While most fruits and vegetables have a lifespan of days after we bring them home, there are some that can last for months without canning or preserving.
Apples: Let's start with the crisp and refreshing apple. These beauties can last up to four weeks in your pantry, but if you want them to stay fresh even longer, consider placing them in the fridge. Refrigerated apples can stay crisp and crunchy for up to two months. Remember, if you spot wrinkled skin or soft insides, it's time to turn that apple into applesauce ASAP.
Cabbage: Cabbage, versatile and hearty, can be a valuable addition to your kitchen. To maximize its shelf life, refrain from washing it until you're ready to use it, and handle it gently to prevent bruising. With these precautions, cabbage can last up to two months. It can last even longer if you have a root cellar.
Lemons and Limes can remain fresh for a couple of weeks on the counter. Refrigeration can prolong their lifespan to a couple of months. Ensure they're stored in the fridge drawer without being confined in plastic bags, as moisture can lead to mold growth. Once cut, use them promptly, as their freshness diminishes quickly.
Garlic: Garlic, the flavor powerhouse in our dishes, is a long-lasting kitchen essential. Uncut garlic bulbs can endure up to half a year, while separated cloves maintain freshness for a month or two. Keep them in a dark, dry space with good airflow. Chopped garlic should be stored in the fridge, but once brown spots or yellowing appear, it's time to replace it.
Pomegranates: Pomegranates offer delightful bursts of flavor and nutrition. The shelf life of pomegranates depends on whether you have the whole fruit or just the seeds. The latter can last about a week unless frozen in an airtight container. Whole pomegranates stay fresh for up to three weeks in the fridge, provided they're not kept in plastic. Brown, soft, or brittle pomegranates should be discarded.
Onions: Onions, essential for adding depth to our dishes, have a robust shelf life. On the counter, they last over a month, up to six weeks in a paper or mesh bag. Once peeled, store them in a container in the fridge, but remember that they will spoil more quickly in this state.
Oranges: Oranges, like lemons and limes, have a similar storage pattern. Fresh oranges last two to three weeks on the kitchen counter, but in the fridge drawer, they can remain fresh for up to two months. Cut oranges have a shorter life expectancy, lasting only a day or two unrefrigerated. Look for moist spots, white mold, and discoloration as indicators of spoilage.
Potatoes: Potatoes, our trusty companions in many dishes, can last from two to five weeks in the pantry or up to four months in the fridge. Freezing certain types of potatoes, like french fries, can extend their shelf life to up to eight months. Remember to store them away from warmer temperatures and in a container if they've been prepared.
Kale: Kale, the superstar of leafy greens, can remain crisp and fresh for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Keep the leaves dry, and don't wash them until you're ready to use them. Place unwashed leaves in a large container and cover them with a damp paper towel. Store the covered container in the coldest part of the refrigerator, changing the paper towel every few days to keep the leaves hydrated.
Broccoli: Broccoli can last up to a week after purchase. To extend its shelf life, trim the bottom quarter inch from the stem and place the cut stem in a mason jar with about an inch of water, similar to how you'd store a bouquet of flowers. In this state, broccoli can last a few weeks in the refrigerator.
Cauliflower: C auliflower should have excess leaves removed and be wrapped in a damp paper towel before being placed in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer. This can extend its shelf life to up to four weeks.
Celery: Celery, often used as a flavor base in many recipes, can be stored effectively by wrapping it in aluminum foil. This method keeps the moisture inside while letting out ethylene gas, preventing premature spoilage. Reuse the foil several times to minimize waste.
Rutabaga: Rutabaga, sometimes known as swede, can last for up to four months when stored in a high-humidity crisper drawer in the refrigerator. Keep them in a clean plastic bag and ensure they remain dry. Don't peel them in advance, as the skin provides moisture protection for the flesh inside.
Sweet Potatoes and Yams: Both sweet potatoes and yams can be stored outside the refrigerator in a cool, dark place. Brown paper bags are excellent for optimizing storage time. Avoid storing them with onions, as onions release gases that can cause sweet potatoes to sprout and rot. With proper storage, sweet potatoes and yams can last as long as four to six months.
Brussels Sprouts: Brussels sprouts are best stored in the refrigerator. Place them in a clean plastic bag in the crisper drawer and ensure they remain as dry as possible. At colder storage temperatures, close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit, they can last as long as five weeks. For most of us, a two-week shelf life is more realistic.
Beets: Beets can last a long time when stored properly in the refrigerator. Remove the green tops as soon as you get them home, as they tend to make beets soft quickly. The roots, when placed in a plastic bag in a high-humidity crisper drawer, can maintain their firmness from one to three months. Don't wash them first, as moisture in the bag can speed up spoilage. Beets can be used in various ways, from salads to roasting and pickling.
Carrots: The shelf life of carrots largely depends on their state. Whole, fresh carrots tend to last around four to five weeks, while baby carrots won't make it any longer than four weeks. Once a carrot is cooked, however, it's unlikely to last beyond the end of the week. It's possible to freeze carrots too, but make sure to blanch them before you do.
As with most vegetables, be sure to store them in the fridge, unpeeled, in either a plastic bag or the veg drawer. If you're able to spot white dots on your carrots, don't fret — they're just drying out and should be alright to eat as long as you don't wait too long. Once they're soft and mushy (or worse) they're done. Get rid of them, ASAP.
Winter Squash: Squash tends to have quite a formidable shelf-life. If it's fresh and whole, squash (be it pumpkin, spaghetti or butternut) will last anywhere from a month up to three months. REfrigeration is not recommended as it can cause your squash to change slightly in taste and texture, so it's probably best to keep it on the counter.
If it's cooked, however, don't expect it to stay unspoiled for more than a few days. In the freezer, squash will keep for up to eight months. Try to store them in a cool, dark place and take note if it's starting to get soft or leaking — once that's happened (or if you notice mold) it's time to throw it out.
With these expert tips, you can make the most of your fruits and vegetables, ensuring they stay at their peak for extended periods providing your kitchen with fresh, vibrant ingredients.
And of course, before serving, you'll want to make sure your vegetables are clean - and the Cestari Fruit and Vegetable Scrubber can help!