19 January 2023

Storage Tips for Winter Produce

Hearty and thick-skinned winter produce is known for its long shelf life. However, sometimes it does not always live up to its reputation. 

For example, you purchase beautiful bright green brussels sprouts at the farmers market on Saturday, assuming you have a few days to figure out what to do with them. By Tuesday, most were either yellowish, slimy or had developed dark spots.

This quick turn for the worse may have something to do with the way you stored them. 

Let’s review how to store the various kinds of winter produce to prolong freshness and keep it out of your compost!

 

APPLES

  • Leave them in the perforated plastic bag to trap the humidity, but release the ethylene gas and store them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
  • Apples with intact stems last longer than those without stems. Microorganisms can enter apples with detached stems, leading to decay.
  • Keep bruised apples away from apples you want to store. Apples with bruises produce ethylene gas, which speeds up the rate at which surrounding apples ripen and rot.
  • The best apple varieties to store long-term have thick skin and are crisp & tart – Granny Smith, Fuji, McIntosh, Winesap, Honeycrisp, Northern Spy, and Rome can last six months or longer. 
  • Sweeter apples with thinner skins, like Golden Delicious, will last up to two weeks.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS

  • Sprouts on the stalk keep longer than off the stalk! Store the stalk upright in a water container in a cool area of your kitchen or the refrigerator if there is space.
  • Dry off the unwashed individual sprouts of any moisture that may have developed, place them in an airtight container (this will limit the amount of incoming moisture and oxygen) and store them in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer. 
  • Storage Life:Up to a week

CELERIAC (aka Celery Root)

  • Wrap unwashed roots in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator crisper drawer.
  • Do not wash or trim the root until ready to use – it will start to brown quickly.
  • Storage Life: Up to three weeks

CABBAGE

  • Store the unwashed head loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer.
  • Storage Life: Up to four weeks.

GARLIC

  • Store the unpeeled bulb in an open paper bag in a cool, dry spot with temperatures between 40 – 50 degrees, like a garage, basement, or closet. 
  • After breaking a whole garlic bulb apart, use each unpeeled clove within a few weeks.
  • Storage Life: Up to six months.

HARDY GREENS 

Kale, Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, and Mature Spinach

  • Remove the rubber band or tie holding the leaves together, wrap them in paper towels, then place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer.
  • Limp & wilted greens can be revitalized by cutting their stems at an angle, about an inch from the bottom. Then pop them in a glass of cold water, put them back in the fridge, and they will come back to life in a few hours!  This method is also been known to help parsley, broccoli, and celery.
  • Storage Life: Up to a week.

HERBS

Parsley, Thyme and Rosemary

  • Trim the stems & place them in a glass jar or container of water or wrap a damp paper towel – store them on the top shelf in the fridge.
  • Storage Life: Up to two weeks, maybe more for rosemary.

LEEKS

  • Wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator. This helps to keep leeks fresh as well as protect other food from absorbing their strong odor.
  • Do not trim or wash before storing.
  • Storage Life: Up to two weeks.

MUSHROOMS

Oyster, Maitake, Shiitake and other foraged/cultivated varieties

  • Place whole, unwashed mushrooms in a paper bag and fold the top over. 
  • Store in the refrigerator, away from other produce and high-odor food.
  • Storage Life: Up to ten days.

NUTS

Hazelnut and Walnuts

  • Always store nuts in an airtight container. 
  • Shelled nuts in a pantry can last up to three months, and unshelled nuts can last up to six months.
  • Shelled or unshelled nuts in the refrigerator can last up to six months, or in the freezer for a year or more.

ONIONS

  • Store unpeeled in a paper bag or cardboard box in a cool, dark, dry spot with temperatures between 40 – 50 degrees, like a garage, basement, or closet.
  • Do not store onions together or near potatoes – each emits a gas that causes the other to sprout and spoil faster.
  • Storage Life: Up to six weeks.

POTATOES

  • Store in a paper bag or a cardboard box in a cool, dark, dry spot with temperatures between 40 – 50 degrees, like a garage, basement, or closet.
  • Large potatoes tend to last longer than smaller, younger ones.
  • Do not store potatoes together or near onions – each emits a gas that causes the other to sprout and spoil faster.
  • Damp places will mimic potato growing conditions and encourage them to sprout. 
  • If your potatoes turn green, that is a sign they have been exposed to too much light and will give off a bitter flavor, which may irritate the digestive system.
  • Storage Life: Up to two weeks.

RADICCHIOS, CHICORIES & ENDIVES

  • Store unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
  • Storage Life: Up to three to four weeks. Tender varieties, like escarole, typically only keep for a week.  

ROOT VEGETABLES

Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Radishes, Rutabagas and Turnips

  • Remove leafy tops from their roots and store them like a hardy green until use.
  • Wrap roots in a slightly damp paper towel or dishcloth and store them in the refrigerator.
  • Storage Life: Up to three weeks.

SUNCHOKES (aka Jerusalem Artichoke)

  • Store in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator.
  • Storage Life: Up to 10 days

WINTER SQUASH

Acorn, Banana, Buttercup, Butternut, Delicata, Hubbard, Kabocha and Spaghetti

  • Store squash with the stems intact on a wire rack or loosely wrapped in paper and then nestled in a shallow box without a lid in a dark, dry, well-ventilated spot with a temperature between 50 – 55 degrees. 
  • Turn and inspect the squash about once a week while being stored so you can catch any dark soft spots before they spread. Time to cut out those spots and get to cooking or baking!
  • Storage Life by Variety:
    • Acorn & Delicata – 4 weeks
    • Spaghetti & Sweet Dumpling – 5 to 6 weeks
    • Buttercup & Kabocha – 3 months
    • Butternut – 6 months
    • Hubbard – 6 to 7 months

 

One last note for general produce storage – remember to check your stored produce regularly and remove anything that has started to spoil! If you don’t, the rot will spread to the rest. (The old saying, “one bad apple can spoil the bunch” applies to more than just the fruit.)

Best of luck prolonging the shelf life of your winter bounty!