Reader Help (do you think it’s his/her real name?) submitted the following to Questions for cooks:
How can I properly store my non-refrigerated produce without forgetting about it so long it goes bad? I have individual bins in a dark place for potatoes, onions, and garlic. However, my counters are covered with winter squash, apples, oranges, bananas, avocado, etc. We go through it quickly enough that I don’t need to refrigerate it (no room in the fridge), but leaving it all out on the counter isn’t working.
My grandmother’s farm had a root cellar for exactly these types of foods. Fruits and vegetables seemed to last all winter down there, well, if we could keep the rodents and snakes from taking up residence. Since you wrote in with this question, though, I’m going to assume you don’t have a spare root cellar on your property you just happened to forget you owned.
For those of us who regularly visit grocery stores and who live in cities or suburbia, fruit bowls on tables and a cupboard shelf dedicated to vegetables are probably more our style. Fruit bowls are great when left in areas where people gather and snack. And, a shelf in a kitchen cupboard is typically dry and dark, which are good for the vegetables.
Air circulation is really important for fruits and vegetables. They need it to dissipate the ethylene gas that they give off as they age. On a table, fruits shouldn’t have an issue since they’re in the open air. Rotate the fruits in the bowl, though, so a piece isn’t at the bottom for days on end. In a cupboard, vegetables will need some air circulation to stay fresher longer — so put them in a cupboard you access at least once a day. (Plus, you won’t forget about them if they’re in a cupboard you regularly open.) Also, line the shelf with fruit shelf liner to help air circulate beneath the veggies.
For both fruits and vegetables, if you notice anything rotting, immediately remove it from the bowl or shelf. The increased production of ethylene gas during the rotting process will make the foods around it ripen and rot faster than they normally would. Conversely, if you want a green banana to ripen faster, stick it in a closed paper bag with an older apple. Apples give off high amounts of ethylene gas and will help speed up the ripening process of the banana.
Thank you, Help, for submitting your question for our Questions for cooks column. Check the comments for even more ideas from our readers.
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