Living Well: 6 Secrets to Properly Washed & Stored Produce

August 29, 2012

How to Properly Wash & Store Produce. Handy guide via DesignMom.com

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By Lindsey of Café Johnsonia.

Is your garden full of vegetables and fruit? This is what’s happening at my house: I can hardly keep up on my zucchini, my neighbors’ have generously shared the fruit from their trees, and we’ve been stopping by farm stands to support our local agriculture. Vegetables and fruit everywhere!

So let’s get down to business. Here is my not-at-all-comprehensive-but-very-helpful-guide to Properly Washing + Storing Fruits and Vegetables, to help you make the most of your summer produce.




Secret #1: Some vegetables and fruits should never be refrigerated.

TOMATOES will turn mealy and flavorless if refrigerated. Ick! Keep at room temperature to ripen and only store cut tomatoes in the fridge.

MELONS such as cantaloupe and honeydew will turn rubbery if kept in the fridge, though refrigerated watermelon does absolutely fine, before and after cutting. Before cutting melons (and other tough skinned produce like AVOCADOS, PINEAPPLE and SQUASH) wash with a little dish soap and a scrub brush, rinsing well, to prevent spreading any microbes lurking on the surface.

WINTER SQUASHES should be kept in a cool dark place instead of the fridge.

POTATOES should not be kept in the fridge either. The starches in the potatoes will turn to sugar and the potatoes will taste sweet.

Secret #2: Ripen these foods on the counter and then refrigerate: AVOCADOS, KIWI, STONE FRUITS (peaches, plums, nectarines, etc.) and use within a few  days.

BANANAS should also be kept at room temperature. If refrigerated, peels will turn black, but it doesn’t really affect quality or taste. (Very ripe bananas can be frozen, un-peeled, until later. To use, simply peel the frozen bananas under warm water and add them to smoothies or mash for breads and other baked goods.)

As soon as you bring them home, check over BERRIES and pick out any that show signs of spoilage, because mold will quickly spread to other berries. They should be kept dry. Store them in a plastic clamshell container or paper bag in as few layers as possible. You can also store them on paper towels to absorb any excess moisture. Berries should never be rinsed until just before eating.


BEANS and PEAS should always be stored in the fridge after picking or buying, and used immediately.

Secret #3: Use perforated plastic bags  to allow for some air circulation, while not letting produce dry out.

ONIONS should be stored away from other foods, particularly potatoes. Keep them in mesh bags in a cool, dark place and they will keep happily for months. You can also refrigerate onions, but be careful because the strong flavor might transfer to other foods. The exception to this is GREEN ONIONS, which should be stored in a plastic bag in a refrigerator crisper drawer.

The best way to store ASPARAGUS is to cut 1/4″ off the bottom of the stalks and store them upright in a little water.

Secret #4: Storing in water also works for fresh herbs, particularly parsley, cilantro, oregano, sage, marjoram, basil, rosemary, tarragon, mint, and chives.

For sturdy leafy greens like KALE, CHARD, and COLLARDS, rinse well, remove the tough stems and cut the leaves into ribbons. Store in a  plastic bag with a damp paper towel to keep them fresh and ready to use in recipes during the next week.

Remove tops from root veggies like BEETS, TURNIPS, RADISHES, CARROTS, etc., and store separately in plastic bags with a damp paper  towel to keep them from wilting. Use the tops within a few days. The roots will keep for much longer. Before cooking with un-peeled root veggies, use a sturdy brush to scrub the nooks and crannies.

Secret #5: Good news! You don’t always have to peel root vegetables. Especially if they’re from your own garden and you know they’re  chemical-free. A good brush to remove the dirt is all you need.


SALAD GREENS should be refrigerated until ready to eat. When you buy them, keep them in the plastic tub they come in with a paper towel between the greens and the lid to absorb any excess moisture. If you buy them bagged, get them from a local farm, or pick them from your garden, wash greens in a big bowl of water with a little white vinegar added. Gently swish to remove dirt and bugs. Repeat until water is clear, and spin or gently pat dry. Store in plastic bags or tubs with a damp paper towel.

