Making your fruit and veg last longer

With the rising cost of living and vegetables being so expensive ($10 lettuce, anyone?!), it is important to store your fruits and vegetables well so they last as long as possible.

How food is stored impacts how quickly it ripens (or over-ripens!) and the nutrient content as the longer a food goes from harvest to consumption, the lower the nutritional value. Vitamin C is likely to be lost as it is water-soluble and the water content and form can change with storage. Green leafy vegetables are most likely to lose nutrients with storage so it’s important to keep them as crisp as possible! 

Sliced fruits and vegetables are great to have on hand as a quick and healthy snack and save space in the fridge. However, the open-air exposure can reduce the nutrient content. For example, a loss of vitamin C from 5-25% depending on the fruit can be expected, with sliced cantaloupe reporting the highest loss. Other nutrients such as carotenoids and antioxidants had no significant loss, so store fresh produce whole where you can, but if it means you’re more likely to eat it, cut it up. Make sure fruits and vegetables in the fridge look good as they are more likely to visually spoil first before losing a significant amount of nutrients. Most fruits will last 6-9 days after being sliced (some vegetables a few days longer) if you follow a few simple rules: store them in an airtight container (with the exception of berries) and always refrigerate cut produce. 

Soaking sliced fruit and vegetables is a popular method to prolong fridge life. There is little research on the impact of this on the nutrient value; however, some water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C would likely be lost. But once again, this is expected to be minimal, so if it means you’re more likely to eat it, then go ahead but storing food whole is preferred.

Fresh produce from the farmer’s market often lasts longer than produce from the supermarket because the time from harvest to market is shorter. There are added benefits of shopping locally, such as access to seasonal produce and supporting local farmers, and it is often kinder on the wallet too. Farmer’s markets are a fantastic community to be a part of, it’s worth finding your local one if you haven’t already! 

Apples, avocados, stone fruits, pears, bananas and tomatoes will help other fruits and vegetables to ripen due to the ethylene gas emitted from them. So keep these guys away from the rest of your produce to make it last longer! Onions will also cause potatoes to spout quicker, so try to keep these guys apart. 

Here are a few ways to make sure you get to eat the food you buy:

Spring Onions

Spring onions are often bought with the roots intact, which is fabulous for keeping them for longer. By putting spring onions in a jar with 2-3cm of water, they will stay crisp and continue to grow. Just cut the top green parts off to use in cooking and salads. Make sure you keep an eye on the water and change it every couple of days and don’t let it go dry! Like this, spring onions will last over a month.

Avocado

Once ripe, the best way to store avocados is to coat them with a little bit of lemon juice and wrap them in a beeswax wrap or place them in an airtight container. A recent TicTok trend gained popularity for keeping avocadoes in water; however the FDA doesn’t support this method as bacteria can grow in the water and contaminate the fruit (yep, avocados are a fruit!). Uncut avocado can keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks and will continue to ripen slowly. Cut avocados can be stored airtight for 2-3 days.

Celery

If you’ve got celery sticks that have already been cut up, these will store best in a container and soaked in water. Like this, celery will keep for 3-4 days. But, if you’ve got whole celery, you can wrap it in aluminium foil, and it will last up to 2 weeks! Once you’ve eaten your celery, you can place the bottom of it in a shallow bowl of water on the counter, and it will start to grow again! 

Berries

If kept in the fridge, in a shallow container (where they can spread out on a single layer) with a layer of paper towel at the bottom to absorb the moisture, berries will keep for 5 days. It is best to not keep them in an airtight container because they like to be able to breathe. Frozen berries will store for about 12 months and retain most of their nutritional value so don’t shy away from frozen berries which can be much more affordable.

Leafy greens

Leafy greens are so nutritious but also very fragile and vulnerable to nutrient loss. The best way to look after them is to wash and dry the leaves gently and store them in an air-tight container with a paper towel at the bottom. Leafy greens don’t like moisture so if you can’t dry them properly, wash them before you use them instead of before storing them. Change the paper towel whenever it feels damp and your leaves will be crunchy for 5-7 days (sometimes more!).  

Potatoes and sweet potatoes

Potatoes need airflow and love a cool, dry environment.  Keep them in a cool, dark cupboard in a paper or mesh bag, away from your onions.  Like this, potatoes will last months. Surprisingly, potatoes don’t like the fridge as it can lead to the formation of acrylamide during cooking. Acrylamide increases the risk of developing cancer.

Apples and pears

Apples and pears can be stored together because they like similar conditions. They will ripen best at room temperature but once ripe, keep them in the fridge. The crisper is the perfect place for them! Kept properly in the fridge and they will last 6-8 weeks.  

I’ve created this little cheat sheet to help remember these tips and tricks! 

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