Most of us automatically put vegetables into the fridge to try and keep them fresh, but that’s not necessarily the best way of storing them. This is all very well if you’re popping to the supermarket every time you need fruit and vegetables, so they’re not being stored for more than 24 hours. But if, for example, you’ve been growing your own vegetables in the garden or allotment and need to store them for as long as possible, the correct conditions are vital to ensure nothing is wasted.
We’ve been researching the most effective ways of storing fresh vegetables, so you can make the most of your harvest and Autumn kitchen.
Root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips need ventilation to stay fresh. If they’re moist, they’ll spoil more quickly, which means storing them in the vegetable drawer of your fridge is not a good idea. Storing them on a vegetable rack will give them the ventilation they need, and this is best kept in a cool dark place such as a larder. Before the invention and widespread use of the refrigerator, most homes had a larder, which was often a large cupboard or small room that was positioned on the shady side of the house and away from chimney flues. They were designed to be dark and cool so that, even in the hottest weather, meat, dairy products, fruit and vegetables could be kept as fresh as possible. If your kitchen gets a lot of sunlight, it’ll be too hot to store vegetables. This means that if you’re planning a new kitchen, it would be a good idea to specifically include cupboard space, or even build a larder, to provide a cool, dark storage space.
Onions and garlic
Onions and garlic also need to be kept in a cool, dark, ventilated area. However, if you want to prepare them in advance, you can keep peeled and chopped onions in a sealed box in the fridge for up to 14 days. Onions are best stored separately to other vegetables.
Green vegetables such as beans, broccoli and sprouts are all best kept in the fridge. Broccoli and sprouts can be loosely covered with a damp towel to keep them fresher for longer. Spinach and lettuce should be stored in the refrigerator crisper, though they can also be stored in sealed containers full of water. Although asparagus is a summer vegetable, you can often buy it at other times of the year – it is best stored upright in water in the fridge (trim the stalks before immersing it).
Avocados (which are actually classified as fruit) are difficult to get right, and where you store them depends very much on how ripe or otherwise they are at any given time. If they’re ripe, but you’re not quite ready to eat them, store them in the fridge to stop them ripening any more. Otherwise, keep them in a separate fruit bowl where they can ripen at their own pace.
Keep fruit and vegetables apart
Fruits rely on ethylene gas, a plant hormone, which regulates growth and development and helps them ripen. Some fruits, such as apples, avocados, bananas and tomatoes, produce more ethylene gas than others; when they’re stored with other fruit and vegetables, they’ll cause over-ripening and spoiling. Knowing this can be handy though – if you need to ripen an avocado more quickly, put it into a paper bag with a banana. Otherwise keep them well apart.
Modern kitchens come with a variety of accessories and storage solutions that will enable you to keep all your autumn vegetables in a suitable place – either in a cool, dark, ventilated place or in the fridge – all with the space to store them apart. If you’re designing your new dream kitchen, this is one of the things to bear in mind so you can store more vegetables for longer in order to make the most of them.