Having enough food to go around can be a blessing and a bit of a curse.
While it’s wonderful not to worry about where your next meal will come from, it’s easy to end up with more than you need, and find yourself mourning another lost crop of especially time-sensitive fruits and veggies.
Indeed, food waste is a huge problem in the world, with more than 40% of all food grown going bad before it gets eaten.
And while the proper storage of plant-based products can go a long way toward their longevity, it can’t be counted on to solve every problem. Time waits for no man, woman – or fruit!
But if you’re living on the edge of your food’s shelf-life, have no fear. There are actually a number of clever tricks out there to help fruits and vegetables stay fresher longer – and even to save some produce when it looks to be on the brink.
They say that luck favors the prepared – but if you take a few minutes to prep your fruits right, you won’t need much of it.
There are a few proven tricks out there to start your produce off on the right foot, allowing it to last longer than it would’ve without any such precautions, including:
A little bath goes a long way.
Before you store your strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or raspberries in the fridge, you can rinse them in a mix of vinegar and water – at a ratio of 1:3.
The solution may be a bit stinky, but it should help the berries last weeks beyond their expected expiration date. Just make sure to re-rinse the fruits and dry them well before eating and enjoying.
Avocados are famous for their tiny windows of edibility. But you can artificially prop that window open, with the help of a little citrus.
Once you cut open your avocado, you can prevent the brown pigment caused by oxidation by squirting some lime or lemon juice on the exposed fruit. The citric acid should help keep the brown at bay for at least a day – giving you a bit more time to find the perfect guacamole recipe.
(Bonus: You can also avoid a prematurely brown avocado by ordering fruits treated with Apeel – a specialized and all-natural fruit coating that allows avocados to last up to two times longer on the counter!)
And speaking of citrus – lemons must be one of the most versatile and useful fruits in the entire kitchen. Which is why it’s such a shame when they dry out in the fridge before their time.
To combat a sad looking lemon half, don’t cut the fruits at all. When you’re ready for a little juice, use a chopstick or toothpick to poke a hole in the fruit instead – making for your very own all-natural squeeze bottle. The fruit inside will last longer, untouched by the cold refrigerator air.
We here at FruitStand are overripe banana fans. After all, the browner the peel, the more delicious the inevitable banana bread.
But we understand there are plenty of reasons to want bananas to keep their firm, yellow tones. And encouraging that freshness is actually easy!
All you have to do is wrap the top of banana stems (where the fruits are all combined) in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. This helps prevent the ethylene gas responsible for decomposing the fruits from spreading to the whole bunch.
If you’ve already prepped your fruits for a long shelf-life but start to see some signs of aging, don’t panic.
There are plenty of ways to bring your fruits and veggies back from the brink, even after they’ve been stored, such as:
One of the biggest food waste culprits out there, even the best prepared lettuce doesn’t take long to play the wilting game. Still, there’s a way to keep some life in the leftover leaves.
You can store leftover lettuce in a bowl, cover the top with a paper towel, then seal the whole thing with plastic wrap. The process helps absorb the moisture that would otherwise weigh down – and wilt – the delicate greens.
When it comes to melon storage, more is more.
Cutting fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe and even mangoes into larger pieces and slices before putting them into the fridge will help each part of the whole hold on to its edible nature, by allowing more surface area for water to be held and absorbed in the hydrophilic fruity flesh.
It’s not quite necromancy, but there are a few tricks out there that will help bring veggies like celery, carrots and broccoli back from the dead.
Storing dried-out looking sticks of the stuff in a jar full of water in the fridge will help them last up to four weeks longer than letting the veggies linger in the produce drawer. And if you’re dealing with fresh, whole carrots or celery, make sure to chop off their green leaves first – the plant parts are particularly parched and will serve to dry out the veggies faster.
Another infamous brown-noser, apples are particularly prone to acquiring that brown, mushy nature after they’ve been sliced.
But if you have some parts of the plant around that you’re hoping to hang on to for later, you can soak apple slices in a mixture of cold water and salt (at a ratio of ½ tsp of salt for every quart of water) – for up to five minutes.
Then, rinse off and dry your produce and keep them in the fridge in an airtight plastic bag.
The avocado strikes back!
If you’ve already missed out on the lemon juice trick, there’s another way to keep an avocado fresh – or, at least, fresher. You can store the exposed fruit’s flesh with a chunk of cut-up onion, which will act to absorb some of the more noxious chemicals responsible for the avocado’s quick demise.
Just make sure the onion only touches the outer skin of the avocado, or else the flavor will seep into the flesh.
You prepped and stored your fruits all right but when they still show fatigue, you think you’ve reached it: The point of no return.
But just like in all the best action movies, the moment that seems the bleakest only sets the scene for the most heroic comeback. And when it comes to fruit, ice is that hero.
The frozen stuff is a venerable miracle worker when it comes to extending a plant’s edibility, lending its cold hard powers to a number of produce products, including:
Like their cousin lettuce, these delicate plants are usually one of the first to go, even when stored and prepped correctly.
But if your herbs seem ready to cross over, it only means it’s time to bust out the ice cube tray.
Fill the tray up with olive oil (or melted butter), add the herbs, and stick it in the freezer. Then, the next time you’re ready to cook, you can pull out your very own homemade bullion cube – and rest a little easier knowing these herbs weren’t ready to rest in peace just yet.
When it comes to strawberries, ice can conjure up a true resurrection.
Even after a strawberry looks brown and mushy, you can resuscitate the tasty fruit.
Just put the berry in an ice water bath and let it soak up the cold liquid for 20 minutes. When you arrive to pull it out, your strawberry should look just as good as new: red, shiny and firm once more.
Sticking bunches of grapes in the freezer is another way to let a plant live longer, and spread joy even beyond its expiration date.
Frozen grapes are delicious snacks in and of themselves, but the cold, hard things also make for great ice cubes – whether you want to avoid watering down your drink with a regular cube or just add a little flavor.
Plus, plunking a few frozen grapes into your favorite glass of wine is an especially nice way to elevate the experience.
And that way, you can toast to all the incredible ways you’ve made your produce last!