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Expert's surprising storage tips for keeping fruit and veg fresher for longer

There's nothing more upsetting than picking up some fruit or veggies ready for a snack only to find them rotten.

There’s nothing more disappointing than taking out some freshly purchased vegetables from the fridge ready to cook dinner, only to find them wilted and rotten.

Unfortunately, it can often be difficult to tell just how fresh produce sold in supermarkets really is.

Despite major retailers including Coles and Woolworths both having an Australian First Sourcing Policy, which prioritised sourcing produce locally, some items are still imported. This typically happens when certain products are not available locally, are out of season but in demand or face supply constraints at specific times of the year.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell how fresh the fruit and vegetables you pick up from Coles and Woolworths really are. Photo: Getty
Sometimes it can be hard to tell how fresh the fruit and vegetables you pick up from Coles and Woolworths really are. Photo: Getty

How to shop for freshness

Although it can be difficult to know for sure how fresh produce is, there are some ways to test them out before buying.

Emma Winley, a horticulturist and applied microbiologist, told Yahoo Lifestyle that shoppers should carry out some simple checks on what they are buying before adding it to their trolley.

“Check for no wilting or floppiness for leaf vegetables,” she says. “And make sure there are no open cuts or obvious soft patches for fruit.”

Once you get produce home from the supermarket, there are some things you can do to keep it as fresh as possible too.

Winley advises that different products require different storage for the freshest results.

“Fruit and vegetables are living produce, that is they will still undergo chemical changes while in the shop and at home,” she advises.

Woman takes vegetables out of her fridge.
Storing fruit and vegetables the right way will almost certainly guarantee how long they will last, with some needing a little more attention than others. Photo: Getty

“In particular, vegetables can lose water which will make them wilt and become floppy. This can be slowed down by keeping them refrigerated and by wrapping them in a water-resistant wrap.”

Storing vegetables in a plastic bag, container, wax food wrap, paper towel or even a cloth will help to reduce water loss.

When it comes to keeping fruit looking alive, it’s not as vital to keep them wrapped.

“Fruit have a skin that slows their water loss so it’s not as crucial to keep them wrapped. Some fruit will last longer refrigerated while other fruit will need to be stored at room temperature as cold temperatures can discolour the internal tissue,” Winley explains.

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Storage solutions

So what produce should be stored where in the kitchen? We break it down for you so that you can keep fruit and vegetables lasting as long as possible.

Cool dark place:

This is the best place to keep certain root vegetables that need to be stored in a cool place to lengthen their shelf life. While these vegetables will last longer here, some can’t be kept together. Onions will cause potatoes to sprout so these are best kept separately.

What to store here:

  • Onions

  • Potatoes

  • Garlic

  • Pumpkin

  • Sweet potatoes

Fruit bowl:

The best place for tropical fruits is in the fruit bowl, why? Because they are cold-sensitive and won’t last as long in the fridge. While there’s nothing like an icy cold mango on a hot day, you’ll get more life out of it if you store it out of the fridge.

What to store here:

  • Bananas

  • Mango

  • Pineapple

Apples in a bowl.
Apples can be kept at room temperature but will last longer if kept in the fridge. Photo: Getty

Benchtop:

Some other fruits can be kept out on the kitchen bench, but they will keep longer if refrigerated. Be mindful of what fruits you keep together too. Apples can release ethylene gas, which will cause other fruits around them to quickly ripen. So it can be best to store them separately if you want other fruits to last longer too.

What to store here:

  • Watermelon

  • Apples

  • Oranges

  • Rockmelon

Benchtop until ripe, then in the refrigerator:

Some fruits need to be kept at room temperature until ripened. But once they are it’s important to move them to the fridge for a longer shelf life. Tomatoes can be kept at room temp for 1–5 days. But once ripe, should be moved to the fridge to preserve flavour. Avocados are similar and should be kept at room temperature. Once ripe, they can be sealed in a container and put in the fringe where they should last for three to five days.

What to store here:

  • Stone fruit, including nectarines, plums and peaches

  • Tomatoes

  • Avocado

  • Pears

  • Kiwifruit

Cut peaches.
Winley advises as soon as any fruit or vegetable is cut open it needs to be stored in the fridge. Photo: Getty Images.

Straight to the fridge

Most vegetables - and some fruits - need to go straight into the fridge once purchased. Berries and grapes should never be left out at room temperature unless they are going to be eaten that day.

What to store here:

  • Silverbeet

  • Lettuce

  • Spinach

  • Herbs

  • Kale

  • Carrots

  • Broccoli

  • Leeks

  • Peas

  • Mushrooms

  • Corn

  • Cabbage

  • Celery

  • Grapes

  • Strawberries

  • Raspberry

  • Blueberry

Wrapped in the fridge:

While these vegetables should be stored in the fridge, they don’t love cold conditions. They should be wrapped up for lasting freshness and should generally be purchased sparingly due to their short shelf life.

  • Beans

  • Eggplant

  • Capsicum

  • Cucumber

  • Zucchini

Winley also points out that “any fruit or vegetable that have been cut open should then be refrigerated” to ensure they last a little longer. Check the Australian Seasonal Food Guide to know what is available in your area.

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