5 Tips for Keeping Vegetables Fresh

Know Your Refrigerator
It looks like a yummy dinner could be made with the contents of those crisper drawers!
It looks like a yummy dinner could be made with the contents of those crisper drawers!
© iStockphoto.com/esemelwe

If you're a fan of classic cinema, you know that some like it hot. Vegetables, however, like it cold. Putting vegetables in the refrigerator is akin to putting them in a coma because vegetables are living, breathing organisms. Let them breathe too fast, and they'll expire quickly. But cold temperatures slow down that breathing process, keeping them fresher for longer. Most refrigerators should be set between 36 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit (2.2 and 3.3 degrees Celsius) to keep food fresh but not frozen [source: McKeough]. If your refrigerator features a knob labeled with numbers or descriptions like "cold" and "very cold," you may want to invest in a refrigerator thermometer. While vegetables enjoy cooler temperatures, they don't like arctic blasts, so keep them away from the back wall of the refrigerator -- that's where the coldest air is funneled. The crisper drawer is always a safe bet.

If putting vegetables in the fridge is like putting them in a coma, wrapping them up tightly in a heavy plastic bag is like suffocating them to death, which you don't want to do. Vegetables need some air to stay fresh, so either poke a few holes in the bag or store the produce in the bag it came in. One notable exception: Mushrooms, which will go rotten faster in plastic bags and should be kept in paper ones. You'll speed up decay if you pick off the stems or the peel, because those actions cause cellular changes inside the vegetable. Excess moisture will also age your vegetable, so keep the vegetable whole and unwashed (or washed and completely dried) until you're ready to use it.

On the next page, we'll consider which vegetables shouldn't go in the refrigerator.

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