Keep Fruits and Vegetables Fresh Longer: Tips That Actually Work, According to Experts
Follow this advice to get your money's worth on produce.
Giselle Castro-SlobodaFitness and Nutrition Writer
I'm a Fitness & Nutrition writer for CNET who enjoys reviewing the latest fitness gadgets, testing out activewear and sneakers, as well as debunking wellness myths. On my spare time I enjoy cooking new recipes, going for a scenic run, hitting the weight room, or binge-watching many TV shows at once. I am a former personal trainer and still enjoy learning and brushing up on my training knowledge from time to time. I've had my wellness and lifestyle content published in various online publications such as: Women's Health, Shape, Healthline, Popsugar and more.
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.
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.
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.
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.