There’s a common theory when it comes to keeping fruits and vegetables fresh. Put them in the fridge and they’ll stay fresh longer. Unfortunately, when it comes to many foods, this is not only not true, but in some cases it can also make foods rot more quickly.
Here’s a look at the top five foods to keep on the counter and out of the refrigerator.
- Potatoes – Potatoes grow under the ground where temperatures are cool, not cold. So, it should come as no surprise that potatoes and root vegetables should be kept out of the refrigerator when you get them home. Unless you have a root cellar to store them, or some other area around 45 degrees Fahrenheit, your best bet is to keep potatoes in a paper bag in a cool spot such as the pantry. And make sure the bag is paper, not plastic. Plastic will lead to rot more quickly.What’s the risk of them in the fridge? Cold temps convert starch to sugar more quickly which affects flavor and texture making them gritty and sweet – but not in a good way.
- Tomato –Tomatoes are partial to warm temps and hate the cold – and not just while they’re on the vine. Once they’ve been picked and made their way to your house or the market, they continue to hold up better out of the cold. Putting tomatoes in the refrigerator will cause them to become mealy and unappetizing. Instead, store tomatoes on the counter and away from direct sunlight.Make sure to store your tomatoes somewhere other than the refrigerator or other cold spot to help them last longer. Once they’re ripe, eat them as quickly as possible to enjoy both their juiciness and their heart-healthy benefits. If you miss your window for optimal eating, roast the tomatoes and use them for a roasted tomato sauce.
- Onions – Onions may look like they come with a protective skin that can keep them fresh no matter where they are, but the truth is that the shiny outer layer only stays shiny and protective when it’s dry, and that means onions should not be kept in the refrigerator. The refrigerator is intended to keep moist foods moist, and that moisture will make the onion rot quickly.Instead, keep your onions fresher longer by keeping them in the pantry. It’s also important to keep them away from foods that give off moisture, like potatoes and bananas. Onions also don’t really like light, so they’re better off in a dark, but well-ventilated, location.
- Avocados – Avocados don’t start to ripen until after they’re picked from the tree and then you have a small window of time when they’re at their peak and you can enjoy them. They’re often available in the market in their pre-ripened stage when they’re still hard. If you end up with a crop like this to choose from, keep it out of the fridge to allow it to ripen.You can speed up the ripening process by putting the avocado in a paper bag along with a banana. If, on the other hand, you do end up with a perfectly ripe avocado and need it to last, the refrigerator can help keep it from getting overripe and mushy.
- Whole melons – From cantaloupes to watermelons to honeydew, before you cut into your melon, keep whole melons stay on the counter for the best flavor. Keeping them there for two or three days will also help to ensure that they’re fully ripe and as sweet and juicy as can be. According to the USDA, there are additional benefits to keeping a melon out of the refrigerator and on the counter. Recent research found keeping the melons out of the cold help antioxidants stay intact better.Once you slice into it though, you’ll want to keep it sliced into pieces in a plastic bag in the refrigerator where it can stay good for three or four days.
If you love fresh vegetables like I do, you want them to last. It can be so disappointing when you have your heart set on making a meal with those delicious, nutritious and brightly colored fruits and veggies only to discover that they’ve gone bad and are headed for the trash instead of your plate.
You may even want to get a fruit and vegetable basket to hang in your kitchen or pantry. Not only does it improve air-flow around the fruit and vegetables to help them stay fresher longer, but it will also give you the chance to add some bright, beautiful color to your kitchen.