Since farmers first began bringing in the annual harvest, people have looked for ways to store the produce, for the longest time possible, while retaining its texture and flavor. Canning, freezing and drying preserves fruits and vegetables for a longer period, but they change the texture and sometimes the flavor of the produce. Instead of preservation, consider proper storage methods for extending the life of fresh fruits and vegetables.
When selecting a storage method for fruits and vegetables, the first thing to consider is the individual temperature and humidity requirements of the particular type of produce being stored. For example, some vegetables require cold and moist storage environments, while others require cool and moist, cold and dry, or warm and dry conditions. Selecting a storage idea which might be ideal for one type of vegetable, yet wrong for another vegetable, hastens spoilage. Whatever the temperature and humidity, the storage area should be dark.
Practice segregation when storing fruits and vegetables. Fruits give off ethylene, which accelerates the ripening of vegetables. Fruits will also pick up the flavor of nearby vegetables, another reason to store fruits and vegetables separately.
Freshly harvested fruits and vegetables are in essence live plants, and your goal is to keep them in a dormant state. Possible locations for storage include areas in your home or outside, such as basements, root cellars and earthen storage. One important factor is a consistent and even temperature. A site consistently between 32 and 60 degrees F, free of insects and rodents, is adaptable for storage.
When packing the stored produce, consider packing material which assists in maintaining an even temperature and retains moisture. Commonly used storage materials include corn stalks, hay, straw, sawdust, peat moss and newspaper. Use these packaging materials just one season, and then recycle in the compost pile. Other storage packaging containers include metal or plastic cans with liners, crocks, lined boxes and plastic bags. Perforate bags to avoid condensation.
If you only need to store a small amount of fruits or vegetables that require cold and moist environments, do so in the refrigerator. Wash the produce free of dirt and store in plastic food storage bags with ventilation holes. Keep fruits and vegetables in separate areas, such as different shelves or drawers, in the refrigerator. Keep potatoes in a cool, dark pantry, and avocados in a paper sack, in a kitchen drawer, to ripen.