Upon returning home from the grocery store or farmer's market, how many of us immediately throw all of our fresh produce into the refrigerator? It’s a behavior and habit often passed down from our parents, or from the common misconception that “everything lasts longer in the fridge." In fact, this is not always the best practice for the best tasting or the longest lasting food.
Our challenge this month — as the farmer's market tables start overflowing with abundant fresh harvests from the Central Valley — is to store some of your produce and other food items outside of the fridge. Let’s be clear ... we don’t mean that you need to set up your own farm stand on your kitchen counter, but some items definitely do better out of the frigid ice box.
A simple rule of thumb is that if something still needs to ripen, don’t put it in the refrigerator right away; tomatoes, stone fruits (ie., peaches, plums, apricots), citrus, avocados, mangoes, guava, kiwis, pears, and apples will all ripen naturally in a shallow bowl on the counter outside of the fridge. Once ripe, these items can be moved into the refrigerator to prolong shelf life. For tomatoes especially, but also other fruits, it is recommended to let them return to room temperature before serving to allow the rich flavors and textures to shine through.
Basil, when stored properly in a jar of water on the counter, can last weeks (and even sprout roots, if you’re lucky!).
Finally, consider finding a dark, cool space outside of your fridge for some of the other items that don’t need the cold of the refrigerator or the bright sunshine on your counter. Potatoes and onions (but not together), melons, and squash all need a dark, cool place. Once cut open, all of these items should be moved into a sealed container in the fridge to prolong shelf life.
Even as temperatures start to climb, we challenge you to be more thoughtful about where you store your food. Hopefully, your fruit will taste even sweeter and jucier, and you’ll have more time and space to enjoy those other items without them getting smooshed and buried in that too-deep vegetable drawer!