Ways to keep veggies fresh longer

Keeping veggies fresh preserves taste and nutrition.

Most vegetables are chockfull of vitamins, but they start losing their nutritional value right after they’re harvested due to exposure to air, light and heat as they’re transported from the field to the supermarket, says Beth Stark, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area.

“By properly storing fresh vegetables, you can ensure not only the best eating experience when it comes to flavor and texture, but also maximum nutrient retention,” she says. “When fresh veggies are stored improperly, they may spoil faster or have a less appealing flavor and texture. For example, storing under-ripe tomatoes will prevent them from ripening fully and reaching peak flavor.”

Here are seven strategies for keeping veggies fresh longer:

1. Be aware of which veggies and fruits should be kept separate from each other.

Most vegetables can be stored in a plastic bag or container in the crisper of your fridge, says Lisa Jones, a registered dietitian based in Philadelphia. It’s important to know that certain fruits produce ethylene gas, which can cause vegetable produce to ripen and possibly rot faster than if they were kept apart. Ethylene gas is a plant hormone that’s associated with plant growth and development.

Fruits that produce ethylene gas include:


— Apricots.


— Bananas (while ripening).

— Cantaloupe.


— Honeydew melons.

Also, it’s a good idea to keep mushrooms in a brown paper bag. That’s because such bags absorb excess moisture, allowing the mushrooms to breathe. Storing them in plastic bags traps moisture, which is absorbed by the mushrooms.

Tomatoes are best eaten after being stored in the fridge for two or three days. Keep them at room temperature for as long as possible. Once they hit their peak ripeness, eat them or refrigerate them right away, Jones says.

It’s best not to store potatoes in a refrigerator because that can affect their flavor. It’s best to store them in a well-ventilated and dark space.

2. Freeze what you don’t need.

Freezing is one of the easiest ways to preserve vegetables. “Almost all vegetables are suitable, with the exception of cabbage and potatoes because they become limp and waterlogged,” Stark says.

Before freezing, most veggies need to be blanched first, which entails boiling them for one to three minutes. Once the vegetables are blanched, dunk them in ice water to cool them quickly, then pack them for freezing. You can pack them in containers or freezer bags.

3. Heed the FIFO rule.

Take inventory of the veggies you have before buying more, says Beth A. Czerwony, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition. Fresh vegetables are among the top foods discarded by Americans.

The FIFO rule is: first in, first out. That means eating veggies in the order you buy them, to lower food waste. “As an added bonus, you’ll reap the bounty of health benefits associated with eating them and save some money too,” she says.

4. Don’t prep too far in advance.

You can’t beat the time savings that comes with having chopped veggies ready at meal time and for healthy snacks. The downside, though, is that the longer fresh vegetables are exposed to light and air, the greater the chance for nutrient loss, Czerwony says. “The flavor often tends to diminish a bit as well. There’s nothing wrong with prepping a few days in advance, just don’t get too far ahead of yourself.”

Jones agrees: It’s a good idea to eat chopped veggies within two to three days, she suggests.

5. Dry some produce.

Drying is an easy way to preserve fresh veggies. Put your vegetables in a food dehydrator, in the oven or even in the sun and let them dry over time.

The amount of time you should keep veggies in a dehydrator varies, and you should check the owner’s manual. On average, most vegetables should be kept in the dehydrator for eight to 12 hours at 130 degrees, Czerwony says. You can season the vegetables with dry herbs and spices, but avoid adding additional oils or fats, which will slow the dehydration process because it adds moisture and fat.

You should dry veggies in the oven for six to eight hours at 200 degrees. If you’re using an air fryer, keep them in for four hours at 130 degrees. And if you’re using the sun, keep them out for eight to 12 hours.

6. Purchase what’s in season.

From a cost and nutrition perspective, it’s ideal to purchase vegetables that are in season as often as possible, Czerwony advises. “These will generally have a shorter transit time from the field to a place of purchase, thereby being as close to the peak of nutrition as possible. They usually cost less too.”

Veggies that are in season during the winter, for example, include:


Brussel sprouts.

— Cabbage.

— Carrots.

— Kale.

— Leeks.

— Mushrooms.

— Onions.

— Parsnip.

— Squash (acorn, butternut and spaghetti).

7. Pickle your produce.

This can be a quick way to preserve an array of vegetables, including:


— Beets.

— Cabbage.

— Carrots.

— Onions.

— String beans.

As with freezing, blanch the vegetables first, boiling them for one to three minutes. This will help preserve their color and flavor. Place the vegetables in jars filled with a vinegar-based brine. Some pickled vegetables will last for as long as 12 months, as long as they’re stored in a cool and clean location, Stark says.

7 ways to keep veggies fresh longer:

— Separate certain veggies and fruits.

— Freeze what you don’t need.

— Heed the FIFO rule.

— Don’t prep too far in advance.

— Dry certain produce.

— Purchase what’s in season.

— Pickle your produce.

More from U.S. News

What to Know About Becoming Semi-Vegetarian

9 Foods and Beverages That May Promote Calm

Cauliflower vs. Broccoli: Which One Is Healthier?

Ways to Keep Veggies Fresh Longer originally appeared on usnews.com

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