So it turns out I've been storing my fruit and veg all wrong - I'd always kept onions and potatoes together (a big no-no, apparently), always kept cucumber, zucchini and eggplant in the fridge, and never thought to put ginger, chillies, shallots, oranges, lemons or figs in the fridge. Oops. Lucky I have every other domain of my life firmly under control (ha ha...not).
Storing your fruit and veg correctly means they'll stay fresh for longer, saving you heaps of money and reducing your food waste. All-round win.
Most of the issues come from storing at the wrong temperature (e.g strong the food in the fridge when it should be kept at room temperature), and storing certain fruits and vegetables together, which can cause over-ripening and hasten decay.
Part 1: How to store your fruit & vegetables, for optimal freshness and shelf life:
In the FRIDGE:
Ripe stone fruits e.g. plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots
Apples and pears
Ripe Hass avocados
Paw-paw (on a shelf, not in the crisper as they are chill-sensitive)
Berries: blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries
Ripe custard apples
Citrus fruits: lemons, limes, oranges, mandarins, grapefruit
- Bunches of carrots, red radishes and beetroots - removing the leafy tops to make them last much longer than with them attached
- Mushrooms, stored in a paper bag
- Spring onion (scallions)
- Capsicum (bell peppers)
- Fresh ginger root
- Green beans
- Green peas
- Leafy vegetables, e.g. spinach and kale
- Cut pumpkin
- Brussels sprouts
At ROOM TEMPERATURE, in a cool place and not in direct sunlight:
Potatoes - store in a dark, cool, well-ventilated cardboard box or paper bag, away from onions
Onions - store in a net or loose in a paper bag or cardboard box, away from potatoes
Cucumber (uncut - move to the fridge when sliced)
Whole melons (e.g. watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew) move to the fridge when cut
Starfruit - move to the fridge when cut
Unripe stone fruit e.g. plums, apricots and peaches- move to the fridge once ripe
Unripe Hass avocadoes - keep them near bananas to ripen them, then move to the fridge when ripe
Whole pineapple - move to the fridge when cut
Unripe mangoes - move to the fridge once ripe
Part 2: Keep ethylene gas 'producers' and 'responders' separate
Have you ever noticed that if you have a bowl of under-ripe bananas in the same bowl as even a single over-ripe banana, the under-ripe guys will ripen much faster than usual?
This accelerated ripening is caused by ethylene gas, which is produced by certain fruits such as bananas, avocados, mangos, melons and tomatoes.
Put simply, ethylene gas speeds up the ripening of the same fruits, but also certain vegetables which respond to ethylene gas. Ethylene gas responders include vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cucumber, cauliflower, eggplant, green beans, leafy greens (such as kale), lettuce, potatoes, peas, spinach and sweet potato.
The takeaway message from the ramble is basically not to store fruit and vegetables together, as fruits tend to be the ethylene producers and vegetables the responders, and separate out over-ripe fruits unless you want to speed up the ripening of the other fruits. Savvy?
Also remember to quickly remove any rotting fruit or vegetables from the others, as the mold can easily transfer to and spoil its neighbours.
In certain cases you can use ethylene gas to your advantage - for example, if you have a very hard, unripe avocado you can place it in a paper bag with a banana (a big producer of ethylene gas) to speed up the ripening process.
Lastly, if you've got too many bananas ripe at the same time, peel a few and pop them in an airtight container in the freezer - they are perfect for making banana 'nice cream' or adding to smoothies.