Hopefully you’ve been hitting the farmer’s market or scouring your local grocery store for all the great fruits and veggies that are currently in season.
Yet if you’re like most busy people, those perfectly ripe apricots end up growing mold before you’ve had a chance to devour them, of you find a bag of mushy zucchini in the back of the fridge you completely forgot about. Surveys show that Americans throw out about 25% of the produce they buy.
That’s a lot of wasted food and money – not to mention valuable nutrients.
If you’re tired of tossing so much in the trash, the following guidelines can help you avoid wasting your fruits and veggies:
• Keep it cool. Refrigerate most produce – the main way to lengthen shelf life is by using cold temperatures to slow food’s respiration.
• Separate. Separate produce that emits ethylene from produce that is sensitive to it. Gas ethylene encourages ripening, so refrigerate the following gas releasers separately: apples, apricots, cantaloupe & honeydew. Don’t refrigerate the following gas releasers: avocados, bananas, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, tomatoes. And keep these away from all gas releasers: banana (ripe), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce and other leafy greens, parsley, peas, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, watermelon.
• Keep produce whole. Don’t even rip the stem out of an apple until you eat it. Whole produce lasts longer.
• Toss any spoiled produce immediately. Mold contaminates everything nearby.
• Try ethylene absorbers. You can buy certain products that will keep your produce ripe longer and from spoiling too soon. Try the E.G.G. (4theegg.com) or ExtraLife (at reusablebags.com). Also recommended are Tupperware’s FridgeSmart crispers that control venting and lift produce away from condensation (at eBay.com).
• Eat up. Eat the more perishable produce early on (more on that below)
Fastest & slowest spoilers:
1. Eat the following most perishable items first (within the first two days): artichokes, asparagus, avocados (ripe), bananas (ripe), basil, broccoli, cherries, corn, dill, green beans, mushrooms, mustard greens, all berries, watercress.
2. Eat next (within four days after purchase): arugula, cucumbers, eggplant, grapes, lettuce, lime, pineapple, and zucchini.
3. Eat last (within 6 days of purchase): apricots, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, grapefruit, leek, lemons, mint, oranges, oregano, parsley, peaches, pears, plums, spinach, tomatoes, watermelon.
4. Can be stored for more than a week: In the refrigerator – apples, beets, cabbage, carrots, and celery. In a cool, dark, dry cabinet – garlic, onions, potatoes, and winter squash (can last up to a month).