It’s nearly impossible for me to hit the farmer’s market — or even the fresh produce aisle of my local supermarket — and not stock up on tons and tons of fresh summer fruit. Because for me, and many of you too, sweet, juicy fruit that hasn’t been shipped long distances is a fleeting indulgence. The only problem is that, too often, the fruit goes bad before we can eat it up. And nothing is worse than throwing away food, because wasted money.
This summer, I’m making sure to use all of the tips and products in our arsenal to make my summer produce last longer. These techniques for keeping produce fresh as long as possible can help you do the same.
Related: Your summer fruit pie bucket list!
Keep produce fresh longer: General storage rules
The first step in ensuring that your summer produce stays fresh longer is making sure you store it properly. Our produce storage guide lists which fruits and veggies should be kept with and away from which other fruits and veggies. Also, these three products help keep produce fresh longer — they’re great back up.
Keep produce fresh longer: Cherries
This one is easy: keep them in the fridge! Cherries will go bad quickly kept at room temp.
Keep produce fresh longer: Avocados
Avocados tend to go bad quickly, but I’m back to buying them in bulk since learning that you can store them on the counter until perfectly ripe, then pop them in the fridge for longer term storage. Once cold, they’ll stay at exactly the same ripeness as the day you transferred them into the refrigerator for a week and longer. Genius.
Keep produce fresh longer: Stone fruit
Since summer fruit = stone fruit in my mind, you should be sure to check out our guide on how to pick, store, and use stone fruit. You’ll get the low down on peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots — aka, all the summer fruit that matters most.
Keep produce fresh longer: Berries
Okay, berries are also important — very important — and also the first things to go bad in my house. I swear by this foolproof trick to keep berries fresh longer so that I can stock up. Because fresh berries, summer fruit pies, delicious fruit desserts, and crisps, crumbles, and cobblers (yes, they’re different and now you’ll know how). All the summer goodness.
Keep produce fresh longer: Fresh herbs
While basic kitchen herbs like basil and rosemary are available all year around, they are especially abundant, along with less common herbs like (my favorite) lemon verbena, all summer long. Hearty, woody herbs like thyme and rosemary will last longer when immediately washed, dried, rolled up in a slightly damp paper towel, and stored in a sealed baggie kept in the fridge.
More delicate, leafy herbs like cilantro and mint should be well-dried and trimmed at the root, then stored upright in a glass or mason jar filled with a couple of inches of water, flowers-and-vase style. Cover loosely with a plastic bag and keep in the fridge. Basil can be stored the same way, but without the bag and at room temperature.
When you still can’t finish all the herbs before they’re about to go bad, use one of these simple techniques for preserving herbs over the long term.
Keep produce fresh longer: Cucumbers
There are two camps on this one: Many think that storing cukes in the fridge helps keep them fresh, while others insist that it degrades them more quickly. I’ve found that storing cucumbers on the counter keeps them fresh longer, though it’s important to note that I keep my home air conditioned in the summer. The same may not be true if your kitchen gets very hot. Also, don’t keep cucumbers with other ethylene producing fruits and veggies like tomatoes and bananas.
If you prefer to keep your cucumbers in the fridge, wrapping them in plastic wrap is said to help make them last longer.
Keep produce fresh longer: Peppers
While you can find hothouse peppers all year around, fresh field peppers hit peak season in the summer and are totally delicious. To keep yours fresh for as long as possible, store them whole in a loosely tied plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Once cut, you can continue to store them in a bag or sealed container, but closed tightly and knowing that they will turn faster.
Keep produce fresh longer: Tomatoes
The common wisdom on tomatoes is to store fresh, ripe ones in a cool, dark spot on your counter. While I do this when I know that we’ll eat the tomatoes right away, the issue is actually (way) more complicated than all that and involves two factors: longevity and taste. Because when keeping your produce fresh longer means compromising flavor, you may want to reconsider the choice. Especially when it comes to peak season tomatoes.
To keep things easy, our rule of thumb is to keep tomatoes on the counter for a few days and then, if it seems they’ll go bad before you’ll get a chance to eat them, pop them in the fridge for a few extra days knowing that you might compromise some flavor. Just know that if they’ve already started to turn bad, both cold and room temps will make them worse.
The simplified exception to this rule is if your kitchen is very hot, in which case, some experts suggest storing tomatoes in the fridge from the beginning. Yes, really.
The folks at Serious Eats did some serious tomato research and found that, in many cases, storing tomatoes in the fridge from the beginning was the optimal move. Well, at least for some varieties and so long as they were in good shape to begin with. If you want to dig into their research, by all means. It’s extensive.
Keep produce fresh longer: Zucchini
Is there any fruit or vegetable that we need to learn how to keep fresh more than zucchini?! There’s just so much of it. To keep yours fresh for as long as possible — while you run through all the kid-friendly ways to use it up — pop fresh zucchini in a baggie, close loosely, and pop in the fridge.
Photos from top: Produce by Alona Kraft at Unsplash, cookbook and produce by Caroline Siegrist for Cool Mom Eats, berries by William Felker at Unsplash, and tomatoes by Vince Lee at Unsplash