Local Produce Storage Guide
Overwhelmed with onions? Taken over by turnips? Brimming with beets? Not to worry. We've put together a handy dandy Fruit and Vegetable Storage Guide to help you make the most of your produce. From Apples to Zucchini, this guide will help you maximize shelf life, minimize waste, and enjoy a bounty of fresh, healthy food year-round.
Apples: Keep in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place where they won’t freeze. If you are storing larger quantities in a basement or garage, cover the box or basket with a clean, heavy damp cloth to prevent shriveling. Always remove an overripe apple from the rest to avoid spoiling. Do not store apples next to potatoes.
Asparagus: Although best eaten fresh, asparagus can be refrigerated at peak ripeness for two or three days. Wrap stem ends in damp paper towels, then cover entire bunch with plastic wrap. Or stand straight up in a jug of water. To freeze, prepare the asparagus as you would for cooking, then blanch. Group the stalks in small bundles. Bring large pot of water to boil. Drop the asparagus bundles into boiling water. After the water returns to boil, boil for one minute. Quickly lift out the stalks and immerse them into cold water. Leave for two minutes. Drain well, pat dry and package the asparagus in freezer bags. Seal and date package. Freeze immediately. Asparagus may be stored one year at -18 deg. C.
Beans: You can refrigerate beans for about one week; they should be stored dry, unwashed and bagged in plastic.
Beets: Loosely wrap in paper towel and keep in refrigerator crisper for a week or more. They can also be kept in a root cellar or other cool location for much longer.
Blueberries: Store, loosely covered, in the refrigerator. Use the berries within two weeks, but preferably as soon as possible. For optimum flavor, bring refrigerated blueberries to room temperature before serving. Highbush and Lowbush berries freeze well in the same fashion as raspberries and strawberries (whole, in a single layer).
Bok Choy: Will keep well for a week, unwashed and wrapped in plastic at the bottom of the refrigerator.
Broccoli: Will keep in the refrigerator for about one week. To store, mist the heads, wrap loosely in damp paper towels, and refrigerate. Do not store broccoli in a sealed plastic bag, as it requires air circulation. A perforated plastic bag will work. Cooked broccoli should be covered and refrigerated, and used within 3 days. To freeze, cut washed broccoli into florets and stalks into pieces. Steam or blanch about five minutes. Plunge into ice water to stop cooking, drain thoroughly, and place in sealed bags or containers. Can be frozen for up to twelve months.
Cabbage: To store cabbages for several weeks, refrigerate in a moisture-proof bag. Winter cabbages will keep for longer periods if kept moist and cool in a root cellar or similar cold-storage area.
Brussels Sprouts: Keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator crisper. To store, loosely wrap in paper towel, and place inside a plastic bag.
Carrots: The trick to preserving the freshness of carrot roots is to minimize the amount of moisture they lose. Immediately remove the leafy green tops (they draw off moisture and vitamins from the edible root, and can cause wilting and toughening). Store in plastic for up to three weeks in the refrigerator crisper. For longer storage, keep carrots cool and moist in a root cellar or similar cool place.
Cauliflower: Brown spots on a white cauliflower are most likely only watermarks, but yellowish ones may indicate excessive age. Store unwrapped in refrigerator cooler for about one week.
Chard: Do no wash chard before storing as the exposure to water encourages spoilage. Place chard in a plastic storage bag and remove as much air as possible. Place in the refrigerator where it will keep fresh for up to five days. If you have large batches of chard, you can blanch the leaves, and then freeze them.
Celery: To store celery, wrap in a damp paper towel, place in a plastic bag and keep in the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator. To re-crisp limp celery, simply wash them, cut them into strips and then place them in a container of ice water. In a few hours, your limp stalks will absorb enough water to be transformed into crisp, crunchy celery. You can then put the container in the fridge to enjoy for several more days.
Cherries: Both the sweet and sour types should be refrigerated as soon as possible, although the sweets are more durable. Chilling not only preserves, but also seems to improve the flavour. To freeze, pit and pack in dry sugar using 1 cup (250 mL) sugar to 4 cups (1 L) fruit; or pack in heavy syrup to cover.
Corn: Ideally, corn should be cooked and eaten immediately after picking since its natural sugar declines as soon as it has been picked. Between purchasing and cooking, keep the corn moist and cool. Immediately refrigerate in a plastic bag, and use within two or three days.
Cranberries: You can keep them for several weeks in the refrigerator in the original plastic bag. Before using, rinse and remove any remaining stems or leaves or freeze.
Cucumbers: Store whole and un-peeled in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator at a temperature between 45F to 50F. Will keep for around one week. Although cucumbers do not freeze well, the small and firm ones make great pickles when put through the canning process.
Eggplants: Do not like severe cold, so best left out of refrigerator in a cool place. If refrigerating, keep near the front where the temperature is around 50F. Keep away from apples.
Fennel: Store fennel loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge. Be careful not to let it get too cold. Will keep for up to ten days.
Garlic: Store in a dry, well-ventilated location. Check to make sure they remain clean, firm and dry.
Grapes: They will keep for a week in a refrigerator at 32F to 35F, loosely wrapped or in ventilated plastic in a single layer.
