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Storing Fruits and Veggies So They Last Longer

It’s important to know the best place to store fruits and vegetables and also which foods to keep separate from each other. Some fruits give off ethylene gas, which can speed the ripening process of some other produce. Apples, avocados, bananas, kiwi, peaches, pears, and tomatoes are a few of the top ethylene producing produce, and cucumbers, grapes, leafy greens, and peppers are the most sensitive to ethylene gas.

You can properly store produce in the refrigerator, on the counter, ripen on the counter and then refrigerate, or stored in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate all produce that is purchased pre-cut or peeled.

In the Fridge

Most fruits and veggies can be stored in the refrigerator. Do not store fruits and vegetables together. A crisper drawer will help maintain the moisture of produce by controlling airflow.

Apples – Apples not eaten within several days, should be stored in the fridge. They soften much faster at room temperature.

Asparagus – Refrigerate asparagus by wrapping ends of stalks in a wet paper towel and placing in a plastic bag or stand them up in a glass of cold water and loosely cover the tips with a plastic bag.

Berries – Sort carefully and place berries loosely in a shallow container to allow air circulation and to prevent the berries on top from crushing the berries underneath.

Celery and rhubarb – Wrap a bundle in plastic or foil and store it in the fridge.

Fresh herbs – Trim cut ends and place in a water-filled jar. Cover herbs with a plastic bag. The herbs can also be placed in a single layer on a towel, rolled up, and placed in a baggie.

Lettuce and greens – Wash greens well with water before refrigerating. Dry the leaves. Wrap the lettuce in a dry paper towel and place it in a plastic bag or storage container. Replace the paper towel anytime it feels wet.

Mushrooms – Place whole, unwashed mushrooms in a brown paper bag with the top of the bag folded over. Set the bag in the main compartment of the fridge because the crisper drawer is too moist.

Root vegetables – Store beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, and turnips with the tops cut off in the fridge. They need to be kept moist to stay crisp, so wrap them in a damp towel.

On the Counter

The counter storage area should be away from direct sunlight to prevent produce from becoming too warm. Place produce in a vented bowl or a perforated plastic bag.

Bananas – Keep your bananas in a bunch where they tend to ripen slower and wrap the tips in plastic wrap to slow ripening. Once ripe, they can be refrigerated, though the peel will turn black.

Citrus fruit – Store at room temperature. Extend the shelf life of citrus by storing it in the crisper section of the refrigerator.

Fresh Herbs – Basil and cilantro are very sensitive to cold temperatures. The best way to keep these herbs is to put the bunch in a container of water.

Tomatoes – Should be stored at room temperature. When you store tomatoes in the fridge, they take on a mealy texture and lose some of their flavors.

Pineapple – Store the pineapple on the counter. To prolong the life of a pineapple, wrap it in plastic and place it in your refrigerator.

Ripen on the Counter and Then Refrigerate

To prevent moisture loss, store produce in a paper bag, perforated bag, or ripening bowl on the counter. After ripening, store in the refrigerator.

Avocados – Ripen on the counter then store in the refrigerator.

Pears – Leave firm, unripe pears at room temperature. Check daily by applying gentle pressure to the neck or stem end of the pear with your thumb. Once the pear is ripe, refrigerate for use later.

Stone fruit – Keep mangoes, nectarines, peaches, and plums in a paper bag on the counter until they are ripe, and then move to the refrigerator for longer storage.

In a Cool, Dark Place

Some produce will stay fresh longest in a cool location, away from heat, light, and moisture. Store onions and potatoes away from each other. Potatoes sprout faster if they are stored near onions.

Allium Family – Garlic, onions, and shallots should be kept at room temperature (or cooler) in a well-ventilated area.

Melons – Put whole melons on the counter at room temperature.

Cucumbers, eggplant, and peppers – Store in a cool area and use within a couple of days of purchase. They can be refrigerated if they are used soon after removing them from the fridge.

Jicama – Store jicama in a cool, dry place uncovered.

Potatoes – Keep potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams in a cool, dark place with plenty of ventilation.

Winter squash – Store winter squash in a cool, dark, dry, and well-ventilated location. Do not place them near apples, pears, or other ripening fruit. 

Cleaning Produce

Most produce should not be washed before storage. Wash all fruits and vegetables before you eat or use them, even ones you peel. Pathogens that cause foodborne illness cling to the surface of the fruits and vegetables. Use clean running water to wash items.

Cut Produce

Once cut or peeled, fresh produce must be refrigerated within two hours. If it is left at room temperature for more than two hours, throw it away. Most produce will last about 5 days after being prepped stored in an airtight container. Fruits like apples, pears, bananas, and avocado are not the best candidates for slicing ahead of time since they brown quickly.

Eating fruits and vegetables is known to benefit our overall health. To keep your produce fresher longer, follow these storage tips.

Written by Vicki Hayman, MS, University of Wyoming Extension Nutrition and Food Safety Educator


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Produce for Better Health Foundation, USDA

Fresh fruits and vegetables in refrigerator

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Extension Educator:
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University of Wyoming Extension

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Extension Educator:
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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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