"How Do I Store That?"
A Guide to Keeping Your Produce Fresh
By Asa McKee
A question I often get asked while working in the gardens with students or at farmer's markets is, “what's the best way to store this?” For some, the answer is obvious, but for others it's new terrain. The topic has been debated over for generations. I'd like to share some of my tried-and-true storage methods based on my own personal experiences – and if you have a different method, I would love to hear from you, too!
Let's start with the most controversial question: fruit or veggie?
It's true: tomatoes are a fruit. By definition, a fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops in the ovary of a flowering plant. Tomatoes fall into this category.
The next few questions are a little more nuanced....
Should you store tomatoes upside down or right side up....?
Perhaps the question seems a bit silly, but it's been debated over for years. The answer: storing it upside down on a plate or bowl will do. (And if you want further protection, cover it with a Khala Cloth).
Why upside down? The belief is simple: covering the tomato’s stem will prevent moisture from leaving and air from entering the tomato, thus halting the formation of mold and bacteria.
To refrigerate or not to refrigerate?
The answer to this question isn't as clear-cut as some make it out to be. It truly depends on the situation. If you are ripening your tomatoes (positioned upside down), I would do so on a counter out of direct sunlight. If you want to speed up this process, place a banana nearby (bananas are an ethylene gas producer - see the bottom of page for more details on this) It's also okay to let tomatoes ripen in a cupboard or pantry, as cool temperatures are good for the ripening process (however, cold temperatures are detrimental).
If your tomatoes are already ripe, why not put them on the top shelf of the fridge? These cold temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit will halt the flavor producing enzymes, but do little damage short-term. However, I would suggest letting them sit out on a counter for a day or two before eating to maximize flavor post-refrigeration.
Cilantro and Parsley
For herbs like cilantro and parsley, I find the best way to store them is first to cut the base of the stems, leaving them clean and open to water absorption. I then place them in a small jar with cool water in the base. Finally, I wrap a Khala Cloth around the jar with the herbs to help contain the moisture and place it in the fridge.
To say basil dislikes cold is to say an alligator dislikes the snow. For this reason, you should never put basil in the fridge. To store, cut the stems and place basil in a jar with cool water. You can leave the jar on your counter out of direct sunlight along with your upside down tomatoes.
These will do best stored at room temperature, according to UC Davis and their department of Post Harvest Technology. Once you've cut your cucumber, wrap a Khala Cloth around the cut end and refrigerate. Remember to keep cucumbers away from apples, tomatoes, avocados and melons (all ethylene gas producers).
Garlic and Onions
Store garlic and onions at room temperature, allowing for plenty of air circulation. Don't remove the protective "paper" until ready for use. Also, remember to keep onions away from potatoes so that your potatoes don’t sprout!
Potatoes don't need to be refrigerated but love a cool (42 to 50°F) dark place to hang out. But remember keep them away from apples and onions.
For more detailed information, check out this article from the University of Idaho.
I always cut off the ends off celery before storage, whether they're pre-cut stalks or a bunch. The reason? Convenience and space. There's no need for celery to take up more room then needed.
Celery has an efficient system for drawing water into its cells from the bottom of the stalk (they are 95 percent water). But if they are damaged or poorly cut this won't happen. Stalks not cut cleanly are more prone to curl, brown, split and decompose at a faster rate. After they are prepped (cut, washed and dried), I wrap celery stalks tightly in a Khala Cloth and place them the fridge.
Cut the base of the asparagus and place in a jar with cool water, just like a bouquet of flowers. Then, wrap them with a Khala Cloth (as you would do with cilantro and parsley) and place the jar in the fridge.
Always cut the greens off your carrots. You can leave them whole, wrap them in a Khala Cloth, and place in the fridge. If you want cut them, place them in a glass container with water before storing.
These veggies love high humidity . I pat mine dry then and wrap them in a Khala Cloth, then place them in the drawer in the bottom of the fridge. Broccoli keeps best in good company with other humidity-loving neighbors, including leafy greens and mushrooms (which also can also be stored in a Khala Cloth).
Ok, now Bananas...
As I've mentioned, bananas are high ethylene gas producers. This means they produce a gas that helps themselves and nearby produce ripen. Bananas are not the only produce that do this (see full list below).
If you want to slow the ripening process, there are a couple of tricks. You can wrap a Khala Cloth around the stem, slowing the gas output thus slowing the ripening process. But once bananas reach the "perfect ripeness", it's best to place them in fridge, which more drastically slows the process.
Ethylene Gas: Use it to your advantage!
As I've mentioned, many fruits and veggies produce ethylene gas. And some are sensitive to these gases, causing them to ripen much faster when stored together. But remember, you can use this to you benefit if you keep a careful eye on them.
- ripened bananas
- passion fruit
- unripe bananas
- green beans
- Belgian endive
- Brussels sprouts
- leafy greens
- sweet potatoes
I hope you found this blog useful for learning how to store your fresh fruits and veggies, and the helpful role Khala Cloths can play! If you have any questions about what sizes of Khala Cloths to use and exactly how to use them with different fruits (including tomatoes) and veggies, please do not hesitate to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.