Cheat Sheet: Your Go-To Guide for Storing Spring and Summer Produce
There is nothing worse than getting home from the farmers’ market with an overflowing bag of beautiful produce, then realizing you actually have zero clue where in your kitchen you should store any of it. If you’re like me, you end up just throwing everything in the fridge and praying for the best, then going on with your day. (Hey, I’ve got things to do: My Sunday Aztec Clay mask is not going to apply itself!) But no more of this uncaring produce-related behavior. We are adults and adults store their leafy greens in the right place! To figure out, uh, where that is, we chatted with farmer Katelyn Repash and CSA manager Katie Jacoby of Greensgrow, an urban farm in Kensington, to get the full scoop on how, exactly, to store our favorite spring and summer produce properly. And again, if you’re anything like me, you’re doing plenty of things flat-out wrong.
There are a few key takeaways to note before we break it down. One: Airtight containers like mason jars and Ziplock bags, which reduce the amount of air exposure your produce gets, are your veggies’ best friends, so you want to have lots of those handy. Two: You should never put anything super-perishable in your fridge door; it’s generally the warmest part of the fridge, which means anything prone to mold or rotting is doomed there.
Okay, let’s get to it! Below, you’ll find how to store all kinds of popular spring and summer produce you’ll find at farm stands over the next few months, plus how long you can expect it to last once you’ve stored it. Once you’re done reading, we say you print this out and tape it on your fridge. Soon enough, you’ll be a produce-storing pro.
What: Greens, including lettuce mix, kale, arugula, Swiss chard, bok choy, spinach
First thing to do with them when you get home: The most important thing to do with greens is to make sure they don’t wilt before you get them home. So buying a bunch of kale at the Rittenhouse farmers’ market then sitting in the sun at Parc, chowing down on brunch and mimosas for an hour, is not a good idea. (Who else is guilty?) You want to get greens home right away, and when you get home, dunk them in some cold water then get them in a Ziplock bag, stat. Dunking them in cold water helps to keep them crisp, plus it saves you time on the prepping end when you’re ready to eat them.
Where to store: In the crisper drawer of your fridge.
How long they’ll last: If the greens were wilted when you got home, you have around four days to work with them. If not, they can last up to two weeks.
What: Spring onions, scallions, candy onions, torpedo onions
First thing to do with them when you get home: If you have bunched onions, like spring onions or scallions, you’re going to want to un-bunch them when you get home to prevent rotting.
Where to store: Get ready to hear something mind-blowing. The reason you can store your usual fall and winter red and white onions on the counter is because they’ve gone through a three- to four-week curing process that makes them shelf-stable. Who knew? Spring onions, on the other hand, haven’t — even the red and white candy onions that look like regular ol’ storage onions. So, you’re going to want to get these into an airtight container and put them in your fridge, not on the counter.
How long they’ll last: Unlike storage onions, these won’t last forever, so use within a few days.
What: Radishes, baby beets, carrots
First thing to do with them when you get home: The first thing to do with these root veggies when you get home is to separate them from their greens. This will help keep them fresh longer, because the greens won’t be leeching moisture from the root. And a bonus: You can keep the greens and sauté them, reducing your food waste.
Where to store: You want to get these into a size-appropriate airtight container (Katelyn is a fan of mason jars for these smaller guys) to hold in moisture, then store anywhere in your fridge.
How long they’ll last: After you separate these from their greens, they should last you at least three weeks.
What: Asparagus and rhubarb
First thing to do with them when you get home: While these two might seem like an unlikely pair, they’re actually pretty similar when it comes to storage thanks to their stalks. When you get home, you’re going to want to un-bunch them, then cut about a half-inch off the bottom of the stalks.
Where to store: You can store these upright in a glass with the stalks in about an inch of water or in an airtight container in the fridge, no water. If you store in water, just make sure to change the water bath every other day or so to keep it fresh.
How long they’ll last: These should last you about a week, or if you want rhubarb pie come October, they also freeze well. Just cut into one-inch segments (if you’re freezing asparagus, blanche beforehand) and throw onto a cookie tray and put in the freezer overnight. Then separate into freezer-safe Ziplock bags and keep for six months to a year.
What: Berries, like strawberries and blueberries
First thing to do with them when you get home: If you’re buying conventional berries, you always want to give them a good wash before eating — but careful, they’re delicate. The best way to wash them is by filling a bowl with water then placing the berries in the water and swirling them around gently. This way, you won’t break the skin, which can lead to faster rotting.
Where to store: If the berries aren’t ripe when you get home — which store-bought berries often aren’t — leave them on your counter to ripen for a day or so (wash them after doing this). Once they’re ripe, store in an uncovered container in the fridge. Letting them breathe prevents mold.
How long they’ll last: It depends on how ripe they were when you bought them, but these are usually good for three to five days.
What: Cucumbers and zucchini
First thing to do with them when you get home: Give a good wash and don’t leave out on your counter. These watery, vine-ripened guys dry out really quickly.
Where to store: In an airtight container, like a Ziplock bag, in the fridge. You can also easily do a fridge-pickle with these, if you’re looking to keep them around longer.
How long they’ll last: When stored whole in an airtight container, these will keep for around eight to 10 days.
First thing to do with them when you get home: Most tomatoes aren’t ripe when you buy them, so let them ripen a bit on your counter before digging in.
Where to store: As Katie says, “You want to treat your heirlooms with respect.” And all tomatoes, really. So don’t put them in the fridge — they can get mealy. Plus, putting them in the fridge stops the ripening process which impacts flavor. Store them on the counter, and rest heirlooms, which often can’t support their own weight, “on their shoulder” where their stem used to be. This prevents cracks in the skin, an entryway for mold. If tomatoes are reaching peak ripeness but you don’t have time to eat them, you can slice and store in a tupperware container — just note that you will lose flavor the longer they’re in there.
How long they’ll last: If they were ripe when you bought them, you have a few days; if they were firm at the start, you have up to a week.
First thing to do with them when you get home: Before you put them anywhere, take note of your apartment’s temperature.
Where to store: Here’s where your apartment’s temperature comes in. Eggplants are most comfortable between 40 and 60 degrees, but you can leave them on your counter if you’re going to eat in the next two days. Just don’t do this in the middle of a heatwave when your AC is broken. If you aren’t going to eat in the next few days, throw in a Ziplock bag and store in your fridge’s crisper. Also, don’t slice eggplant then store, ever; it’s really sensitive to having its skin broken. As Katie says, “They look tough, but they’re really delicate.”
How long they’ll last: Usually around five to seven days.
What: Herbs like dill, parsley, cilantro, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme
First thing to do with them when you get home: Like greens, when it comes to fresh herbs like dill, parsley and cilantro, you don’t want these hanging out in your reusable tote bag for too long. You want to get them home quickly and give the stems a fresh trim. Woodier herbs like sage, rosemary and thyme are generally a bit sturdier.
Where to store: Most herbs can be stored upright in a glass with about a half-inch of water, in the fridge. Just don’t try this with basil — basil will die in the fridge, so store in the same way on the counter instead.
How long they’ll last: Fresh herbs need to be used within a few days. As our friends at Greensgrow say, “You’re probably better off just having your own herb garden, honestly.”
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