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Fresh Fruit

Which Fruits and Veggies Go Bad the Quickest and Which Last the Longest?

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With the pandemic’s ongoing effects on daily life, it seems like many of us are eating fewer fresh fruits and vegetables. “I’m hearing that is a struggle, yes,” says Seattle-based registered dietitian Ginger Hultin, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of ChampagneNutrition. “With people getting to the store less, it’s more of a challenge to keep fresh produce on hand specifically.” Between that limited access as well as the financial pressures so many of us are facing, when we are able to get fresh produce into our homes, many of us want to ensure that it’s getting used and not wasted. Here are the fruits and vegetables that will stay fresh longer vs. those that won’t, as well as some tips for using and storing all of them.

Related: Here’s How Long You Have to Safely Eat 25 Unrefrigerated Foods

Broccoli

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“Heartier veggies last the longest,” notes Hultin, which means that broccoli and other veggies that are part of the crucifer family of vegetables “can be stored in the fridge for over a week.”

Related: 30 Vegetable Recipes for People Who Hate Vegetables

cauliflower

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Cauliflower is also part of the crucifer family and will keep for longer periods of time. It’s also easy to portion it out and freeze for future meals. “One of the best things you can do with your fresh veggies to make them really last is to cut them up and freeze them. You can chop up your broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, celery, and even greens and store them in the freezer for future use.”


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brussels sprouts

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Another cruciferous vegetable, Brussels sprouts will spoil less quickly than other, more delicate veggies. However, notes Hultin, it’s also “hard to know how long fresh produce has already been traveling or stored at the grocery store, so that can add to how quickly they spoil at your house.” Check the condition of your produce before storing it so that you’ll know if it might spoil more quickly than anticipated.

leafy greens

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Registered dietitian Andrew Wade of Case Specific Nutrition notes that “leafy vegetables have the shortest life,” because they “require the most nutrients to be kept alive.” When meal-planning for your week, Hultin notes, “delicate veggies like spinach, kale, and lettuce should be used first.” Also, Wade adds, when storing leafy greens, make sure to keep them dry and “add a paper towel to their storage container.”

Related: 25 Veggies to Buy Instead of Kale

cabbage

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Cruciferous cabbage is another veggie that can be kept in the fridge for longer than one week. However, keep in mind that cabbage is typically only harvested once a year, in the fall, so cabbage bought in the spring probably isn’t super-fresh. If you can’t use it right away, consider freezing it for future use.

onions

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Onions are one of a few veggies that Hultin says will last longer because they “can be stored in a cool, dark place for several weeks.”

garlic

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Like onions, store garlic someplace dark and keep it cool and dry to make it last longer. Something like this Amazon best-selling vented garlic keeper will help with garlic longevity.

herbs

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Perhaps not surprisingly, herbs, like leafy greens, spoil relatively quickly due to their delicate nature. One tip? “My favorite ‘stay fresh’ tip for herbs such as parsley or cilantro is to remove the rubber band or twisty around the stem, chop off the bottom and put it in a glass of water with a plastic bag loosely on top and store in the fridge,” says registered dietitian Pamela Malo. “I’ve had herbs last for weeks that way!”

Related: How to Grow Plants and Vegetables From Kitchen Scraps

potatoes

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Potatoes are one of those “mostly starchy vegetables that are firmer,” says Wade, that will last longer. Like onions and garlic, Hultin adds, you can prolong their freshness by storing them “in a cool, dark place for several weeks.”

Squash

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Many people don’t put squash in the same category as onions, garlic, and potatoes, but it, too, will last longer if stored in a cool, dry, dark place.

beets

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Beets are root vegetables, which are naturally prone to outlasting others. “Roots and stems require less nutrients and last longer, while the leaves and fruit are the part requiring the most water and nutrients, so they spoil fastest,” Wade notes.

bell peppers

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“Peppers often also need to be used within a week of purchasing them,” Hultin notes. Note that peppers can be frozen. If peppers stored in the fridge have skin that is starting to appear wrinkly, they can still be an ingredient in cooked dishes but should be used quickly. Wade recommends portioning produce into bags so that only the amount you’re using is unsealed and exposed to air, which will keep the remainder fresher for longer periods of time.