I do the same washing process for broccoli and cauliflower.

Secret #6: Head lettuce can tolerate more moisture to keep it crisp, so it doesn’t have to be super dry before going in the fridge. (Yay for timesavers!)

Never soak MUSHROOMS in water. If they are very dirty, give them a quick rinse. Otherwise, leave them be.

And there you have it. Clean fruits and vegetables, that won’t spoil minutes after you buy them. Enjoy the harvest!

P.S. — Want to live the good life? Find all the Secrets to Living Well posts here.

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{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jan @ Family Bites August 29, 2012 at 7:13 am

What a great list of tips! I love it…

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2 Sherri August 29, 2012 at 7:23 am

Great tips – VERY helpful – really. I’ll add one more: Do not store avocados and bananas next to one another UNLESS you need to them both to ripen a bit, and then doing so helps a lot.

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3 Kyran August 29, 2012 at 7:33 am

Fantastic! I’m going to clip this to evernote and pinterest so I can find it easily next time I come home from the market!

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4 Azra August 29, 2012 at 7:45 am

Nice tips. Thank you.
We are the members of the local CSA and I must admit I have a hard time keeping up(storage etc) with all the veggies and fruits that we get. Only this week we got 4 watermelons.

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5 Tania August 29, 2012 at 8:15 am

Such good and timely tips! Now that harvest season is upon us, we find ourselves coming home from the market with so many lovely fruit and veggies and hurrying to eat them up before they turn limp and unattractive.

As Sherri mentioned, I have also heard of this neat thing about bananas. When they ripen, they produce ethylene, which is a natural plant hormone regulating ripening. And bananas produce so much of it that they can contribute to the ripening of other fruits when placed in close contact (in a bag, for instance). How did I live without knowing this before?

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6 Sharon @ Discovering blog August 29, 2012 at 8:17 am

Wow, what a great list, and FANTASTIC pictures! Thanks for all of the tips.

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7 Amanda August 29, 2012 at 8:31 am

Great tips- thanks! I need to print and hang this in my kitchen!

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8 Ann August 29, 2012 at 8:45 am

This is really informative. Thank you!

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9 Erin August 29, 2012 at 8:53 am

I peel my very ripe bananas, put them all in a ziploc in the freezer, and then pull out frozen pieces for smoothies or banana bread. You definitely don’t need to keep the peel on to freeze them.

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10 Janae @ Bring-Joy August 29, 2012 at 9:07 am

Beautiful pics Lindsey.

I can attest the truthfullness that tomatoes should NOT be refrigerated. I came upon that tip from a Costco Connections magazine years back, & have been glad ever since. No more mealy tomatoes!

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11 Lindsay - Shop Ella Lou August 29, 2012 at 9:36 am

Wonderful tips! While I was in France this summer, I heard many of these same tips from friends – I tried them and they worked! It’s funny that in the US we have a slight obsession with refrigerating everything when doing so is not always necessary. I agree with Sharon, I will definitely be hanging these tips in a cupboard in my kitchen.

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12 Cally August 29, 2012 at 9:55 am

SO informative…and lovely to look at! Thanks for posting!

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13 Katie Gnau August 29, 2012 at 10:02 am

Good tips. I noticed you had a salad spinner in some of the pictures – store greens in mine and they stay fresh for much longer than any other method I’ve found.

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14 Jadah{family sponge} August 29, 2012 at 10:22 am

This great! The photos and tips are brilliant! Cafe Johnsonia is so awesome. I love her work. We are produce lovers over here, so this was the perfect post for me.

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15 Melissa @floraseasons August 29, 2012 at 10:32 am

Wow, those are some great tips. I usually just throw everything in the fridge! The herbs in a jar of water is my favorite, I will try that when I get lazy about making basil pesto.

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16 Alison August 29, 2012 at 10:36 am

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! No wonder my tomatoes haven’t been awesome lately. I just joined a CSA and have been delayed in researching washing + storage for my beautiful produce. THANK YOU!

