Keep Your Onions & Potatoes Separated And Other Tips For Storing Fruits & Vegetables

We’ve all got kitchens and we all eat food, but not everyone can agree on where and how to store that food so it doesn’t immediately turn into a moldy mess or dry out into a worthless husk. Last week, we looked at the the best places and methods for keeping your bread, dairy and eggs fresh, and in this second Spoilage Wars installment, we’ll deal with the fruits and vegetables you endeavor to keep from rotting away.

Since we’re not the experts, we once again turn to Julia Collin Davison — executive food editor for the book division of America’s Test Kitchen and on-screen test cook for America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen — to learn from her experience.

GARLIC:
Where to store: Countertop
In a bag or not? Davison says garlic should be ideally be kept in an open basket with room for air circulation at room temperature. Don’t remove the papery outsides until just before use, as it protects the garlic.
What about those green shoot? Chances are you’ve encountered cloves of garlic that have started to develop green shoots in the center. Davison says not to worry about these. Just take them out when you’re cutting up the garlic because they don’t always taste so great.

ONIONS:
Where to store: Countertop
Be careful about the neighbors: Just like garlic, you’ll want to keep the onions in a ventilated space. In fact, it’s perfectly fine to store the two alongside each other, says Davison. What you don’t want is to have your potatoes and onions in close proximity, as gases from the onions can hasten sprouting in potatoes.

Speaking of taters…

POTATOES:
Where to store: Pantry or cupboard
Kept in the dark: Davison says your potatoes should be stored inside a paper bag in a cool, dark, dry place. And as mentioned above, away from onions and their sprout-encouraging gases. Sprouted potatoes are safe to eat, notes Davison, but you should remove the sprouts themselves using the tip of a vegetable peeler or other tool. The potato sprouts are considered toxic due to their potentially high concentration of glycoalkaloids, which can have an effect on the nervous system.

CORN & FRESH PEAS:
Where to store: Refrigerator
Keep ‘em where you can see ‘em: Don’t shove these foods into the cold recesses of the back of the fridge, says Davison. Instead, keep them in the front where it’s warmest (but still cool, because it is a refrigerator, after all). The fridge will keep them fresh but if it’s too cold, they could become dried out.

And when you’re storing corn on the cob, keep the husks on and wrap all the ears of corn in a damp paper towel, keeping the whole thing inside a plastic bag.

“You want to keep the corn is as humid an environment as possible,” explains Davison, “so no cold air can get in there and dry things out.”

KEEP THESE ITEMS OUT OF THE FRIDGE –
TOMATOES, APRICOTS, AVOCADOS, BANANAS, KIWIS, MANGOS, NECTARINES, PAPAYAS, PEACHES, PLUMS, PINEAPPLE

Where to store: Countertop
How: Fruit bowls and baskets don’t just look cute in photos. They’re good places to keep your fresh produce. Davison says that the best way to store tomatoes is stem-down if they’re off the vine. This prevents moisture from escaping and bacteria from entering, and thus prolongs shelf life.

The foods in this group are prone to “chill injury,” says Davison says, so it’s best keep them out of the fridge. This is especially true for tomatoes.

“If they’re stored in the fridge the starches really become mealy,” explains Davison.

FRIDGE-FRIENDLY FOODS–
APPLES, CHERRIES, GRAPES, CELERY
Where to store: Refrigerator, though apples, cherries, and grapes will all survive on the countertop too (just not as long).
How: While corn and peas have to stay up front, these foods are good to go anywhere in the fridge, says Davison.
An extra tip about celery: According to testing by Davison her ATK colleagues, the best way to store celery is to wrap it in foil first.

The next installment of Spoilage Wars will look at the best way to keep your condiments, oils, herbs and spices from losing their potency.