We're Settling the Debate: Here's Where to Store All Your Produce
Some fruits and veggies keep best in the fridge. Some should never be put there! To help your produce last as long as possible, we made a list of which produce does best when chilled, as well as those that should be left on the counter.
There are a lot of different ideas out there about how you should store your produce—some of us keep our apples on the counter instead of the fridge, some refrigerate whole pineapple, and others are dead-set against storing their tomatoes anywhere but on the counter. But in some cases, it’s not just a matter of personal preference, because your produce will last longer and taste better if it’s stored one way over another. To help settle the debate once and for all, we put together instructions for storing some of the most controversial pieces of produce and included helpful lists so you'll know where to store all your fresh produce.
We know there are differing opinions out there about where to keep your tomatoes, but trust us—they belong in your pantry or on your counter. When you store tomatoes in the fridge, they take on a mealy texture and lose some of their flavor. Whether you bring them home from the store or pull them off the vine in your backyard, tomatoes will stay juicier and taste better if you leave them out of the fridge where they belong.
Leave your lemons on the counter, and you’ll have to buy more sooner. Lemons, limes, and oranges all do best in the fridge because the cooler temperature prevents them from drying out. They'll keep for up to two weeks when chilled and about one week at room temperature. There’s no harm in storing them at room temperature though, so if you’re not a fan of cold fruit, you can leave them out on the counter, even if just for a few hours, before eating them. Additionally, you'll be able to squeeze out some extra juice if you take the chill off first.
If you’ve ever brought home a container of mushrooms and left them on the counter for a few days before using them, you might be surprised to learn that they belong in the fridge. Except for morel mushrooms, which you should keep on the counter, unwashed mushrooms belong in the fridge in a paper bag, which will keep them from going bad too quickly. If you want to leave them in their original container, remove the plastic wrap from the top first to help prevent them from becoming slimy after a day or two.
When it comes to storing squash, it all depends on which type you brought home. Winter squash, like acorn and butternut squash, should stay out of the fridge and can be kept in a cool, dry place for up to two months (though once it’s cut, leftovers should go into the fridge). Zucchini and summer squash, on the other hand, should go in the fridge where they’ll last up to four days. Make sure you clear out some extra space in your fridge before bringing in that bumper zucchini crop!
Most Fruits (Including Avocados)
Surprisingly, most fruits can go either way. Apricots, avocados, star fruit, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, kiwis, mangoes, papayas, peaches, nectarines, plums, and pears can all be stored on the counter or in the fridge. However, they won’t ripen in the fridge, so we recommend storing them on the counter until they’re ripe, then moving them to the fridge if you’re not ready to eat them yet. If you use them as soon as they’re ripe, there’s no need to put them in the fridge at all. Storing fruit in the fridge won’t make it last forever—in most cases, it’ll buy you a couple of extra days to make that avocado toast or peach pie.
Produce to Keep in the Fridge
Skip the counter. These fruits and veggies will stay fresh and last longer if you keep them in the fridge:
- Bok Choy
- Brussels Sprouts
- Root Vegetables (Turnips, Rutabagas, Parsnips)
- Summer Squash/Zucchini
- Apples (They'll do best in the crisper drawer.)
Produce You Shouldn't Store in the Fridge
The list of fruits and veggies you should keep out of the fridge is surprisingly short! Here are the seven that keep best at room temperature:
- Winter Squash (like Butternut and Acorn)
- Sweet Potatoes
Produce That Can Go Either Way
Some fruits and veggies can be stored both ways, either depending on your preference or how soon you plan to eat them. We mentioned that most of the fruits on this list can be ripened on the counter, then stored in the fridge, but there are a few other special cases, too:
- Corn (Leave it out of the fridge if you’re eating it within a day. Otherwise it can be refrigerated for up to 7 days.)
- Carambolas (Star Fruit)
- Figs (They should be used right away, but can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
- Honeydew Melon
- Peaches and Nectarines
Hopefully, knowing where to keep your apples, bananas, and cauliflower just got a little easier. While putting most of your produce in the fridge will help you save it for a few extra days, you can stretch your fruits and veggies even further by freezing or canning them. Almost every fruit or vegetable is a good candidate for one or the other (or both), so if you find yourself with more zucchini than you can eat in three days, start clearing out some space in your freezer.