Food & Nutrition

The secret to making vegetables last longer

Use these simple tips to keep produce crisp, fresh—and more delish.

How to store your vegetables

 

You know you’re on WW when your fridge is packed with so many vegetables that you barely have space for other groceries. After all, most vegetables are ZeroPoint™ foods—meaning you can snack on carrot sticks or have a hearty vegetable soup for dinner without touching your SmartPoints® Budget. It just makes sense to keep a selection of fiber-rich, filling produce on hand.

That said, nothing ruins a salad or sandwich faster than soggy spinach or mealy tomatoes, which is why experts highly recommend taking the time to store these foods properly. Having to toss past-its-prime produce is a sad waste of food and money. Although a few vegetables, such as potatoes, should be stored in the pantry, most can go straight into the fridge.

The first step to making these vegetables last is to keep them cold but not too cold. The “just right” temperature: 5°C. If you go any lower, you’ll risk freezing the produce, says food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson. To prevent vegetables from drying out and getting soft, wrinkled, and limp, you should also keep the environment humid. You can either place vegetables in a moisture-trapping plastic bag (sealed or open) or in the humid crisper compartment (typically the big drawers at the bottom of the fridge).

The next time you rearrange the fridge to make room for your produce, move fruits like apples and pears as far away from the vegetables as possible. “As they ripen, these fruits release ethylene gas, which can cause nearby vegetables to yellow and spoil,” says Garden-Robinson. Then, use these tips to determine how to best store some of the most popular vegetables—as well as how long you can expect them to last in your fridge.

 

Broccoli


How to store: Place the head of broccoli in a ventilated bag (plastic bag with the top left open) and keep in the fridge.

How long it lasts: Three to five days.

 

Carrots


How to store: Place whole carrots in a ventilated bag with a damp paper towel, which keeps vegetables from drying out. Store baby carrots in the bag they come in.

How long they last: Whole carrots: two to three weeks; baby carrots: about a month. (A whitish colour on baby carrots is a sign they’ve lost moisture. They’re still safe to eat; just rehydrate the sticks by placing them in water for a few minutes.)

Cauliflower


How to store: Wrap the cauliflower in a dampened paper towel, then place it in a plastic bag in the fridge.

How long it lasts: Three to five days.

 

Cucumber


How to store: Refrigerate the cucumber in a ventilated bag.

How long it lasts: Four to six days.

Leafy greens, like lettuce and spinach


How to store: Store in a clean plastic bag with a few paper towels to soak up any excess moisture that can lead to sogginess. Then place in the crisper drawer.

How long they last: Three to five days.

 

Tomatoes


How to store: Yes, technically a fruit…but nonetheless, keep whole tomatoes, including baby tomatoes and those that are on the vine, out of the fridge (they lose firmness and flavour when chilled). Once you slice them up, store tomatoes in a closed container in the fridge. “This prevents them from drying out and also from taking on the flavours of other foods” says Garden-Robinson.

How long they last: Whole tomatoes: five to seven days outside of the fridge; sliced tomatoes: two to three days in the fridge.

Mushrooms


How to store: Place in a paper bag, then refrigerate. Mushrooms that are stored in plastic bags will become slimy.

How long they last: Three to seven days.

 

Onions


How to store: Keep whole onions on a pantry shelf or anywhere that’s dry. If they’re stored in the fridge or, in a warm area (such as near a dishwasher or stove) they spoil faster. Once cut up, however, you should place onions in the fridge in an air-tight container.

How long they last: Whole onions: at least a month; cut onions: a week or less.

Capsicums


How to store: Place in the fridge—no bag needed. 

How long they last: Four days to two weeks.

 

Zucchini


How to store: As with cucumbers, you can keep zucchini in a plastic bag in the fridge.

How long it lasts: Three to five days.

How to tell if produce is past its prime

 

If you forget to use up a bunch of lettuce or head of cauliflower in time, check out the food’s colour, texture, and aroma to determine if it’s okay to eat. If you just see a few wrinkles on vegetables like carrots, celery stalks, or capsicums, keep ‘em. These can still be used in soups and other cooked dishes. But if the item is slimy, discoloured, smells off or you spot mould, toss it, says Garden-Robinson. Definitely not worth getting sick over.