Produce Storage & Preparation 2015-07-23T14:32:15+00:00


(from the Canadian Produce Marketing Association; click here to download pdf)

Properly and safely storing fresh fruits and vegetables at home is important for many reasons including:

  • to maintain the integrity of the product
  • to further ripen some fruit
  • to prevent spoilage 
  • to prevent illness 
  • to get the best value for your purchasing dollar

Improper storage of some whole fresh fruits and vegetables may cause deterioration of both their flavour and nutrition profile. How to Ripen Fruits and Vegetables Some fruits do not ripen once harvested and are ready to eat and enjoy when you buy them while others will continue to ripen after harvest, because they naturally produce a gas called ethylene, (e.g. apple. tomatoes, ripe banana). Ethylene triggers the ripening process; exposure to this ethylene also causes vegetable deterioration, therefore fruits and vegetables should be stored separately in the refrigerator. It’s easy to ripen fruit at home by following these simple steps:

  1. Place fruit in paper bag. Loosely close the bag.
  2. Leave at room temperature but away from direct sunlight.
  3. Fruits ripen at different rates depending on the type of fruit and the temperature of the room. Check on the fruit every day to ensure the best possible ripeness and consult the table below for more information about timelines, etc.
  4. To check ripeness, place fruit in the palm of your hand and squeeze gently. If the fruit responds to light pressure and smells slightly sweet, it’s ready to eat! If it’s not ready, leave it in the bag and check again each day until ripe. Tips: 1. Hasten the ripening process by adding a ripe banana or an apple to the bag. 2. Once the fruit is ripe, eat it right away for maximum flavour, aroma and texture, or it may be stored refrigerated for a short time according to the information provided in the table below.

Important: Use only paper bags to ripen fruit, since plastic bags and containers trap moisture and air that will lead to spoilage. Remember to store ethylene producing fruit separately. Some vegetables can be stored for several months if certain criteria are met. The ideal cold storage room must be dry, dark and cool (7 – 10 C). Basements, garages and cupboards in today’s homes are often not equipped to meet these three conditions, so plan your storage wisely. Storing large quantities of potatoes, onions, squash and rutabagas will not be economical if spoilage occurs. Once fruits and vegetables have been cut, they should be used promptly or covered tightly and refrigerated for no more than two or three days. If cut produce is left at room temperature for longer than 2 hours it should be discarded. Protect Your Produce Dollar To get the best value from your fruit and vegetable dollar, follow suggested storage times, temperatures and special tips. Whole fruits and vegetables may be stored longer than the times indicated but their flavour and nutrition will deteriorate. Once cut, cover tightly, refrigerate and use as soon as possible. Washing Fruits and Vegetables With the exception of leafy greens, fresh fruits and vegetables have a natural protective coating and should not be washed before storing as washing will hasten deterioration. 1. Wash fruits and vegetables under clean, cool, running water just before you prepare or eat them, even if you intend to remove the skin/peel. 2. Use clean cutting boards and utensils when preparing produce. Leafy greens such as iceberg, romaine, Boston, Bibb, green & red leaf lettuce and spinach will keep fresher if washed before storage. Follow these easy steps.

  1. Wash with clean, cool running water.
  2. Discard wilted, discolored or blemished leaves.
  3. Carefully dry in salad spinner or on clean paper towels.
  4. Store in salad spinner or wrap lettuce loosely in clean paper towels and store in sealed plastic bag or container.
  5. Use within 1 week.

Tips: 1. Lettuce turns pinkish-brown due to oxidation (being cut and exposed to oxygen) or when exposed to ethylene. Discard any brown ends or leaves. 2. Lettuce and spinach purchased in airtight packages should be refrigerated “as is” and washed when opened for use. Take a look at CPMA’s FRUIT STORAGE GUIDE and VEGETABLE STORAGE GUIDE for more detailed information about how to store your favourite fruits and vegetables.

FRUIT STORAGE GUIDE FRUIT ROOM TEMP STORAGE(20-20oC/68-72oF) REFRIGERATED STORAGE(4oC /40oF)Unless otherwise indicated, store in plastic bag or covered container SPECIAL TIPS
Apples August to January No – Apples tend to soften 10 times faster at room temperature. 2 months Ethylene producer*Apples will absorb odors from potatoes, onions and other fragrant produce.
Apples February to July No – Apples tend to soften 10 times faster at room temperature. 2 to 3 weeks in perforated plastic bag in crisper Ethylene producer*Apples will absorb odors from potatoes, onions and other fragrant produce
Apricots Until ripe Once ripe, 1 week, uncovered Ethylene producer*
Atemoya/Cherimoya Until ripe Once ripe, 3 to 5 days For best flavour, serve cold.
Avocado Until ripe Once ripe, 2 to 5 days Ethylene producer*
Bananas Until ripe Once ripe, 1 to 2 days, uncovered Unripe bananas are ethylene sensitive. Ripe bananas are ethylene producers.*
Blueberries No 10 days, loosely covered Ready to eat, store in shallow container.
Carambola (Star Fruit) Until ripe Once ripe, 1 week Ethylene producer*
Cherries No 3 days Sweet cherries will absorb odours from fragrant produce. Select cherries with stems since stems prolong shelf life.
Coconut 1 to 2 weeks 1 to 2 weeks, whole, uncovered Refrigerate grated coconut for 1 week.
Cranberries No 2 weeks
Grapefruit 1 week; store loosely in open or perforated plastic bag 1 month; store loosely in open or perforated plastic bag Grapefruit produce odours that are absorbed by meat, eggs and dairy products.
Grapes No 5 days Grapes will absorb odours produced by leeks and green onions.
Kiwifruit Until ripe 1 to 2 weeks (ripe) Unripe kiwifruit is ethylene sensitive. Ripe kiwi fruit is an ethylene producer*
Lemons and Limes 1 week; store loosely in open or perforated plastic bag 1 month; store loosely in open or perforated plastic bag Lemons and limes produce odours that are absorbed by meat, eggs and dairy products.
Lychee/Longon No 1 to 2 weeks For best flavour, choose fruit that is full, heavy and not cracked.
Mangoes Until ripe Once ripe, 3 days. Ethylene producer*
Melons (most types, e.g. cantaloupe, honeydew, casaba, Crenshaw, Santa Claus, etc.) Until ripe 3 days (ripe), whole, uncovered Ethylene producer*. Always refrigerate cut melon; cover well and store away from other produce. Use cut melon within two days.