Any amount of folk wisdom plus experience and observation will result in proper food storage, to a certain level, along with a sense of which fruit will ripen once picked and what will simply rot.
Certainly, I have picked up my share of tips at the farmer's market -- a tiny Chinese woman at the Heart of the City farmer's market told me the best way to preserve the giant bags of oranges is to spread them out on a baking sheet, with a towel underneath, so there is plenty of air between them, and eat the softest or ripest oranges first. Works great for other produce, too -- I do this with apples, peaches and apricots in the refrigerator.
Kittee's guide motivated me to do a bit of digging and found a great chart on how ethylene gas affects your produce. I also found a very comprehensive and useful guide to proper food storage on the website of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association.
Without further adieu, here's my guide to what should go into your two produce bins in the fridge, based on which fruits or veggies produce ethylene gas and which fruits or veggies will rot when exposed to too much of it (yes, even in low temperatures in the refrigerator).
|Drawer 1: Fruit Drawer (Ethylene producers)|
Carambola (star fruit)
|Drawer 2: Potatoes, Onions, Garlic and Ethylene Sensitive Produce, including:|
Asparagus (gets tough)
Unripe kiwi fruit
Beans - green & wax (sensitive to cold, causes russeting)
Berries (will get moldy)
Carrots (will get bitter)
Squash - winter/dark skinned
Exceptions & Notes:
- Potatoes, onions & garlic will sprout when exposed to too much ethylene, but have otherwise low sensitivity to it, hence the traditional co-mingling of potatoes, onions and garlic in the same drawer.
- Some unripe fruit -- like kiwis, bananas, avocados -- are very ethylene sensitive and can be ripened in a paper bag with an apple
- Cherries store with stems to prolong shelf life
- Grapes absorb odors from leeks & green onions, get moldy from Ethylene
- Rhubarb will absorb odors from avocado & green onions
- Peaches, pears, passion fruit & tomatoes produce and are very sensitive to ethylene - store the ripe fruit in a single layer in the refrigerator
Don't spend money on silly bags and indicators -- just buy what you need, use what you buy, and keep an eye on how you store things together in the fridge. You know, like companion planting -- this is companion food storage.
BONUS: If you have a big kitchen and lots of storage space with different places that keep stuff at different temperatures, check out this link to the UC Davis Vegetable Research & Information Center Guide to Harvesting & Storing.
FIVE Food Storage Spaces for Optimal (not tiny apartment kitchen) Storage:
- 2 crisper drawers in your fridge
- 45-55 degree/85-95% relative humidity space
- 50-60 degree cool dark place (basement, garage)
- 65-70 degree room temperature area out of direct light