Tips for Washing & Storing Fresh Produce

A few simple tips for washing & storing fresh produce will help your fruits & vegetables last longer and keep them safe to eat.

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Yesterday, I made a trip to a nearby farmer’s market and was so happy to see the first signs of a new season. Berries, tomatoes, and melons are beginning to look, smell, and taste more like what we’ll see in summer.

This is the perfect time for a refresher on how to handle the fruits and vegetables that we will be bringing home in days to come. Knowing how to properly wash and store produce will prevent spoilage and preserve optimal flavor.

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Wash produce just prior to eating. Hard exterior produce (squash, potatoes, melons, pineapple, potatoes) can be soaked in a solution of 1/4-1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide to a large bowl or sink of cold water. After a good soak in this solution, scrub the exterior and rinse well. If you don’t have hydrogen peroxide, use diluted soap and water. Great care should be taken to clean produce that has been in direct contact with soil.

Soft exterior produce (tomatoes, peppers, peaches) should be treated more gently. I spray hydrogen peroxide on these and rinse well so that no traces of pesticide or bacteria remain.

Storage:

  • Tomatoes. Do not store vine ripened tomatoes in the fridge; they will become mealy and tasteless. Store at room temp or, if further ripening is needed, in a small paper sack. (Sliced or diced tomatoes should be wrapped in plastic and stored in the fridge until eaten.)
  • Potatoes. Do not store potatoes in the fridge, as it will make their starch turn to sugar, resulting in a sweet flavor. Store in a cool, dry area. I keep mine in a wicker basket in my pantry.
  • Peaches.  If these are firm and need to ripen, store them at room temp. Once they turn ripe, they should be eaten or put into the fridge. Refrigerated peaches will be more flavorful if brought to room temperature before eating.
  • Corn. Store in the fridge, unshucked, until ready to eat. Corn is best eaten quickly after purchasing, as it loses its sweetness quickly (its sugars convert to starches).
  • Peppers.  Peppers can be kept at room temp but will keep longer in the fridge. Red, orange and yellow peppers tend to have a sweeter, more mature flavor than green ones and don’t stay fresh quite as long.
  • Squash. Squash can be kept at room temp but will last a bit longer if refrigerated.
  • Melons such as cantaloupe and honeydew will turn rubbery if kept in the fridge. Watermelon does fine, cut and uncut, in the fridge.
  • Berries. These will spoil easily if left at room temperature. Store in the fridge until eaten. Do NOT rinse berries until just before eating.