According to data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 200 million tonnes of food are thrown away in developed countries every year. The largest amount of waste comes from fruits and vegetables. Consider the bananas that go black so quickly sitting on the counter or the carrots that slowly go bendy in the fridge. Some of them can be used in meals whilst others are beyond redemption, no matter what we do. The best thing is to know how to store them to prolong their use.
Let’s start by learning about the fruit and veg drawer in your fridge. Are you able to adjust the humidity? Are there holes for ventilation? Even if you don’t have these features, the most important advantage of this drawer is its ability to keep the environment humid. If the drawer has high humidity, it’s ideal for foods like asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, lemon, green beans, green herbs, peppers and strawberries that tend to dry out quickly. Foods like apples, apricots, figs, kiwis, melons, peaches and bananas, on the other hand, need a drier environment.
Fruits that produce a lot of ethylene gas (such as apples, tomatoes and bananas) should not be kept near other fruits and vegetables. They cause other fruits to ripen and spoil more quickly. In short, don’t store those that spoil quickly together with those that tend to dry out.
Fruits like apples, tomatoes, pears, avocados, melons, peaches, plums and apricots should be kept out on the counter to ripen and become more delicious. Fruits like grapes, oranges, lemons, strawberries and peppers, on the other hand, should be kept in the fridge. Bananas ripen really fast and go black even faster if they are stored near citrus fruits.
How should you store the fruit and veg that you eat most often?
Store apples in the drawer with a slightly damp paper towel on top. Remember, if even one fruit is overripe, it will quickly cause the others to spoil because of the ethylene gas it produces. Remove it from the rest of the fruit and eat it quickly!
Greens with thick leaves like humidity but not being wet as they will quickly turn yellow. Make sure you thoroughly dry the greens that you use in salads, such as iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce and rocket, after washing. Wrap them in a dry towel (that’s right, a normal face towel!) and store in the fridge.
Wash delicate herbs like mint, coriander and basil just before using. Put them in a glass with a small amount of water, just like flowers, and keep in the fridge.
Keep onions and potatoes in the cellar if you have one. Otherwise, store them in a corner of the kitchen that doesn’t get any sun, but be careful that they aren’t piled up as onions will cause potatoes to go bad.
When storing root vegetables, cut off the tops. This prevents them from drying out and protects their texture and flavour.
Keep bright yellow lemons out on the counter. I love to put them on display in a beautiful decorative bowl. However, lemons will only last one week when stored like this but they do last for four weeks when kept in the refrigerator.
Aubergines and cucumbers don’t like the cold. So, if you’re going to eat them within a couple of days, you can store them out on the worktop.
The best place for mushrooms is in the fruit and veg drawer, wrapped in brown paper. The paper allows air to circulate and the drawer keeps the air moist.
Instead of putting tomatoes in the fridge, leave them on the worktop at room temperature to continue ripening. Put them in a basket that allows air to circulate and line them up side-by-side, stem side down. Storing them in the fridge prevents ripening, hinders flavour development and makes the flesh granular.
The best way to store carrots is to wrap them in a paper towel and keep in the fridge. However, if you have space, you can store them in a container full of water. If the carrot still has the top, cut it off and keep the top separately.