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The best way to store produce depends on the type of produce being stored, as well as what types of fruits and vegetables are being stored together. It's also important to take into consideration which type of container to store produce in. For instance, some vegetables need to be stored in plastic bags, while others keep longer soaking in water. With the exception of root vegetables, it's generally fine to wash fruits and vegetables before storing them, as long a they're dry before they go into storage — excess moisture will speed up rot in most cases. When in doubt about the proper way to store produce, ask a professional grocer.
Most fruits, including apples, bananas, citrus fruits, peaches, and watermelons, should be left at room temperature for a few days to let them ripen, as long as their skins remain intact. After the fruit is ripe — or if it is cut — it should be stored in a refrigerator. Small pitted fruits should be put in a perforated plastic bag or in a cardboard box inside the refrigerator on a top shelf; the top shelves are slightly warmer than lower shelves, and usually closer to eye level so any rot can be seen right away. Most fruits can last for between four days and a week this way. Apples, bananas, nectarines, and melons should not be stored near other produce, since they release gases that can cause other fruits and vegetables to ripen too quickly.
Storing Berries and Mushrooms
Storing berries and mushrooms can be tricky, since they're both rather delicate and tend to rot easily. Generally speaking, it's best to store produce like berries and mushrooms in a single layer in paper bags or loosely packed in cardboard boxes covered with a paper towel. Strawberries and blueberries generally last for up to a week, while raspberries and blackberries tend to go bad after two or three days. Mushrooms also tend to last for only a few days, though it's sometimes possible to extend their shelf life by putting a slightly damp paper towel on top of them. Neither berries nor mushrooms should be washed before storage.
Storing Root Vegetables and Pumpkins
The best way to store produce like root vegetables and pumpkins is not to put them in the refrigerator at all. Root vegetables like potatoes, yams, onions, garlic, and taro should generally be stored at around room temperature — no cooler than 50°F (10°C) — and should not be washed until just before they're used or they may rot more quickly. Onions and shallots can last for about a month this way, while garlic and potatoes can last for several months if properly stored. Pumpkins and similar vegetables, including gourds and winter squash, can usually last at room temperature for about two weeks.
Starchy vegetables should not be stored in the refrigerator, since the cold can cause them to become flavorless. Any that are stored in the cold should be allowed to warm up to room temperature several hours before they are used. It's important to check root vegetables for signs of rotting and spoilage periodically, especially if they're being stored for a long time.
Storing Leafy Greens and Herbs
It's best to eat leafy greens soon after buying them, though they can last for up to a week in the refrigerator. Full heads of lettuce, kale, chard, and bok choy can be put in the crisper to separate them from other foods or just on a refrigerator shelf as-is, while loose greens and herbs should be stored in an airtight container. These rot easily when wet, so it's often a good idea to put a paper towel in the container with them to absorb moisture, and you should check them periodically for signs of wilting. Never store produce like greens near most fruits, particularly apples and bananas, as this will make them go bad faster.
Storing Other Vegetables
Most other types of vegetables work fine stored in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper or on a refrigerator shelf. Celery, carrots, and asparagus tend to keep longer when stored in water or wrapped in a damp paper towel — asparagus will last for a few days this way; celery and carrots can last for a week or two. Anything with greens, like carrots or beets, should have the greens cut off before storage. Corn should be stored in the husk, where it can last for a few days.