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Keep Your Produce Fresher, Longer

Just as people breathe, produce respires. It takes in oxygen and produces carbon dioxide. This process, called oxidation, is responsible for the breakdown (spoilage) of fruits and vegetables after harvest. You can’t stop this natural process, but you can learn how to slow it down and lengthen the life of your produce with the simple tips for storing produce offered in this guide.

Keep It Cold
The warmer the temperature, the faster the rate of respiration. In most cases, keeping produce at a temperature just above freezing is best to slow that process, but consult the storage recommendations for individual items in this guide for more detailed information.

Keep It Low 
Avoid stacking. Air circulation and the absence of pressure prolong produce life.

Keep It Dirty
Wash your produce just before you use it, not before you store it. Water can cause damage. Some types of produce are often misted with water while on display in the store, but this is a tradeoff. Vegetables like it humid, and forced-air refrigeration dries them out quickly, making spraying necessary. When you get your produce home, pat wet items dry with a towel. If there’s dirt, leave it until you’re ready to prepare or eat the produce.

Keep It Whole
Broken stems, pierced skin and exposed surfaces allow microorganisms access. Keep produce close to its original state until you’re ready to prepare or eat it.

Keep It Breathing
You want to slow respiration, not stop it. Whether refrigerating or ripening at room temperature, avoid sealing fruits and vegetables in airtight containers or bags. The produce may suffocate and accelerate spoilage.

Eat It Quickly
Don’t keep it long. Fruits and vegetables lose flavor at low temperatures. Refrigeration dehydrates and saps sugar from produce. So plan ahead to buy what you need, and prioritize to use what you buy.

For more information about specific produce varieties, download a PDF of our full Produce Storage Guide.

All information provided by National Co+op Grocers.