The storage of fresh fruits and vegetables differs among varieties, types, and pre-harvest conditions. The industry manages their post-harvest life by controlling the respiration and transpiration, where temperature and relative humidity are crucial parameters to guarantee final quality in the hands of consumers. The process is often so well conducted, that exotic pieces may arrive to our hands as fresh and juicy as if we were on a tropical island.
But then what? We buy these goods packed in vitamins and minerals, go back home and they get spoiled in a few days. What an ending…!
Firstly, the golden rule: fruits and vegetables are not meant to be stored together.
Fruits release ethylene along their ripening process. This molecule, even at tiny levels, has a regulatory role throughout the plant life, including growth, development and, eventually, death. The industry manages its concentration in the ambient during transportation and storage, in order to provide correctly mature crops. However, ethylene accelerates vegetable spoilage, since they can be extremely sensitive to its presence.
Together with it, temperature impacts the post-harvest life as well. Cold conditions diminish water loss, microbial development, production of ethylene as well as its sensitivity. However, this does not mean that all fruits and vegetables should be kept in chill environments…
So, the magic of extending the shelf life of fruits and vegetables starts by learning their needs.
· Tip one: avoid storing fruits producing high-ethylene with vegetables sensitive to it.
These are apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, figs, grapes, guavas, jackfruits, kiwis, mangos, melons, nectarines, papayas, passion fruits, peaches, pears, plums, prunes, quince, and tomatoes. Potatoes and onions generate this substance alike. Meanwhile, most vegetables and herbs are very susceptible to it.
· Tip two: learn what goes in/out the fridge
Some fruits and vegetables are affected by low temperatures and humidity, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, onions, shallots, and garlic. These should be kept in a cool, dark, place, outside the fridge.
Cucumbers, eggplants, and peppers may develop soft spots if the balance of cold-air flow is not adequate. Therefore, storage in the fridge with improper ventilation might be a bad idea.
Citrus fruits are not chill-sensitive, however they can be stored at low temperatures for extra freshness.
Surprisingly or not, tropical fruits (including melons) are vulnerable to cold. Best storage temperatures start at 13°C.
What else??? A few other tips:
· Leafy greens need humidity and air circulation to remain fresh. Ideally, store them washed and dried in a perforated container or bag in the fridge.
· Most vegetables should be stored in an area of the fridge with good air circulation.
· Tomatoes should be placed upside down on a flat surface. If they are unripe, avoid refrigerating them. The best condition allowing the continuation of the ripening process is room temperature away from sunlight.
· Mushrooms are best kept in a paper bag.
· Avoid overstocking your fridge: cold air needs to flow and circulate gently. Besides, having a full-fridge could compromise noticing which food is closer to expiration.
*Picture from Pixabay.com