How to Store Fruits and Vegetables

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

artichoke
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

Apples
Refrigerator: 3 weeks

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

Artichokes
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.

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

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

Bananas
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.

Beets
Refrigerator: 3 weeks
Tip: Separate the leaves from the roots before storing them separately in a plastic bag; the leaves will stay fresh for up to 3 days.

Bell peppers
Refrigerator: 1 week (green); 5 days (red, yellow, and orange)

Blackberries
Refrigerator: 2 days (spread in a single layer on a paper towel–lined plate)
Tip: Discard damaged or moldy berries before storing to prevent the spread of mold.

Blueberries
Refrigerator: 1 week
Tip: Discard damaged or moldy berries before storing to prevent the spread of mold.

Bok choy
Refrigerator: 3 days

Broccoli
Refrigerator: 1 week

Broccoli rabe
Refrigerator: 1 week

Brussels sprouts
Refrigerator: 1 week

Cabbage, green and red
Refrigerator: 2 weeks

Cabbage, savoy and napa
Refrigerator: 1 week

Cantaloupe
Refrigerator: 5 days (whole); 3 days (cut)
Tip: To ripen, keep at room temperature in a paper bag. Before slicing the melon, wash the rind thoroughly to prevent the transmission of bacteria.

Carrots
Refrigerator: 2 weeks

Cauliflower
Refrigerator: 1 week

Celery
Refrigerator: 2 weeks

Chard
Such as Swiss and rainbow
Refrigerator: 3 days

Cherries
Refrigerator: 3 days (in an open bag or bowl)

Chili peppers, fresh
Refrigerator: 2 weeks
Note: Dried chili peppers will keep for 4 months in an airtight container.

Clementines
Refrigerator: 5 days

Collard greens
Refrigerator: 5 days

Corn, unshucked
Refrigerator: Best on the first day; 3 days are possible.

Cranberries
Refrigerator: 1 month

Cucumbers
Refrigerator: 5 days

Eggplant
Refrigerator: 5 days

Endive
Refrigerator: 5 days

Escarole
Refrigerator: 3 days

Fennel
Refrigerator: 1 week

Garlic
Pantry: 2 months (make sure air can circulate around it)

Ginger
Refrigerator: 3 weeks
Tip: Ginger can be frozen for up to 6 months. It’s not necessary to thaw it before grating.

Grapefruit
Countertop: 1 week
Refrigerator: 3 weeks

Grapes
Refrigerator: Best up to 3 days; 1 week is possible (in a bowl or ventilated plastic bag).

Green beans
Refrigerator: 1 week

Herbs, leafy
Refrigerator: 3 days (basil, cilantro, chives, tarragon); 5 days (parsley, mint)
Tip: Wrap the bunch in a damp paper towel before bagging.

Herbs, woody
Such as rosemary and thyme
Refrigerator: 2 weeks

Honeydew
Refrigerator: 5 days (whole); 3 days (cut)
Tip: To ripen, keep at room temperature in a paper bag. Before slicing the melon, wash the rind thoroughly to prevent the transmission of bacteria.

Jicama
Refrigerator: 1 week

Kale
Refrigerator: 3 days

Kiwis
Refrigerator: 4 days

Leeks
Refrigerator: 1 week
Tip: Cut off and discard the dark green tops and keep the roots intact.

Lemons
Refrigerator: 3 weeks

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

Lettuce, head
Refrigerator: 5 days (iceberg can last for 2 weeks)

Limes
Refrigerator: 3 weeks

Mangoes
Refrigerator: 4 days
Tip: To ripen, keep at room temperature in a paper bag until soft.

Mushrooms
Refrigerator: 1 week (in a paper bag)

Mustard greens
Refrigerator: 3 days

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

Okra
Refrigerator: 3 days (in a paper bag)

Onions
Pantry: 2 months (whole; make sure air can circulate around them)
Refrigerator: 4 days (cut)

Oranges
Countertop: 3 days
Refrigerator: 2 weeks

Parsnips
Refrigerator: 1 month

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

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

Peas, English and in pods
Refrigerator: 4 days
Tip: Leave them in the pods until ready to eat.

Pineapple
Countertop: 5 days (whole)
Refrigerator: 3 days (sliced)

Plums
Refrigerator: 5 days
Tip: To ripen, keep at room temperature until soft and the skins develop a silvery, powdery coating.

Pomegranates
Refrigerator: 3 weeks (whole); 3 days (seeds)

Potatoes, new and fingerling
Pantry: 5 days (make sure air can circulate around them)

Potatoes—red, russet, Yukon gold, and others
Pantry: 3 weeks (make sure air can circulate around them)

Radicchio
Refrigerator: 4 days

Radishes
Refrigerator: Best up to 3 days; 2 weeks are possible
Tip: Remove the leaves to prolong freshness.

Raspberries
Refrigerator: 3 days (in a single layer on a paper towel–lined plate)
Tip: Discard damaged or moldy berries before storing to prevent the spread of mold.

Rhubarb
Refrigerator: 1 week
Tip: Do not eat the leaves; they can be toxic if consumed in large quantities.

Rutabaga
Pantry: 1 week
Refrigerator: 2 weeks

Scallions
Refrigerator: 5 days

Shallots
Pantry: 1 month (make sure air can circulate around them)

Snow peas
Refrigerator: 4 days

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

Spinach, bunch
Refrigerator: 3 days

Squash, summer
Refrigerator: 5 days

Squash, winter
Such as acorn, butternut, delicata, and spaghetti
Pantry: 3 months (whole)
Refrigerator: 1 week (cut)

Strawberries
Refrigerator: 3 days
Tip: Discard damaged or moldy berries before storing to prevent the spread of mold.

Sugar snap peas
Refrigerator: 4 days

Sweet potatoes and yams
Pantry: 2 weeks (in a paper bag)

Tangerines
Refrigerator: 1 week

Tomatillos
Refrigerator: 1 month (in a paper bag)

Tomatoes
Countertop: 3 days
Tip: To ripen, keep at room temperature in a paper bag.

Turnips
Refrigerator: 2 weeks
Tip: Separate the leaves from the roots before storing them separately in a plastic bag; the leaves will stay fresh for up to 3 days.

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

Watercress, bunch
Refrigerator: 4 days

Watermelon
Refrigerator: 1 week (whole); 2 days (cut)
Tip: If you can’t refrigerate the melon whole, keep it in the pantry at a cool temperature.

Zucchini
Refrigerator: 5 days