Storing Garden Produce

This food safety post is well overdue. It’s been a busy summer as can be seen in my garden by the fact that there are more weeds than vegetables!  I’m sure at this point many of you are harvesting plenty of healthy vegetables from your garden. Are you starting to wonder how long you can keep these vegetables/fruit and where you should keep them? Well if so this blog, created by my wonderful dietetic intern Kim, is for you!
Fruit and vegetables have various and specific ways to properly store them to prevent spoilage and ensure best flavor. Some are better to store in the refrigerator while others are best stored at room temperature. Once a fruit or vegetable is cut or prepared it is always important to store it in the refrigerator and use it up within a few days.
Some produce is best stored washed while others unwashed.  Regardless of how they are stored always remember to thoroughly wash any garden item prior to eating or cooking. When pre-washing before storage, be sure to dry fruits and vegetables with a clean paper towel before storing to prevent any mold or rotting.

Storage Method & Time
Berries (blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries)
Refrigerator crisper: 2-3 days
Remove any spoiled or crushed berries before storing. Store unwashed in plastic bags or containers. Don’t remove green tops from strawberries before storing. Wash gently under cool running water before eating.
Melons (watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe)
Store uncut melons at room temperature
Refrigerator: 3-4 days for cut melon
For best flavor, store melons at room temperature until ripe. Store ripe, cut melon covered in the refrigerator. Wash rind thoroughly before cutting (preferably use a scrubbing brush to wash rind).
Peaches, pears, nectarines
Refrigerator crisper: 5 days
Ripen the fruit at room temperature, and then refrigerate in plastic bags. Wash before eating.
Apricots, cherries, plums
Refrigerator in perforated plastic bag: 1 week
Refrigerate in plastic bag. Wash well before eating.
Store at room temperature
To ripen quickly, store in paper bag at room temperature. Once ripe, there is no need to refrigerate, once refrigerated they will lose flavor and become overly soft.
Salad Greens (lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, collards)
Refrigerator; loosely packed in perforated plastic bag for 2-4 days
Refrigerate immediately after harvest, store unwashed. Wash thoroughly before eating.
Beets, carrots, parsnips, radish, turnips
Refrigerator crisper: 1-2 weeks
Remove green tops and store in plastic bags. Trim taproots from radishes before storing. Wash before eating.
Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
Refrigerator in perforated plastic bag: 3-6 days
Remove outer leaves from cabbage before storing. Wash before eating.
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions (red, white, yellow)
Room temperature: 2-4 weeks
Store in cool, dry, well ventilated area away from light. Scrub well before cooking.
Bell peppers
Refrigerator up to 5 days
Store in a plastic bag and rinse before eating.
Winter squash
Room temperature up to 3 months
Length of time a winter squash can be stored at room temperature depends on the size and variety.  Store in a cool, dark place.
Up to 1 month at room temperature
Scrub or wash the outside of the pumpkin before cutting.

*Note: These are general guidelines for storing garden produce. If produce develops mold, discoloration, a foul odor or if the texture changes significantly (for example a cucumber that becomes soft and mushy), dispose of the product and do not attempt to consume.

This material was developed by a WIC Dietetic Intern, Kimberley Zisman, utilizing fact sheets and handouts from these Cooperative Extension Services:
University of Rhode Island/University of Connecticut Extension

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