One of the best things about summer is the vast bounty of fruits and vegetables. If you've visited a farmers' market or farm stand recently, you've seen that the season has already begun to provide us with beautiful produce. Many of us go to the market with the best intentions and buy as much as we can carry or afford, but then we're left with the duty of storing our haul. Produce simply doesn't last that long once it has left the farm. And sometimes we forget about the things we've bought and they spoil -- how unfortunate! But if you follow our guide on how to store your fruits and vegetables properly, you will be able to extend their storage life so you can enjoy them when you're ready to eat them.
Not all vegetables benefit from storage in a cold refrigerator: summer produce such as tomatoes, peaches, plums and nectarines should be kept on your counter -- only once they're really ripe should you place them in the fridge to slow down the ripening process, but it's best to eat them before that. Delicate fruits like berries or cherries and most green vegetables are best kept in the fridge where they can stay cool and moist (in most cases it's in the crisper drawer). It's all about finding the right balance of moisture and air circulation for each type of vegetable. Learn the tips for each specific case in the slideshow below.
Summer Squash And Zucchini
Squash has a tendency to lose flavor and crispness when it's stored uncovered. Place dry, unwashed squash in a plastic bag and remove as much air as possible by wrapping the bag around the squash. Keep the squash in a crisper drawer for up to 5 days.
When you get your lettuce home from the store, it's best to separate the leaves and wash them in a sink full of cold water. Spin the leaves dry in a salad spinner. Then roll them up in a kitchen towel or paper towel and place it in a sealable bag. Make sure to keep the leaves whole and keep them in an area of the fridge where they won't get shoved or damaged. Lettuce cleaned and stored this way will last for 1 week. If you buy prewashed, bagged lettuce, store it with a dampened piece of paper towel stuck in the bag. It will last for up to 1 week.
Green beans are hardier than most people think -- if you buy them fresh, bright green and blemish-free you can store them for as long as 1 week. Place dry, unwashed green beans in a sealable plastic bag and keep them in the crisper.
Most hardy herbs like rosemary or thyme can be stored in sealable plastic bags with perforations. Herbs like parsley and cilantro should be stored in a glass of water with a bag placed over top of them in the refrigerator (make sure to cut an inch or so of the stems so they can drink the water). They will last for about 1 to 2 weeks. Basil and mint don't do well in the cold so store them in a glass of water on the counter.
Berries are some of the most perishable fruits. Arrange dry unwashed berries in a single layer on a tray or shallow container lined with paper towels. Cover them loosely with additional paper towels so they stay moist but also have air circulation to prevent mold. Berries will last up to 5 days this way. Wash them before eating.
Asparagus benefits from being stored in water. Without washing the asparagus, cut an inch or so off the stems and place in a container with 2 inches of water. Cover with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Cut off the greens from the beets once you get them home. Store the unwashed beetroots in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer. Or if you buy beetroots already in a bag, punch a few holes in the bag and store them that way. The beets will last for up to 2 weeks.
The key to storing artichokes is keeping them moist. Remove about 1/2 inch from the stem. Place unwashed artichokes in a sealable plastic bag. Sprinkle the stem with some water and seal the bag. Store on the refrigerator shelf for 5 to 7 days.
One mistake people make with corn is husking them at the supermarket before buying them. The husk is a built-in storage device. When you get your unhusked, unwashed corn home, cut off any long stem, wrap the corn in a plastic bag and keep them in the crisper. Corn will last for 2 to 3 days -- any longer and you risk the corn turning starchy.
Carrots need the right balance of moisture and air circulation in storage. First remove the leafy greens as they deplete the nutrients from the carrots. Wrap the carrots in bubble wrap and store in the crisper. The bubble wrap helps the carrots retain moisture but also allows for air circulation. Carrots will last like this for 2 weeks.
Improperly stored cucumbers either go slimy or shrivel up in the fridge. Wrap each cucumber (dry and unwashed) in a paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. Keep in the crisper for up to 1 week.
Radishes can easily go soft when not stored properly. When you get them home, cut of the tops. Store the radishes in a container of shallow water in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The water bath will keep them crisp.
Okra tends to go slimy if not stored properly. Keep dry, unwashed okra in a paper bag or wrapped in paper towels in a perforated plastic bag. Keep in the crisper for 2 to 3 days.
Peppers And Chiles
Peppers and chiles need a bit of moisture as well as air circulation. Place dry, unwashed peppers in a plastic bag with perforations. Keep them in the crisper for up to 5 days.
Scallions, Spring Onions, Green Onions
Scallions easily go slimy when stored improperly, which is usually when it's wrapped in plastic. Instead place unwashed scallions in a jar filled with a couple of inches of water. Cover with a plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Since cherries bruise easily, store them (unwashed) in a shallow container to distribute their weight. Cover loosely with a towel or plastic wrap to allow for some air circulation and keep in the refrigerator for about 2 to 4 days.
Peas are very delicate so they won't last long in storage, but if you can't cook with them immediately it's best to pack the dry, unwashed pods in a plastic bag. Keep the peas in the crisper for up to 2 days.
Eggplant can easily shrivel up and dry out in the refrigerator when not stored properly. Store it wrapped in a plastic bag with as much air removed as possible. Keep on a shelf near the front of the refrigerator or in the crisper for up to 1 week.
WATCH: How To Clean And Store Lettuce
Gourmet food editor Ian Knauer shares his tip on how to prepare lettuce and keep it fresh for entertaining.