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Storing Vegetables

There are vegetables you should NEVER store in the refrigerator as well as vegetables you should ALWAYS store in the fridge for the best taste and texture. Properly storing your vegetables will maximize not only their longevity, but their taste and texture.

When it comes to storing fresh produce, here’s a little background. There are three basic combinations of conditions for storage:

  1. Cold and moist (32 to 40°F and 95% humidity), such as in a refrigerator (with a perforated plastic bag to provide the humidity) or in a root cellar. Most produce keeps best in cold, moist conditions, which are easiest to maintain in a refrigerator. However, refrigerators also have a drying effect, so it’s often necessary to store produce in perforated bags or in the produce (crisper) drawer to increase relative humidity.
  2. Cold and dry (32 to 40°F and 65% humidity), such as in a refrigerator or an unheated garage. For the vegetables and fruit that store best in cool, dry conditions, a cool spot in your kitchen, mudroom, or basement is often perfect.
  3. Cool and dry (50 to 60°F and 60% humidity), such as in an unheated basement.

How to Store Vegetables
Let’s look at which vegetables should be stored either A. in a refrigerator or root cellar or B. out of the refrigerator.

A. Vegetables to Keep in the Refrigerator or Root Cellar
Most produce stores best in cold, moist conditions, which makes the refrigerator the ideal place to keep it. Because refrigerators tend to dry things out, keep produce in the produce drawer or in perforated plastic bags to increase relative humidity. Root cellars are a great option for long-lasting root crops such as carrots or beets.

  • Asparagus: Store asparagus by placing the spears upright in an open container (such as a drinking glass or a jar) that contains about an inch of water. Cover the asparagus loosely with a produce bag. It should keep for 10 to 14 days.
  • Beans – Snap: Keep green beans such as snap beans in a perforated produce bag in the refrigerator and they should keep for about a week. Note that their condition will deteriorate faster if they are kept below 40°F.
  • Brussels sprouts: Store sprouts in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.
  • Broccoli: Store broccoli in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Do not wash it prior to putting it in the fridge, as this can encourage bacterial rot.
  • Cabbage: Cabbage can be stored in the refrigerator in the produce drawer for up to 4 to 5 months.
  • Cauliflower: As with broccoli, store cauliflower in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. Do not wash it prior to storage; it should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Radishes: Radishes keep well in cold conditions. Store in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Root Crops – Carrots, Beets, Turnips and Parsnips
Carrots, parsnips, beets, turnips, and other root crops should either be stored in a root cellar (if you have one) or in a refrigerator properly.

  • Store small amounts in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag, where they will keep 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Store large amounts in a root cellar or another cool, dark, humid place. Brush the roots clean of any clinging garden soil. If tops are still attached, twist or cut them off one-half to one inch above the roots. Bury the roots in buckets of sand. Add a layer of slightly damp sand to either polyethylene bags with breathing holes or to the bottom of plastic containers such as 5-gallon plastic buckets. Then add a layer of carrots and more sand to the container. Storage temperatures should be just above freezing.

If you have an overabundance of beets, make homemade borscht, the classic beet soup, and freeze. To grate the beets more easily, cook them first. A little vinegar intensifies the color.

B. Vegetables to Keep Out of the Refrigerator

Some vegetables are susceptible to cold damage at temperatures below 40°F, which means that they are best stored outside of the fridge. If possible, keep them in a cool (55°F) part of the kitchen, pantry, or mudroom.

Cucumbers
Cucumbers can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days, but will keep for longer in a cool spot in the kitchen. Keep them in a perforated plastic bag for 7 to 10 days.

Eggplant
Eggplant stores best outside of the refrigerator in a cool part of the kitchen. Under cold conditions, it may develop brown spots after more than a few days. Keep it in a perforated plastic bag for adequate humidity. Eggplant will keep for 7 to 10 days.

Onions, Garlic and Shallots
Never put onions, garlic or shallots in the refrigerator. Store at room temperature away from direct sunlight in a cool, dark place such as a pantry. It’s best to store them in mesh bags (which they often come in) to get that ventilation. If you can’t do this, put them in a bowl in your pantry. You may cover with a bag, but make sure there are plenty of ventilation holes. Once cut open, these bulbs can be stored in the refrigerator in a small container or baggie.

Don’t let any of your food go to waste with these storage tips.

  • Do not store onions near potatoes! They are not friends. Potatoes excrete moisture and speed up onion decay.
  • It’s fine to store scallions and green onions in the refrigerator.

Tip: Want to stop crying when you cut up an onion? Chill that onion for 30 minutes before peeling the outer layers. Avoid the root where it’s the most tear-inducing!

Peppers
Bell peppers can be stored in perforated produce bags in a cool part of the kitchen. They will keep for 10 to 14 days.

Store hot peppers the old-fashioned way: by threading them on a string and hanging until dry. Peppers need to have good air circulation and not touch each other to dry properly.

Potatoes
Never refrigerate potatoes—it will turn their starch to sugar. Brush off any clinging soil, and store in a dark, cool place such as a pantry or basement. Put in a basket or paper bag.

  • Potatoes like it a bit warmer than other root crops, so store them higher up.
  • Don’t store potatoes with onions or apples; these crops give off ethylene gas that will spoil the potatoes.

Pumpkins and Winter Squash – Butternut, Acorn
Squashes don’t like to be quite as cool nor as humid as root crops do. Store squash in a place with a temperature of about 50° to 65°F.  Below 50°F, they are subject to chilling damage. Above 65°F, they become stringy.

If you have a cool-ish bedroom, stashing them under the bed works well!

Summer Squash – Zucchini
Zucchini and other summer squashes may be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. For longer than that, store them in a cool part of the kitchen in a perforated plastic bag. They should keep for 10 to 14 days.

Tomatoes
Never refrigerate fresh tomatoes if you want to keep that fresh off-the-vine taste! Cherry tomatoes are the only variety that tend to stand up to time in the fridge without turning mushy or mealy too quickly.

Store on a counter but out of direct sunlight. If tomatoes are green, layer in a shallow box, separating each tomato with paper and the tomatoes will ripen. At 55°F, they will take 25 to 28 days; at 65°F to 70°F, they will take 14 days.

If you have an abundance of tomatoes learn How to Can Tomatoes.

Other Tips

  • Rhubarb, petite peas, sweet corn, and diagonally sliced or French-cut green beans are easy to blanch and freeze—and still taste great when thawed.
  • Cucumbers, beets, tomatoes and virtually all fruits (especially peaches) are well-suited to canning, and their subsequent taste tends to be worth the added trouble.

Information courtesy of Almanac.com

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