How to Store Fruits and Vegetables

Keep your produce as fresh as possible with these guidelines* for storing fruits and vegetables.

Photo by Jamie Chung   

Leave refrigerated produce unwashed in its original packaging or wrapped loosely in a plastic bag. (Exceptions, such as mushrooms and herbs, are noted below.) If your greens seem sandy or dirty—think lettuce from the farmers’ market—rinse and dry them well, then wrap them in a paper towel before placing in a plastic bag. Fruits and vegetables stored at room temperature should be removed from any packaging and left loose. The guidelines below assume that your produce is ripe and ready to eat. Some items, like apricots and avocados, will ripen faster in a paper bag on the countertop (see below). The bag traps ethylene gas, which is released by the produce and acts as a maturing agent. Want to speed the process up even more? Put an apple in the bag, too.

Alfalfa sprouts
Refrigerator: 3 days

Refrigerator: 3 weeks

Refrigerator: 5 days
Tip: To ripen, keep at room temperature in a paper bag until soft and fragrant.

Refrigerator: 1 week

Arugula, bagged and in clamshells
Refrigerator: No matter how fresh the leaves look, follow the expiration date on the package, since bacteria can develop.

Arugula, bunch
Refrigerator: 5 days
Tip: If the bunch has roots, wrap it in a damp paper towel before bagging.

Refrigerator: 3 days
Tip: Trim the ends before wrapping the spears in a damp paper towel, then in a plastic bag.

Refrigerator: 3 days
Tip: To ripen, keep at room temperature in a paper bag until soft.

Countertop: 5 days
Tip: Ripe bananas can be frozen for baking (the skins will blacken, but the flesh will be fine).

*Real Simple consulted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food scientists, food manufacturers, and a host of other experts—including fishmongers, cheese sellers, coffee roasters, bakers, and bartenders—to establish these storage guidelines. The first consideration was safety. But because you want your food to be delicious, too, for some products, Real Simple chose the conservative storage time for optimum freshness.