Related: 11 Grilling Recipes That Showcase Summer Produce

turnips

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Turnips are another root vegetable that will keep for long periods of time. While not a very popular vegetable, turnips can be roasted and mashed like potatoes, added to soups and more. Choose smaller turnips as they will be less fibrous and not as bitter.

pressure cooker: maple vinegar braised parsnips

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Not sure what the difference is between turnips and parsnips? Parsnips have a sweet-yet-spicy and less bitter flavor. One thing both have in common is that they’re root vegetables, so they’ll keep for a long time.

sweet potatoes

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Sweet potatoes make Wade’s list for veggies that won’t spoil quickly. They can also be diced and sliced and frozen for later use, and you can even pre-cook them and then freeze them whole or mashed.

carrots

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Carrots are another root vegetable that will last. To make them last even longer, cut off their green tops and store in a container with water in the fridge. If the water starts to look cloudy, drain and replace with fresh water.

Related: Autumn Cornucopia: 10 Vegetables to Grow in Your Fall Garden

Mushrooms

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Who hasn’t been disappointed by discovering that their mushrooms have turned slimy and can’t be used in a shroom-centric recipe? Use mushrooms within a few days after purchasing, but to keep them fresher longer, store them in an unsealed brown paper bag in the fridge.

Celery stalk

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Celery kept whole and wrapped snugly in aluminum foil can last up to two weeks in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. It won’t last quite as long if cut up and stored, but keeping a tasty dip or two on hand will help ensure it gets eaten before spoiling.

Apples

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Apples can maintain freshness for around a week if kept on the countertop but will last longer — up to six weeks — if kept in your refrigerator crisper drawer. If apples are nearing their less-than-fresh date, make them into applesauce, which can be frozen for two months before needing to be used.

Related: Food Expiration Dates and Food Freshness Labels Explained

batch of bananas on wooden background

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No surprise to anyone, bananas can over-ripen quickly. “The ethylene in them causes rapid ripening,” Wade notes. Store them separately from each other, he adds, to slow that process down. Also note that overripe bananas can be deskinned, frozen, and used later to make breads, muffins, and other baked goods.

oranges

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Oranges, clementines, lemons, and limes are all fruits that can keep for some time, Wade notes. To lengthen that window of opportunity, store them in the crisper drawer free of any plastic storage container, and don’t wash them beforehand. When you’re ready to use them, remove from the fridge, allow them to come to room temperature, and then wash before eating.

Pomegranates

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Keep pomegranates whole until you’re ready to consume them, as the juicy arils inside will only last five to seven days once removed. Shelf-life guide website Still Tasty notes that pomegranates will last one to two weeks in the pantry, one to two months in the fridge, or 10 to 12 months frozen.

Grapes

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Wade recommends grapes as another longer-lasting fruit. They can last up to two weeks in the fridge’s crisper drawer but can be frozen for up to one year.

Berries

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Berries spoil quickly — who hasn’t been cruelly disappointed by a moldy container of berries? To keep them fresh longer, don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them, and store them in a larger container so that they’re more spread out, with a paper towel. Another trick is to wash them in a vinegar-water bath (three parts water to one part white vinegar) for one to two minutes and let them dry completely before storing. This kills any spores or bacteria that can hasten spoilage.

mixed vegetables

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Both Hultin and Wade pointed out that people shouldn’t discount canned and frozen produce right now. “Canned and frozen products are often underestimated, so make sure that you consider all the different ways you can include these healthy foods into your diet,” Hultin says. Wade adds: “Frozen vegetables are very nutritious — they are frozen very quickly after being picked and the freezing process protects their nutrients.” As for canned veggies, he adds that home cooks can reduce the sodium in such products by 30-40{5057b528e2ec7fd6c3736aa134727341eae4fdf6dd188ded3c2a814c0866380c} “just by rinsing in a colander before cooking.”

Related: 24 Healthy Recipes You’ll Never Know Were Made With Frozen Produce