That vegetables and fruits are most delicious and nutritious when eaten at peak ripeness, is something we know. Synchronizing our schedules with the fruit and vegetables ripening can be a challenge; strategizing can be eased and conducted most efficiently by using storage appropriate for each of the different items in our farm-share. Some basic tips follow; please feel free to send along your own tips to firstname.lastname@example.org for posting here. Please note, the estimates of time to maximum ripeness/pre-spoilage are really approximations.
Fruits and vegetables need to breathe.
Store fruits and vegetables separately from each other. Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene, the ripening agent, can prematurely ripen and spoil surrounding produce. Think of the “one bad apple” adage. Likewise, root vegetables and onions stored together spoil more quickly.
If trimming a vegetable, trim all leafy ends, leaving an inch to keep the vegetable from drying out. Make sure that the bag in which the veggies are stored, has some holes punctured to allow for good ventilation. Also, pack veggies and fruits loosely, whether in the refrigerator or not, as the closer they are to each other, the more quickly they will rot.
Too much of a good thing? Almost all fruits and vegetables can be stored in the freezer, in small pieces on sheet trays, or in airtight containers, or the herbs in ice cubes as my mother does.
Garlic, onions: store at room temperature or cooler in a well-ventilated area; avoid stacking. Pantry: 2 months
Cucumbers: store above 50°F to avoid the risk they develop “chilling injuries” including water-soaked areas, pitting, and accelerated decay. If refrigeration is necessary, limit to 1-3 days before eating. Store cukes far from fruit with high levels of ethylene, such as bananas, melons, and tomatoes. 5 days
Spinach: store as quickly as possible, loose in an open container in the crisper. Spinach likes the cold. 4 days
Potatoes: store in a cool (45°F to 50°F) and dark place, using perhaps a brown paper bag, so as to prevent the spuds from sprouting. Mature potatoes with tougher skin store better than fresh or fingerling potatoes. Mature potatoes: 3 weeks; new and fingerling potatoes: 5 days
Fennel: if using within a couple days, fennel can be left out on the counter, upright in a cup or bowl of water; If storing longer than a few days, store in a closed container with a little water in the refrigerator. Refrigerator: 1 week
Bell peppers: refrigerate, as they will only deteriorate if left out of the refrigerator. 1 week (green); 5 days (red, yellow, and orange)
Carrots: snip the carrot greens to keep them from sapping nutrients from the carrot roots. Note, there is the option of storing the greens separately. Place carrots in a closed container with plenty of moisture, either wrapped in a damp towel, or dunk them in cold water every couple of days. 2 weeks
Celery root/Celeriac: wrap the root in a damp towel and place it in the vegetable crisper. 2 weeks
Herbs: if storing washed and dried, place in a paper towel in a plastic bag, to absorb extra moisture and make the environment more humid, in the refrigerator. Soft herbs should be washed right before use. Cilantro and the like can be put in a jar of water, protected by a plastic bag on top, and refrigerated. Woody herbs: 2 weeks, approximately 1.5 week longer than their leafy counterparts.
Beets: cut off the greens to prevent greens from drawing nutrients and moisture from the roots, and to keep beets firm. Wash beets and store them in an open container with a wet towel on top, in the refrigerator. 3 weeks
Melon: store at room temperature, out of the refrigerator. Melon stored in the fridge can develop a rubbery texture and lose a lot of flavor quickly. A few days
Tomatoes: store unwashed at room temperature in a well-ventilated area. A few days
Berries: refrigerate and gently wash just before eating. Strawberries do well dry in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Maximum tends to be 1 week
Plums, peaches, and pears: store at room temperature. Ripening can be accelerated in a brown bag. Maximum tends to be 1 week, varying with type
Apples: can be stored in the refrigerator or a cool, dark location. Up to 4 months