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.
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 (i.e. in the fridge when they should be at room temperature), and storing certain fruits and vegetables together, which can cause over-ripening and decay.
Here's where you should be storing your fruit and veg, 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
The principle cause accelerated ripening and decay is ethylene gas, which is produced by the following fruits: apples, apricots, avocados, banana, cantaloupe, kiwi fruits, mangos, melons, nectarines, papayas, peaches, pears, plums and tomatoes. There are many more 'responders' to ethylene gas, which means they will degrade faster than they should just by being in contact with these pesky ethylene producers, and these include: most of the ethylene producers, as well as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cucumber, cauliflower, eggplant, green beans, leafy greens (such as kale), lettuce, potatoes, peas, spinach, sweet potato and tomatoes.
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. Savvy?
Also remember to quickly remove any rotting fruit or veg 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 choc-berry nice cream or adding to smoothies.