At last, cooler weather has arrived! I appreciate that we had a beautiful summer, but I am ready for the change in seasons. Fall fruits and vegetables are characterized by their sweetness and cook-ability. Think apples, pears, beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and parsnips to name a few. This is the time of year when root vegetables are at their peak. Ditto winter squashes, cruciferous (broccoli family) vegetables and leafy greens. They all taste great and they are rich in vitamins and disease-fighting antioxidants. Learn how best to store fall fruits and vegetable to maximize their flavor and preserve their nutrients.
Apples – Apples are fine at room temperature for up to a week. It’s a good idea to have a bowl of apples out on the kitchen table for easy snacking. Apples will keep for ages in the refrigerator – up to six weeks. Put them in a plastic bag and store them in the vegetable bin.
Beets – Lop off the tops and store your beets in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They’ll keep for several weeks; they are a root vegetable after all.
Bok Choy – Plan to use your bok choy right away, because it’ll only keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Store it in a plastic bag.
Broccoli – You can store broccoli in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for four days easily and often it keeps for a week. Keep broccoli in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
Broccoli Rabe – Wrap the greens in paper towels and place them in a plastic bag to maintain moisture. Broccoli rabe will keep in the refrigerator for two to three days.
Brussels Sprouts – Store your Brussels sprouts in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Don’t keep them around for longer than a few days or they will develop a stronger, sometimes unpleasant flavor. We sometimes harvest them on the stem (stem and all!) and they will last longer this way – even longer if you put the stem end in water. Before you cook them, you can cut an X in the base of the sprout so that the center cooks evenly with the leaves.
Cabbage – Keep your cabbage in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It’ll be good for a week or more. Leave the outer leaves on so that it stays moist while you are storing it. Remove them when it’s time to cook.
Carrots – Trim off any green tops and store carrots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for a week or more. Don’t put them in the same vegetable bin as apples, because the fruit emits ethylene gas, which can give carrots a bitter taste.
Cauliflower – Store your cauliflower loosely wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. It’ll keep for about a week, though its sweetness fades with time. Trim off any brown spots before cooking.
Celery – Store your celery in plastic or, better, aluminum foil, in the refrigerator. Celery gives off ethylene gas and the foil will keep it from affecting sensitive veggies. It’ll keep for up to two weeks. Leave the ribs on the stalk until ready to use.
Collard Greens – Store your collards in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They’ll keep for up to five days.
Garlic – Keep garlic handy in an open container if you use it quickly. Otherwise store garlic in a cool, dry place – don’t keep it in the refrigerator. Whole bulbs will last a couple of months and individual cloves will keep for about a week after they’ve been separated from the bulb.
Kale – Wrap your kale in a couple of sheets of paper towel to seal in moisture and store in the refrigerator for up to three days. Don’t wash your kale until you’re ready to use it.
Leeks – Keep leeks in the refrigerator for 5 days or more.
Lettuce – Before storing lettuce, remove any browning leaves and take off any rubber bands or metal ties. Unwashed lettuces will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days. Washed and dried greens last a little longer. You can store them in the salad spinner you used to clean them or in a plastic bag. It also helps to add a damp paper towel to the bag.
Onions – Onions can be stored in the refrigerator at low humidity for longer storage life, but much better to store in a cool, dark drawer, paper bag or cabinet nearby. Keep them away from potatoes. If you go through onions quickly, they are fine on the counter or hanging in a basket for a few days. Careful that light will encourage onions to sprout and they may turn bitter. If they do sprout, try the sprout as a fresh onion green!
Parsnips – Store parsnips in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. They’ll keep that way for up to two weeks.
Pears – Store pears at room temperature to soften slightly and ripen, then refrigerate for up to three days.
Potatoes – The farm stores its potatoes between 40 – 50 F to keep for several months; any cooler and their starches turn to sugar. At home plan to use them more quickly, put them in a paper bag and find a cooler, dark place; a cabinet, drawer, or even under the oven. Keep them away from onions and apples to keep them from sprouting.
Pumpkin – Pumpkins will keep for a month in a cool, dry place, ideally 50-55 F. Or store them in the refrigerator for up to three months. When it’s time to cook, a quick turn in the microwave for a few minutes will soften the rind so that it’s easy to cut into the pumpkin.
Rutabaga – Rutabagas will keep in a cool, dry place for a month or longer. To cook, rinse and peel the skin with a paring knife.
Spinach – Store spinach in the refrigerator in a plastic bag. It’ll keep that way for up to three days. Spinach tends to be gritty, so rinse thoroughly before using.
Swiss Chard – Store Swiss chard in the refrigerator in a plastic bag to maintain moisture. It will keep for at least three days. It also helps to add a damp paper towel to the bag.
Sweet Potatoes – They may look hardy, but sweet potatoes are actually quite delicate. Handle them carefully. Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dark place. Plan to use them within a week, but they can be stored in a root cellar at 55 F for much of the winter.
Turnips – They will keep for a week or more if refrigerated. To use, cut off the root and greens, and peel.
Winter Squash – Store winter squash in a cool, dry place, ideally 50-55 F. It will keep for at least a month, some varieties for as long as six months. Winter squash make great seasonal decorations. If you’re displaying them, cook them within a few weeks or they’ll dry out.