Cooking Techniques

Storing Summer Produce

Kitchen Notes

In the heat of the summer, you have to be more mindful about how you’re storing fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. There’s nothing worse than coming home from the Farm Stand with a gorgeous, fragrant bunch of basil only to find it has wilted a few hours later. Some produce should be kept in the refrigerator, some on the kitchen counter, and some in between, say a cool place like the basement. Our handy storage guide shows you what goes where.

The key is finding the right humidity to go with the right temperature. Remember that these vegetables are picked fresh and are still respiring – they’re still alive! With a few exceptions, most vegetables want to be in a humid (not wet!) environment so they won’t wilt or become rubbery. The crisper section of your fridge will be your best friend; plastic bags and even damp paper towels can help, too.

We recommend washing vegetables only when you are about to use them. While you want their environment to be humid you don’t want most vegetables to be wet going into storage. Many vegetables will store much longer if not washed until used.

Summer Produce Storage Guide

Basil – Basil is fragile. It needs to be kept in the refrigerator, but don’t let it hang around for long. There are two ways to store it. Trim the stems and stand a bunch of basil in a jar of water or wrap your basil in paper towels and store it in a plastic bag.

Beets – Lop off the greens (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. The greens will keep wrapped in a damp paper towel or plastic bag for a day or two.

Cantaloupe – Most cantaloupes are sold before they are ready to eat. To ripen, put the whole melon in a loosely closed paper bag on the kitchen counter. We harvest ours ripe. Store a ripe melon in the refrigerator. Wrap it tightly in plastic so it doesn’t absorb the odors of the food around it.

Cilantro – Store cilantro in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It will keep for about a week. Or if there is space in the fridge, stand a bunch of cilantro (stem side down) in a jar of water. Remember to change the water every day or two.

Cucumber – Store your cucumbers in the refrigerator. Cucumbers actually want to be stored a little warmer than most other vegetables; find the warmest spot in the fridge. They should keep for about a week. If you find they get rubbery (slightly dehydrated) in your refrigerator, try putting them in a plastic bag before putting in the fridge.

Eggplant – Store eggplant in a paper bag in the vegetable section of your refrigerator. Eggplant also want to be in a warmer section of your fridge. Eggplant tastes bitter with time, so it’s best use it within a few days.

Garlic – 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.

Green Beans – Store green beans in the refrigerator. They’ll keep for several days or more without sacrificing nutrition or flavor. If you remove the tips, do so just before cooking.

Greens (kale, collards, Swiss chard, sweet potato leaves, Egyptian or Malabar spinach, amaranth and other hardy greens) – greens like to be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator not called a “freezer” and at high humidity. If you find your greens wilt quickly, wrap them in damp paper towels and place them in a plastic bag, then the crisper. They like high humidity but like most things do not store them wet. You can often resuscitate greens by putting them in ice water for a time before using. Spin dry if you plan to put them back in the fridge unused.

Kohlrabi – Store kohlrabi in the crisper of your refrigerator. If you find the bulbs dehydrate, put them in a plastic bag and then into the fridge. Kohlrabi is traditionally a storage crop; large storage bulbs can be stored in a root cellar, while younger, fresh bulbs that we usually give you will keep for a week or more. If the kohlrabi has leaves, remove them and store them in a separate plastic bag wrapped in paper towel as you would other greens. They’ll stay fresh that way for a day or two.

Leeks – Store them in the refrigerator. Wrap or put them in a plastic bag as their aroma can be absorbed by other foods. They should last a week or so in the fridge; eat them quickly after cooking them.

Lettuce and salad greens – salad greens like humidity and cold temperatures. Place bags of salad greens in the crisper with a damp paper towel on top – this should keep the greens on the top of the bag from drying out. Salad greens should last most, if not all of the week, if stored properly. Heads of lettuce can be wrapped in damp paper towels and placed in a plastic bag, then the crisper.

Okra – Store okra in the refrigerator. It’ll keep for up to four days.
Onions – Store cured onions in a cool, dry place with good air circulation (away from any potatoes.) They will keep about a month. Fresh, green onions will keep outside the refrigerator or inside the refrigerator – beware the smell and flavor being absorbed by other vegetables and items like butter.

Parsley – Store parsley in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It will keep for about a week. Or if there is space in the fridge, stand a bunch of parsley (stem side down) in a jar of water. Remember to change the water every day or two.

Peppers – Bell and Italian sweet peppers like cool not cold temperatures, ideally about 45°F to 50°F with good humidity. Put them in the warmest part of the fridge. (At home we sometimes store them in boxes in a cool, dark place, with wet burlap over them). Peppers are ethylene sensitive, so they should not be stored near ethylene-producing food such as pears or apples. Green peppers will keep slightly longer than the other, more ripe, varieties. Ripe (colored) peppers will keep 3-5 days or more.

Hot peppers can be treated like bell peppers or allowed to dry outside of the fridge.

Potatoes – Early in the season you will see “new potatoes”, which should be used within a week. Later in the season potatoes are allowed to mature and cure and these will keep longer.
Keep potatoes in a cool, dark spot, preferably in a paper bag. They like a humid (but not wet) environment. Under ideal conditions they can last up to three months this way, but more likely expect them to last 3-5 weeks. Don’t store them near onions, because it causes them to spoil. Sunlight makes potatoes turn green and refrigeration adversely affects their texture and flavor.

Sugar Snap Peas – Store sugar snap peas in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Ideally, eat them the same day that you bring them home from the Farm Stand. Their sweet flavor fades quickly.

Stone Fruit – To ripen, put peaches, nectarines or plums in a loosely closed paper bag on the kitchen counter. Once the fruit is ripe, you can keep it in the refrigerator for several days.

Summer Squash and Zucchini – Store summer squash in the crisper of your refrigerator. It will keep for at least three days, up to a week if it’s really fresh (ours are fresh!). Because they dehydrate quickly, you might try storing squash and zucchini in a plastic bag. Avoid damaging the skin, they bruise and cut easily. Damaged or blemished squash will expire more quickly; use these right away if you find one.

Tomatillos – Store tomatillos in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. They’ll keep for up to two weeks.

Tomatoes – Put tomatoes that aren’t ripe in a bowl in a sunny spot in the kitchen, after a few days they’ll soften and improve in flavor. Always store tomatoes at room temperature. The fridge saps their flavor and gives them a mealy texture. We try to give you a mix of ripe and not-quite-ripe tomatoes so they last you through the week. Use the ripe tomatoes within a couple of days, letting the other ripen for later use.

Watermelon – Store at room temperature for two to three days or up to a week or so in the refrigerator. Refrigerate after cutting.

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