Posted: 2:29 p.m. Monday, June 23, 2014
By Crystal Collins, Contributor
One of the biggest culprits when it comes to your produce going bad is actually a natural and necessary thing. It's call Ethylene gas. It's produced naturally by fruits and vegetables in the ripening process, according to the Washington State University Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center. But too much of it leads to excess spoilage.
The first step in the battle against spoilage is reducing the amount of this gas, but there are also other things that you can do.
1. Keep your fridge clean! I know it's not fun, but it is a necessary evil if you want food to last longer. Leftover residue or mold spores can increase the spoilage of all your food that is in the fridge.
2. Don't store fruits and vegetables near a gas stove. Natural gas has been shown to increase ripening just like Ethylene gas.
3. Don't store fruits and vegetables in an area that tends to have smoke and/or heat (this includes the stove/toaster oven and cigarette smoke). The exhaust and heat from these and certain combustion engines can increase the amount of Ethylene gas that gets produced and speeds up the ripening process.
4. Get an Ethylene gas absorber for your fridge, or there are also special bags that you can buy for storing produce.
5. Try not to cut your fruits and vegetables unless you have to, or will be using them right away. Even with proper storage, a cut apple is going to spoil faster than one that is not.
6. Place fresh herbs and leafy greens in a jar or vase of water, just like you would a bouquet of flowers. They'll last longer and you'll have a beautifully green arrangement!
7. If you'd like to take this last step a little further, you can place leafy greens and herbs in water, cover the top with plastic, and then place in the fridge.
8. Here's a fun trick for onions: If you want them to last up to 8 months, all you need do is grab that old pair of panty-hose you've been allowing to hide in the back of your top dresser drawer, place the onions in the panty-hose, and then tie a knot in between each one to keep them separate. Then hang this from the ceiling.
9. Dried green onions/chives can be chopped up and stored in a plastic water bottle and kept in the freezer. When you're ready to use some, just pull this out and sprinkle for a little somethin' somethin' to add to your dish.
10. Store potatoes with apples to keep them from sprouting, and don't let them anywhere near your panty-hose onions. Onions will make them go bad faster, but apples are a potatoe's best friend!
11. When it comes to chopped up salad greens, your worst enemy is moisture. If you can keep the moisture at a minimum, then you'll keep your greens longer. Keep them in a bowl with a paper towel, and cover with plastic wrap. The paper towel will absorb the excess moisture.
12. Don't add tomatoes to your stored salad greens. The tomatoes contain the moisture that will wilt and rot your greens quickly.
13. Trapped moisture will also make mushrooms go bad. Store them in a brown paper bag in the fridge or a cool, dry place. Don't use plastic or glass, as this will trap in moisture.
14. Don't overstock the fridge. This leads to poor air circulation, and we want to keep our fruits and veggies at optimal temperature!
15. Clean your berries, fruits, and greens in a mixture of 10 parts water and 1 part white vinegar. Not only will this remove excess dirt and even pesticides, but it will also help them last longer by preventing mold.
16. To keep cut apples, avocados, or guacamole from turning brown, spritz with a little lemon juice and then cover with plastic.
17. Remove rotten apples immediately, because one rotten apple WILL spoil the entire bunch.
18. Keep bananas away from your other produce, as they produce some of the highest amounts of Ethylene gas.
19. Place plastic wrap around the crown of your banana bunch to keep them lasting longer. Side note: If you want them to ripen super fast, place them in a closed plastic bag. Since they emit so much Ethylene gas, they'll ripen quickly when the gas is trapped by the bag.
20. Tomatoes should stay at room temperature and away from sunlight. If you have your own tomato plant, you should pick tomatoes as soon as you notice that they are ripe. The sun does an excellent job at ripening and spoiling them (especially once they are off the stem). Be sure not to store your tomatoes in plastic, as this will trap moisture and increase the likelihood of spoilage.
21. If you'd like to make your herbs last even longer, consider drying them. Bunch herbs loosely together with some string, and then hang in your kitchen.
22. Here's another fun way to store herbs: Cut them up, place in an ice tray, add olive oil, and then freeze. Then you have oil and herbs for your dishes at a moment's notice!
23. If you're not up for having an entire fridge of greens in vases of water, you can store things like celery, lettuce, kale, and broccoli in tin foil to decrease their spoilage time.
24. Don't keep meat and produce in the same area of the fridge. This makes cross-contamination likely.
25. If you're into using roots like ginger or turmeric in either your cooking or juicing, you can store these in the freezer and they'll still grate quite easily (peel and all!).
26. Use glassware for fridge storage of fruits and veggies. Many plastics may contain harmful chemicals that can increase spoilage. This is just another reason to have more fun Mason jars! You can even use a Food Saver vacuum sealer on Mason jars.
27. It probably goes without saying, but freezing and canning for long-term storage of fruits and vegetables is the way to go. And you don't need an expensive canner to get started with canning.
28. Store your nuts in either the freezer or a Food Saver jar/bag. The key with nuts is avoiding moisture and air.
29. Don't keep your produce in the door of the fridge where temperatures are going to fluctuate. Keep them in the middle or your bottom drawers to keep temps more consistent.
What do you think about these tips? Any that you would add for keeping that produce as long as possible? Share your thoughts with us!
Crystal Collins, a Savings.com DealPro, is an Atlanta local, adventurer, a health advocate and thrifty as can be. Check her out on her blog at NaturalThrifty.com.