Ethylene: the enemy of freshness
As produce ripens, it emits small amounts of the ripening hormone ethylene. If ethylene is allowed to build up (in
the closed environment of a plastic bag, for example, or a
crisper), the gas will activate enzymes that break down and
soften the cell walls of produce, speeding moisture loss and
spoilage. Most storage techniques are designed to slow the
production of ethylene or mitigate its impact.
It’s a wrap
It’s a good idea to look at whether you can store
produce in the packaging in which it was sold. Sometimes
ready-made packaging has a function beyond simple
convenience and can actually help to preserve the
contents. For example, though they appear solid, the bags
in which some greens are sold are made of a polymer that
allows ripening gases to pass through freely, staving off spoilage. Other types of packaging feature small perforations
or other openings; here, too, the intent is to allow gases to
escape while protecting the produce from the drying effects
Keep in the front of the fridge
These items are sensitive to chill injury and should be
placed in the front of the fridge, where the temperatures tend
to be higher.
Berries Corn on the cob Peas
Best in the crisper
These items do best in the humid environment of the
These items are not prone to chill injury and can be
stored anywhere in the fridge (including its coldest zones),
provided the temperature doesn’t freeze them.
Apples Grapes Cherries
On the counter
Some produce is sensitive to chill injury and is subject
to dehydration, internal browning and/or internal and
external pitting if stored in the refrigerator.
Avocados* Mangoes Peaches
Bananas Nectarines Pineapple
Kiwis* Papayas Tomatoes
*Once they’ve reached their peak ripeness, these fruits
can be stored in the refrigerator to prevent overripening,
but some discoloration may occur.
In the pantry
The following produce should be kept at cool room
temperature and away from light to prevent sprouting
(in the case of potatoes) and to prolong shelf life.
Garlic Potatoes Sweet potatoes
Onions Shallots Winter squash
When to wash
It’s a good idea to thoroughly wash all produce.
It’s best to wash produce just before
you use it. Moisture promotes the
growth of mold, which in turn
causes spoilage. If you do wash ahead
of time, make sure to dry the
produce thoroughly before storing.
Water your spears
To keep asparagus tender and flavorful, trim the ends
and store the spears upright in cool water in the fridge. Limp
broccoli and celery benefit from the same treatment.
Reprinted with permission from Cook’s Illustrated
magazine. Selected articles and recipes are available
online at www.cooksillustrated.com.