You gotta love summer’s abundant fruits and vegetables: Strawberries, juicy tomatoes, fresh carrots, dark leafy spinach, spicy arugula. If you’re busy harvesting all of this organic goodness from your garden, you’re probably wondering what the best way to keep it fresh and tasty as long as possible. Yes, plastic baggies and cling wrap may be popular containers for storing food, but there are better, less-wasteful, less-plastic options.
Here are some fantastic tips provided by the Berkeley Farmer’s Market on how to extend the life of your produce in and out of the refrigerator, without resorting to plastic.
Apples—Store on a cool counter or shelf for up to two weeks. For longer storage, place in a cardboard box in the fridge.
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.
Asparagus—Place the upright stalks loosely in a glass or bowl with water at room temperature. Will keep for a week outside the fridge.
Basil—Difficult to store well. Basil does not like to be cold or wet. 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.
Beets—Cut the tops off to keep beets firm, and be sure to keep the greens! Leaving any top on root vegetables draws moisture from the root, making them loose flavor and firmness. Beets should be washed and kept in an open container with a wet towel on top.
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.
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 i t’s bought.
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.
Greens—Remove any bands, twist ties, etc. Most greens must be kept in an airtight container with a damp cloth to keep them from drying out. Kale, collard greens, and chard 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.
Melons—Keep uncut in a cool dry place, out of the sun for up to a couple weeks. Cut melons should be in the fridge; an open container is fine.
Peaches (and most stone fruit)—Refrigerate only when fully ripe. Firm fruit will ripen on the counter.
Rhubarb—Wrap in a damp towel and place in an open container in the refrigerator.
Spinach—Store loose in an open container in the crisper, cool as soon as possible. Spinach loves to stay cold.
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.
Sweet peppers—Only wash them right before you plan on eating them because wetness decreases storage time. Store in a cool room to use in a couple of days, place in the crisper if longer storage is needed.
Summer squash—Does fine for a few days if left out on a cool counter, even after cut.
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.
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.