Storing Fresh Produce During A Pandemic

Post by UNH Student and Seacoast Eat Local Intern, Chris G.

In recent weeks, we have been expected to practice social distancing and are at home for an extended period of time. As a result of this, it has been common in past weeks for people to buy in bulk. If you prefer this method in favor of avoiding person to person contact, it is important to keep track of shelf life related to each item you are using. This post will aim to cover the fruits and vegetables that last the longest.

Onions: All types of onions will last you approximately one month in refrigeration. A good method for prolonging their shelf life is to store at room temperature in a paper or mesh produce bag. Spoiled onions tend to soften, and turn brown in color. 

Potatoes: These root vegetables will last 2-5 weeks at room temperature, and up to four months in refrigeration. Once prepared into foods such as french fries or mashed potatoes, they can be frozen and will last an astounding eight months. Cool, dry storage for potatoes and any other root vegetables is best; if you have space in your basement this works optimally. 

Carrots: Whole carrots will last about a month if kept in a produce bag in refrigeration. On the contrary, baby carrots will last a maximum of four weeks due to the moisture in their packaging. Blanched carrots can be frozen and will last even longer. 

Squash: The most common types of squash will last 1-3 months at room temperature. Ensure they are in-tact; any break in the skin will result in faster spoilage. 

Garlic: Un-chopped can last up to a year, giving it the longest shelf life on this list. As with the root vegetables on this list, a cool dry place is optimal. Can be kept in a brown paper or mesh bag like onions. Once peeled or processed in any way, ensure garlic is kept in a refrigerated container to prevent spoilage. 

Cabbage: Cabbages can have a shelf life anywhere up to two months if handled properly. These vegetables last longest when kept dry; and will last longer if you refrain from washing until use. If you are only using half of the cabbage, the remainder can be dried using a paper towel before refrigeration. Additionally, storing them in a cooled crisper drawer of refrigerators is optimal. 

Apples: These popular snacks can last up to 2 months in refrigeration. A good practice, as always, is to buy local when they are in-season. Bulk apples pre-packaged in bags often come with one or two moldy apples and bruise much easier in transit. Additionally, it is often challenging to notice bruising in bagged apples when purchased at the supermarket. Many apple orchards have sophisticated storage rooms that enable apples to last into April in May.

Citrus Fruits (although not locally available): Limes, oranges, lemons etc. These last approximately 14 days if held at room temperature, but can last a month or two in refrigeration. Ensure that your citrus fruits are stored in draws and not in containers. This is applicable to fruits which are not peeled. You can check for spoilage of citrus fruits simply by the touch, a softer discolored rhine can often mean the fruit has some amount of spoilage.

Remember that even in times of isolation, local food products are still a click away. Many smaller farmers markets still take place in the seacoast area, with the aim to reduce the rapid spread of novel coronavirus. For updates on where you can buy local food products during this time, visit seacoastharvest.org/safe

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