a bowl filled with one part vinegar to three parts cool water. Swish them around, then add the berries to a colander and rinse with water. Drain, then gently dry as much as possible on a clean kitchen towel. Store in a roomy container lined with dry paper towels, leaving the lid cracked. They’ll typically keep for a week or more
Store Potatoes In a Cool, Dark Place
Potatoes have a few basic storage requirements: circulated air, cool temperatures, and darkness. They’re commonly sold in netted bags, which are perfect for allowing air to circulate around each spud. And while potatoes like it cool (like a cellar), they do not like the fridge. The moisture will cause the potatoes to soften and sprout more quickly.
Many people leave their potatoes in a bowl on the counter, which is fine for air circulation and acceptable for temperature, but it does not meet the final criteria: darkness. Sunlight will cause potatoes to turn green, and too much green can actually prove toxic. So tuck your spuds away someplace dark and cool (think: cellar, basement, or a kitchen closet or drawer with ventilation).
Store Herbs Like Flower Bouquets
If you’ve ever bought a bunch of parsley for a recipe and half of it languished in your crisper drawer until you finally threw it away, you’re not alone. Many home cooks struggle with fully utilizing herbs since they have a short shelf life when stored improperly. When stored correctly, fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, and dill will last for about two weeks.
Trim the ends of the stems and remove any brown or wilted sprigs. Place the bunch in a jar or glass with an inch of water, submerging the stems. Place a plastic zip-top or produce bag over the top to completely cover the leaves, then store it in the fridge. Replace the water every few days like you would a vase of flowers.
Freeze Herbs in Butter
If you end up with a glut of herbs and you can’t possibly use them all up no matter how well you store them, make herb butter. Storing chopped, fresh herbs in fat helps extend their flavor and color, and is a delicious spread, dip, or addition to soups or sauces.
Finely chop clean, dry herbs and combine them with softened butter. Add salt to taste. The butter can be placed on waxed paper or plastic wrap and rolled into a log. Wrap again and freeze for up to three months, thawing before use. To freeze in smaller portions, refrigerate the log until firm and slice into circular slices. Wrap each slice, place in a zip-top freezer bag, and freeze.
Continue to 5 of 10 below.
Put Asparagus in Fresh Water
Similar to storing fresh herbs, asparagus fairs the best when it’s kept in fresh water. Lightly trim the stalks, leaving them in a bunch, and place them upright in a jar or glass. Add enough water just to submerge the stems and cover the top with a zip-top bag or plastic produce bag and store in the fridge for up to a week.
Trim and Bag Carrots
While carrots last longer than most fresh produce, they can still end up wrinkled and rubbery before you know it. To get the most out of them, trim the tops and place them in a zip-top bag. Store the bag in the crisper, and wash individual carrots as you need them. They’ll last at least two weeks this way.
Move Apples to the Fridge
Unless you go apple picking or visit a farmers market in the autumn, chances are your apples have already spent time in cold storage. Commercial apples are chilled after picking and during transit, and this type of storage allows grocery stores to carry fresh apples all year long.
Place apples in a plastic bag and store them in the fridge for two weeks or more. Keep an eye out for bad apples, since (as you may have heard) one can spoil the whole bunch. Keep them separate from leafy greens and carrots since apples will cause these veggies to spoil faster.
Wrap Up Ears of Corn
Fresh corn is notorious for spoiling quickly, and your best bet is to use it up as soon as possible. But there are a few tactics for extending its life. First, don’t peel it. Leave the ears insulated by their husks and wrap them in a damp kitchen towel. Store the bundle in a plastic bag in the crisper for up to four days.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
Roast Garlic for Longer Storage
Whole heads of garlic that are kept in a cool (not cold), dry place will keep for a month or more. But what if you bought a big bag of garlic at the supermarket and they’re threatening to sprout? You can roast heads of garlic in the oven and store them in a jar in the fridge for up to a week.
Keep Tomatoes Away From the Fridge
While it is tempting to stick delicate tomatoes in the fridge to extend their life, the cold moisture has the opposite effect. Tomatoes very quickly become mealy and mushy in the refrigerator, even losing some of their flavor. Store them in a cool part of the kitchen, stem-side down.
Small varieties like grape and cherry tomatoes should be stored unwashed and in their container, which has holes for air circulation. If your tomatoes are especially ripe and you can’t eat them right away, store them in the fridge for up to two days, bringing them to room temperature before eating.