Kale: To store, wrap kale in a damp towel or plastic bag and refrigerate, probably in the crisper, for up to one week. Leaves will droop if allowed to dry out. Plunge in cold water for ten minutes to rehydrate. To freeze, wash, separate from stem, and blanch leaves for two minutes. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking, drain and pack into airtight containers such as zip-lock freezer bags.
Leeks: Before storing, trim any bruised or damaged leaves. Keep damp, loosely wrapped, for around one week at 32F in the refrigerator.
Lettuce: Refrigerate, without washing, in its packaging or well wrapped in paper towel or a dishtowel.
Mushrooms: Use fresh mushrooms as soon as possible after buying, however they will keep for several days in a cold vegetable crisper. For White Button, Cremini and Portobello, refrigerate loose mushrooms in a paper bag. Before use, wipe with damp cloth or rinse in cool water, then pat dry. Shiitake and Oyster varieties should be refrigerated in a container covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying. Before use, rinse briefly; pat dry. Prepackaged mushrooms can be refrigerated "as is."
Onions: If kept cool, dry, in the dark, and well-ventilated, they should last well for up to one month. Bunching or green onions are meant to be used fresh. Look for smooth, firm, white bulbs and bright green tops. Trim immediately and refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to one week. Keep away from potatoes.
Parsnips: Store unwashed parsnips in a cool, dark place, just as you would carrots. Wrapped in a paper towel and placed in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator, they should last for several weeks. To freeze, cut parsnips into ½-inch cubes and par-boil or steam for 3-5 minutes. Cool, pack into containers, seal, and freeze for up to ten months.
Peaches: Keep peaches, still fairly solid to touch, at room temperature out of direct sun until ripening begins and their skin yields slightly to gentle pressure. Ripe peaches should be kept refrigerated in a single layer for no longer than five days. Overripe (extremely soft) peaches should be used, fresh or in cooking, at once.
Pears: Ripe pears can spoil easily and their flavour is best when cool. So it’s wise to refrigerate them and use within a couple of days of purchase.
Peas: While peas are best eaten as soon as picked, (the sugar starts converting to starch right after picking) they can be stored for several days, bagged in plastic, in the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper.
Peppers: Storage in too cold or too warm conditions will damage them. Can be stored in a cool, dry place outside of refrigerator or in the refrigerator at around 45F.
Plums: Ripen plums at room temperature out of direct sunlight or in a loosely closed brown paper bag. Ripe plums should be refrigerated and eaten as soon as possible.
Potatoes: Store in root cellar or at 45F to 50F, out of direct light. (Light can cause potatoes to turn green and sprout.) Loosely cover with clean burlap or ventilated plastic and ensure good air circulation. All potatoes must be kept dry. Handle sweet potatoes with particular care as they bruise easily. Keep away from onions.
Pumpkin: You can keep an unblemished whole pumpkin in a cool, dry place for several months. But once fresh pumpkin is cut up, it should be wrapped in plastic, refrigerated and used within five days. Or it can also be cooked and frozen for up to six months.
Radishes: To store bunched radishes, remove the leaves, wrap in plastic and refrigerate. The bagged variety must be refrigerated, too, and should be eaten within about one week. To revive those that seem less than firm, immerse in ice water for an hour or two before serving.
Raspberries: Highly perishable, raspberries must be refrigerated if not consumed immediately. They can also be frozen (whole, in a single layer).
Rutabaga: Keep rutabaga in a cool, dry place, or in the refrigerator. Waxed rutabaga will keep for up to 3 months.
Spinach: It’s relatively perishable and should be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator. It’s best eaten as soon as possible after buying.
Strawberries: Store berries in the refrigerator with hulls intact, unwashed, and lightly covered in a single layer. Use within three to six days. Just before serving, gently rinse under cold running water (avoid soaking because the strawberries will absorb water and lose flavour), gently pat dry with paper towels, and hull. Strawberries may be frozen whole or sliced, with or without sugar, for up to twelve months. To freeze without sugar, place in a single layer on a large tray or cookie sheet. Freeze until firm (about one hour), pack in freezer bags drawing off as much air as possible, and seal. To freeze with sugar, pack in rigid containers, sprinkling sugar between each layer. For every 4 cups (1 L) whole washed and hulled strawberries, allow ½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar; for the same amount of sliced strawberries, allow ¾ cup (175 mL) of sugar.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes will keep for three to five days if stored at room temperature. Store away from direct sunlight with the stem facing up to reduce softening and darkening of the fruit. Refrigeration is usually not recommended for fresh tomatoes as it can cause flavour loss. You can, however, delay softening by storing them for a short period in the refrigerator. If you need to refrigerate tomatoes, place them in the vegetable crisper in a paper or plastic bag with perforations. Remove from refrigerator an hour before eating.
Turnip: Like any root vegetable, turnips want a cool, dark, and dry environment. Best kept in cold storage (root cellar, garage) but can be kept in the refrigerator unwashed, with greens removed, and in a plastic bag for one to two weeks. Store the greens separately in a damp cloth or plastic bag, and use as soon as possible.
Winter Squash: To store for several weeks at home, keep cool and dry with good air circulation. Best bets for lengthy storage are butternut and hubbard varieties.
Zucchini: Store loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper in the refrigerator and do not wash until ready to use. Will keep for up to five days.