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17 Alison August 29, 2012 at 10:40 am

PS: question – eggplant – refrigerate? yes?

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18 Ashlea Walter August 29, 2012 at 11:21 am

I never knew about cleaning greens with a bit of white vinegar too. What does that do? Does it help with the cleaning or does it help with the longevity of the greens?

Thanks for a great post!

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19 Christina @ Homemade Ocean August 29, 2012 at 11:54 am

Those are beautiful photos!

Making me hungry :)

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20 Ann August 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm

What a gorgeous bounty of fresh produce and tips! I’m another one who loves to keep greens in a salad spinner… they stay fresh all week. One thing I do differently is wash all berries when I bring them home… a box of blueberries or strawberries for example. I rinse them well, pour off as much water as possible, and keep them in a loosely covered container in the fridge – have never had a problem and it’s just more convenient to have them ready to eat.

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21 Tiffany August 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I also heard Dr. Oz say that onions and potatoes should never be refrigerated because it creates carcinogens and can be cancer-encouraging. I am butchering the way he said it, but you get my drift. XO

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22 Alexandra August 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Great tips and great photos! Thanks for helping to eliminate some of my vegetable anxiety ;)

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23 Julia A. August 30, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Love these tips. I’ll but posting these up on my fridge this weekend. One thing that I have found that goes against the common – never pre-rinse berries, mantra is that I actually soak them (for many be 5 minutes – usually just long enough to put away the other produce)/
I soak them in a large bowl or my sink with water and white vinegar. It’s similar to the lettuce wash you mentioned. I’ve heard that the vinegar works because it kills surface bacteria.
After their vinegar and water bath is over is let them air dry on a large cloth napkin. Then I put them all in a big bowl, lined and covered with a dry cloth. It’s worked well. The strawberries at the bottom of the bowl (5 days later) are usually still as good the day we bought them.

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24 Sophia August 30, 2012 at 10:01 pm

I would also recommend checking out this alternative way of storing veggies and fruits without plastic bags! It makes your veggies even more beautiful :)

http://www.ecologycenter.org/factsheets/veggie-storage.pdf

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25 darcy jerome September 1, 2012 at 10:31 am

i just got home from the farmer’s market . . . thank you for the great tips!

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Great reminder and beautiful photos! Shared on my FB page, hope you don’t mind.

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Excellent tips on storing produce Gabrielle! I must share these on Pinterest, FB, and Twitter.

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29 Susan August 23, 2013 at 9:49 pm

I’ve also heard the same as Julia, (#23), about pre-washing berries in water and vinegar. It helps prevent bacteria that will spoil the fruit.
Also, if you store your herbs as I do in a glass with water on the bottom, then Cover the herbs with a Plastic bag covering them, they will last for many Days. Just like a mini greenhouse. I use the fruit and veggie green bags and am amazed that my Basil lasts so long.

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38 Melissa October 9, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I’ve read to, and have had success with, bathing berries in a water/vinegar mixture to kill mold. I do this as soon as I get home from the market; soak for 5 minutes, rinse, dry, and store as usual. Have you ever used this tip?

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39 Lindsey Johnson October 10, 2013 at 9:16 am

I have tried this, Melissa! It does work great. I found that strawberries especially benefited from the quick soak. Thanks for adding it into the conversation!

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57 becs July 19, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Thanks for the tips. There is the belief that vinegar also assists in dissolving some chemical residue on non-organic produce. Also, it can be added to the washing machine with new clothes that contain various chemicals used by manufacturers.
Re your advice on storage using plastic bags, it would be great to have some ideas NOT involving plastic owing to the environmental and landfill impact of this. It is huge!

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Great tips! I live in Costa Rica and buy all my fruits and veggies at the Faria (farmer’s market). Everything looks so good, I always over buy! The last time I was in the United States, I brought back some “Green bags” and those have been awesome for keeping things fresh as well.

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61 Valerie Harll December 13, 2014 at 1:22 am

I always cut my celery into smaller lengths and wrap them in silver foil and put into the fridge…..stays crisp and last for ages!
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