How to Store Produce Properly During a Pandemic
Staying at home in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, whether we’re under quarantine or simply because we’re sheltering in place, we have plenty to worry about — avoiding the coronavirus, most of all, of course. Another very real concern, though, now that casual (unprotected) trips to the grocery store and meals out in restaurants are off the table, is feeding ourselves.
Whether we’re suiting up with masks and gloves and braving the supermarket in person or having food delivered, it makes sense to minimize contact with those who supply us with our groceries. Part of what that means is that not wasting food once we have it is more important than ever. This involves shopping wisely to begin with. We should all know how to buy food for a 14-day quarantine and how not to.
It’s also a matter, though, of knowing how to store food so that it doesn’t go bad before we can eat it. Pantry staples are easy, because they tend to have long shelf lives, and all we need to do is put them away in the cupboard. And everybody knows that such perishables as dairy products, seafood, and meat need to be refrigerated (or frozen right away, when appropriate) unless we’re going to eat them immediately.
But what about all the fresh, colorful, healthy produce — the fruits and vegetables that should be part of everyone’s daily diet? Should they stay out on the counter or go into the fridge? Should they be stored in plastic or paper bags or neither? How will they ripen fastest and/or retain the most flavor? How can we stave off spoilage — an important consideration because some foods spoil faster than you’d think.
24/7 Tempo has collected advice from a variety of knowledgeable sources on how to best store 20 kinds of fruit and vegetables.
Some general rules apply to many kinds of produce. For instance, when you bring vegetables home from the supermarket, remove any rubber bands or twist-ties, as these can scar the vegetables and give bacteria a convenient point of entry. In addition, if you store fruit or vegetables in a bag, whether paper or plastic, poke some holes in it to let the produce “breathe.”
Another good thing to remember is that you shouldn’t store fruit in the same bag as vegetables, or even too close to one another. Many kinds of fruit — including apricots, peaches, bananas, melons, kiwi fruit, and tomatoes (yes, they’re a fruit) — emit ethylene gas, which helps them ripen. A number of vegetables, from asparagus to squash, are adversely affected by that gas, and can spoil quickly in its presence.
Beyond these overall considerations, here are some specific recommendations.