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Keep Fruits and Vegetables Fresh Longer: Tips That Actually Work, According to Experts

Follow this advice to get your money's worth on produce.

vegetables and fruits in fridge
Follow these helpful tips to keep your fruits and vegetables fresher longer.
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This story is part of Home Tips, CNET's collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Summer is a great time to take advantage of the many fruits and vegetables that are in season (and relatively cheap). The problem is when too much time passes by and the strawberries and spinach you intended on eating go bad. There have been plenty of times when I've had berries sitting in the fridge and found them spoiled within the week. The good news is there are ways to combat this issue by taking a few steps before storing produce in the fridge.

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With the help of some chefs, educators and other experts, we've come up with tips to keep your favorite fruits and vegetables fresh for as long as possible. You can also check out our tips on whether or not it's cheaper to buy a meal kit compared to grocery shopping, and how to get that organized TikTok fridge look.

Read more: Best Refrigerator for 2022

herbs and vegetables in fridge

A good way to keep herbs fresh is by trimming the bottom stems and placing them in water.

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How to keep herbs fresh

If you like making your dishes with fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro, you know that a bunch can go bad if you don't use it all at once. Experts recommend a couple of different methods to keep herbs fresh as long as possible. You can trim the bottom stems, and place them in water in the fridge, according to Kelsey Riley, founder of vegan recipe site Planted in the Kitchen -- so long as you remember to change the water daily. 

Another option is to wrap herbs in a damp paper towel and seal them in an airtight bag, says Christina Bailey, a private chef and culinary instructor for cooking class provider Cozymeal. Olivia Roszkowski, chef instructor of Health-Supportive Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, advises wrapping a damp towel around fresh herbs to preserve them longer. "This helps prevent wilting while soaking up excess moisture that can cause rot," she says. 

green fruits and vegetables in fridge

Store leafy greens in a dry environment in your fridge. 

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How to keep leafy greens and root vegetables fresh

Keeping leafy greens such as spinach, kale and lettuce fresh require making the refrigerator environment as dry as possible. Extra lettuce will last longer if you place layers of paper towels between the lettuce leaves and seal it with plastic wrap. "The paper towels will retain the moisture as it comes out, and this can prevent lettuce from wilting as fast, but make sure to swap out the paper towels when they get damp," says Jen Stark, founder of gardening and home improvement blog Happy DIY Home. You should also remove any spoiled leaves in salad mixes to prevent bacteria from spreading across the rest of the produce, Roszkowski says.

Bailey also swears by wrapping dark leafy greens like kale in damp paper towels to help them last longer. She takes the same approach with root vegetables such as celery, carrots and parsnips. "If you have celery that has become floppy and lost its crunch, make a fresh cut at the very bottom of the stalks, and soak them in a bowl of cold water for a little while," she explains. "The stalks may not regain all of their original freshness, but the fibers can absorb some of the water and get a bit of texture back." 

To prevent carrots from drying out, Stark recommends chopping off the leafy green parts before you store them, and putting the carrots in a sealed container full of water before storing them in the fridge. "Carrot leaves pull nutrients from the roots, but once you cut them off and follow this process, fresh carrots can last between three and four weeks," she says.

berries at a farmer's market

To keep fruits fresh longer, you'll want to keep fruits with skins or peels separate from each other. 

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How to keep fruit fresh in the fridge

To keep those precious summer berries from going bad, you should store them in a container with small holes, on top of a paper towel. This prevents them from getting mushy and molding, according to Brittany Kline, a food preservation expert. 

To increase freshness, you'll want to keep fruits with skins or peels (like bananas and peaches) separate from each other, says Natalia Thompson, CEO and Recipe Creator at Flavorful Home. The reason is ethylene gas, a natural gas produced by most fruits and veggies as they ripen. "If you're keeping them in a fruit basket or a crisper drawer all together, chances are they contribute to the faster ripening of each other, making them spoil faster in the process," Thompson said. Additionally, she advises against keeping apples, bananas and tomatoes in particular close to each other because they are all heavy producers of ethylene gas.

Likewise, these fruits should not be placed with other produce like artichokes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower or lettuce. "These are sensitive to ethylene gas too, even when they don't produce the gas themselves," says Thompson. However, if your fruits ripen sooner than anticipated, you can freeze certain ones, such as avocado, bananas, berries, pineapple or mango for later use. 

inside of empty fridge

Make sure the fridge temperature is set accurately. This will also help your produce last longer.

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One last tip: Check your fridge temperature

While all of these tips and tricks will help keep your produce fresh for longer, they ultimately rely on one thing: your refrigerator. That means you want to make sure your temperature is set correctly and is accurate. The best way to check your fridge's temperature is by using a candy or bulb-style thermometer and then adjusting the dial in your fridge accordingly (learn more about how to test your fridge's temperature here). If the temperature isn't cooperating after a few times of troubleshooting, it may be time to replace your fridge (check out CNET's top refrigerator picks). 

Once you verify that your fridge is in good working order, you want to make sure you're storing your produce in the right place. Most fridges have drawers that are specified for fruits or veggies, based on the needs of that produce -- don't ignore them. 

As always, it's best to buy your fruits and vegetables in season, and to use them sooner rather than later. But if you want to prolong their life, these tips and techniques can help you do so, ultimately saving you money. For more, check out the cooking tip that will save you money on your utility bill, and how to save $100 a year by unplugging your appliances.