You buy a bundle of fresh basil on Tuesday to make marinara on Wednesday. You put it in the fridge and within 24 hours it’s wilted and unusable. The shallots you bought a few days ago? They’re sprouting. So is the garlic. Holy rotten food, you think, I should’ve just grabbed a jar of Ragu and been done with it.
Take heart. You’re not destined to a lifetime of frozen vegetables. To refrigerate or not to refrigerate, that is the question. Here’s a quick guide to help you answer it:
- Herbs: For fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro, trim the ends of their stems and place them in a glass of water, as you would fresh flowers. Cover lightly with a plastic bag. Basil is the exception (see below).
- Salad greens: Take rubber bands or ties off them and store in bags filled with a little air and sealed tightly.
- Carrots, broccoli: Place in separate plastic bags, seal with a twist tie and place in the crisper.
- Celery: Wrap in foil and place in the crisper. Plastic wrap traps moisture and will make it wilt.
- Ripe fruit: Apples, bananas pears, plums, strawberries and peaches need cool temperatures to stop them from ripening.
Leave these on the counter:
- Tomatoes: Refrigerating a tomato is blasphemy. Cold destroys its taste and texture. It’s at its best ripe and at room temperature.
- Onions: Keep them out of direct light to prevent them from sprouting. Once they’re cut, wrap the unused portion in plastic and refrigerate.
- Asparagus: Asparagus hates cold. Trim the ends and stand the spears in a glass of water. Cover lightly with a plastic bag to keep the ends from drying out.
- Basil: Basil hates cold, too. Trim its stems and place in a glass of water. Leave it on the counter till you’re ready to use it.
- Cucumbers: These turn to mush if refrigerated. Place them flat on a counter so air can circulate around them.
- Unripe fruit: Green bananas, rock-hard peaches and other not-ready-for-eating fruit will ripen if left out at room temperature. Once they are ripe, put them in the fridge.
Put these in the pantry:
- Potatoes: Putting them in a dark and dry place will keep them from sprouting. Don’t store them with onions. Onions aren’t their friend because they will make potatoes sprout faster.
- Garlic: Put the heads in a paper bag so they stay dry and don’t sprout.
Some other general rules of thumb for food storage:
- Keep ‘em dry: Make sure fruits and veggies are completely dry before storing. Moisture is the enemy and will make them mildew and rot.
- Don’t store fruits and veggies together: Fruit and veggies cannot be roommates in the drawers of your fridge. Fruit makes veggies go bad faster because fruit produces ethylene, a hormone that causes ripening. Use one drawer for fruit, another for veggies.
- Learn to use those sliding thingies on the fridge drawers: You know that little knob you can slide along a slot labeled “High” on one end and “Low” on the other? It’s a humidity control. Fruits last longer when dry, so store them in a drawer with the sliding button set on low. Veggies like moisture, so put them in a drawer with the sliding button set on high.
There ya go. Follow these guidelines and you’ll rid your life of liquified bananas, wilted parsley and tasteless tomatoes.