As everybody knows, fruits and vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet. The problem, however, lies in the fact that produce tends to have a fairly short shelf life, even when that shelf is in the refrigerator. Sure, it would be just wonderful if we could all go shopping for fresh produce every day, and we all lived right next to a farm stand that kept late hours, and it was summertime all year round so the best stuff was always in season …
Meanwhile, back in the real world, you pretty much know that if you want to buy that pint of fresh raspberries, you’ll need to eat them on the same day. And if you don’t act fast, you may have to abandon your dream of a crisp, fresh salad for one made with wilted greens. While there are a few ways you can revive or repurpose produce past its prime, there are some fruits and veggies that are guaranteed to last until your next grocery run. Plus, you can extend their freshness even longer with the right storage methods.
Apples and pears
Apples are practically the fruit that built our nation. After all, what could be more all-American than apple pie? The dessert was actually a staple of the colonial diet — though they used dried apples, which lasted throughout the winter, per The Daily Progress.
While apples that haven’t been dried might not keep for an entire season, they can stay relatively fresh and edible for a surprisingly long time. According to Kitchn, if you keep them in their bag in your fridge, they might last a month or two, after which point they might still be good for cooking. If you store your apples at cooler temperature, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension says they might be able to last for up to four months.
And all of the above works for pears, too. It makes sense when you consider the similar textures of both fruits. Interesting note: If you have a specially controlled cold storage area (probably the kind of setup you’d only have if you were a commercial grower), you could keep your apples and pears fresh for up to an entire year!
Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit — all of these have one thing in common, besides their bright colors, tart taste, and playing nicely with cocktails. They’re also very long-lasting, with All Recipes suggesting they can stay good for up to four weeks. Plant You says they may stay fresh even longer, perhaps up to two months.
Both sources agree that citrus should not be stored in plastic bags, but should be kept loose or in a mesh bag in the refrigerator. Plus, citrus fruits, if unripe, should be allowed to ripen at room temperature. They then should be stored cold and only returned to room temperature right before eating.
Per Prevention, potatoes like temperatures right around 40 degrees, but that they do not do well when exposed to light, since it makes them turn green. (Not a good thing, since the green part might make you sick.) Potatoes can be stored in a basement or cellar for up to four months, although they should not be stored anywhere near either onions or apples. Both onions and apples emit gases as they ripen that have the ability to speed up the potatoes’ ripening process.
Also, it’s only the white-fleshed varieties of potato that are long-lasting – sweet potatoes or yams should be eaten within a week of purchase.
Onions and garlic
Garlic and onions have a long and storied past — and some of the stories are pretty weird, such as the Islamic legend that says when Satan fled from the Garden of Eden, garlic sprang from his left footprint, while onions grew out of his right (via Discover Garlic). Well, despite their dubious backstory, both vegetables tend to keep well, so you can go ahead and stock up.
Prevention suggests storing whole garlic bulbs in a dark kitchen cabinet or a paper bag in the refrigerator. They caution, however, that if you choose to refrigerate your garlic, you’ll need to do so until right up to the time you want to use it, otherwise it will tend to get all sprouty within a few days of being taken out of the fridge. Properly stored garlic can last several months, as can onions stored in a dark cabinet. Should you happen to have a dry area to store your onions where the temperature remains between 30 and 50 degrees (like if your man cave is an actual cave), they could stay fresh for up to a year.
Other root vegetables
Let us root, root, root for the root vegetables! Are you singing along? Well, let’s get back to the basics of long-lasting vegetables. Plant You suggests that if you store root vegetables like beets, parsnips, rutabagas, and turnips in a cool place and pack them so they’ll have good airflow (perhaps in a mesh bowl, a cardboard box with holes, or on a wooden rack), they may last up to six months. If you really want to keep your root veggies fresh as long as possible, they also suggest cutting off their tops (the part where the greens attach).
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