You are here

How to Pick and Store Vegetables

Hi friends! I'm not sure where to post this so I figured I'd post it here. I compiled a guide to picking the freshest vegetables, and how to store them. I hope you find it useful!

---

Vegetables require specific means of storage in order to retain their freshness. Some need to be stored at room temperature while others require refrigeration. Refrigeration slows the ripening process and is often recommended, with the exception of potatoes (including sweet potatoes and taro) and tomatoes. Similar to fruits, many vegetables are not to be washed until use as moisture promotes bacterial and mold growth. Below is a list of common vegetables and instructions on how to pick and store them.

Artichokes
Pick artichokes that are compact and heavy, with hard, tight leaves. They should have a deep green color with no black spots. Press the leaves against eachother and listen for a squeaking sound which means that the artichokes are fresh. Large stems signify large hearts. Artichokes can be stored in a breathable bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Do not wash until use.

Arugula
Choose arugula that is bright green and tender with no dark spots or signs of spoilage. When harvesting from the plant itself, choose tender leaves near the outside edge of the plant and snap off towards the base. To store, rinse arugula with cold water then wrap the roots with a damp paper towel and place in a breathable bag. Arugula can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Asparagus
Select asparagus that have tightly closed tips and avoid those with wilted-looking stalks. When picking from the plant, choose spears that are 6-8 inches tall and snap them off towards the base. The wider the diameter of the spear, the more tender the asparagus will be. Store the asparagus vertically so that the roots are submerged in water; cover the stalks with a plastic bag. They may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Avocados
Though technically considered fruit, avocados have the flavor of vegetables. Pick avocados that are heavy for their size and uniformly hard or soft throughout, with no bruises, dark spots, wrinkles or loose skin. You may choose hard or soft avocados depending on when you plan to use them, and what you are using them for. Hard avocados will need to be placed in a paper bag and ripened at room temperature for up to 7 days, or until they give a little when squeezed lightly. Soft avocados need to be used as soon as possible, but may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Cut/opened avocado should be placed in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and used as soon as possible.

Beets
Depending on what you are using them for, select beet plants that are 6-8 inches tall (as the greens taste best) or the roots are 1½-3 inches in diameter (as the roots taste best). Wash and dry thoroughly before storing. To store, beet greens are to be removed from the roots (leaving approximately 1 inch of stem on the roots) then wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Beet roots can be placed in a plastic bag and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Bell Peppers
Pick bell peppers that are brightly-colored and have firm, shiny skin. Avoid those which are shriveled or have dark or soft spots. Wash and dry thoroughly before storing, and place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Bok Choy
Choose bok choy with green, firm stalks, and without yellow, wilted leaves. Wash well before storing as bok choy tends to hold dirt and sand in between the leaves. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Broccoli
Select broccoli that is dark green with tightly-closed florets, and is heavy for its size. It can be stored in a breathable bag in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Do not wash before storing.

Brussels Sprouts
Choose brussels sprouts that are green, compact and firm, avoiding those which are soft. When harvesting from the plant, choose brussels sprouts that are approximately 1 inch in diameter. If any contain yellow or wilted leaves, be sure to remove them before storing. Brussels sprouts can be stored in a breathable plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Do not wash until just before use.

Burdock Root
Select firm burdock roots that are approximately 1 inch in diameter and have brownish-red skin. Avoid those which are spongy. They can be stored in a plastic bag in the produce drawer of your refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Cabbage
Pick cabbage heads that are compact, firm and heavy, with colorful, shiny and crisp leaves. Avoid those which are bruised, cracked or wilted. Cabbage heads can be stored, unwashed, in a breathable bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Carrots
Choose carrots that are deeply-colored, firm and crisp. Avoid those which are split or wilted, have begun to sprout, or have dark coloring at the crown (indicating old age). To store, remove the tops of the carrots and place in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If purchased with the greens still attached, remove the greens before refrigerating. Wash carrots just before use.

Cassava (also known as Yuca)
Select cassava that are firm, avoiding those with blemishes, sticky areas, or a strong smell. Whole cassava can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 1 week, while peeled cassava can be submerged in water and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Cauliflower
Pick cauliflower heads that are clean, compact, firm, and white (depending on the variety). The fresher heads will have more green leaves surrounding them. Whole cauliflower can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, while cauliflower florets can be stored for up to 1 week.

Celery
Choose celery that are compact and crisp with a vibrant green color and no blemishes. The leaves should not be yellow or brown, and when the stalks are carefully separated, there should be no brown or black discoloration in the heart of the celery. Cut celery can be stored in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, while uncut celery bunches can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If submerged in water, however, celery can be stored in the refrigerator for up to an additional week.

Collard Greens
Choose firm collard greens with dark green leaves, avoiding those which are yellow or wilted. When harvesting from the plant, choose leaves that are on the exterior of the plant and snap off at the base. Collard greens can be wrapped in a moist paper towel and placed in a plastic bag in the produce drawer of your refrigerator for up to 5 days. Don’t wash until just before use.

Corn
Select corn with bright green husks, and tender, milky kernels spanning the entire length of the ears, with no spaces in between. The silk should be soft and white on the inside but brown at the ends where it comes out from underneath the husks, and the more silk, the better. Avoid corn which has brown spots on the husks as well as dried out silk underneath. Corn can be stored, with the husks still intact, tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, but should be consumed earlier if possible. Shuck (remove the green leaves and silk) just before preparing.

Cucumbers
Pick cucumbers that are green and firm. They should be without yellow spots or blemishes, and with no soft spots. The natural, non-waxed variety can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, and the waxed variety can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Don’t wash until ready for use.

Daikon
Choose daikon that are white and firm. They should not be wilted and should be free of blemishes. To store, cut off the green tops (if not already removed) and place roots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for approximately 2 weeks. Peel just before consumption.

Dandelion Greens
Select dandelion greens that have not blossomed. There should be no yellow flower at the top. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week if wrapped in a damp paper towel.

Eggplants
Pick eggplants that are heavy for their size and don’t have browning or soft skin. They should be medium in size when compared to the others around them, and their skin should bounce back when pressed gently. Eggplants that don’t give when pressed are too ripe, and those with skin that doesn’t bounce back are overripe. To store, eggplants can be placed, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the produce drawer of your refrigerator for up to 2 days. Do not cut or wash before storing.

Endive
Choose endive that are bright green (depending on the variety) and crisp with tightly-packed leaves. Avoid those that are wilted or have brown spots. Endive can be stored in a breathable bag in the produce drawer of your refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Fennel
Select fennel that have firm, bright white bulbs and no brown or soft spots. The stems should be long and firm, and the leaves bright green and fresh-looking. Store, tightly-wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Garlic
Pick garlic that is heavy for its size and has entirely white or white with purple striped skin (depending on the variety), with cloves packed tightly together. There should be no brown coloring or soft spots, and no green sprouts coming out from the bottoms of the cloves. Store in a cool, well-ventilated location away from direct sunlight for up to 4 months.

Jicama
Select jicama that are firm, shiny and free of blemishes. They should be small to medium in size, and the roots should be dry. Whole jicama can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 weeks, and if cut, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Do not allow jicama to get wet before or during storage as it will promote mold growth.

Kale
Pick kale that has dark green leaves and firm stems. Avoid those which are discolored or have holes. Kale can be stored, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the produce drawer of your refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Kohlrabi
Choose kohlrabi that are firm and heavy for their size. The bulbs should be no larger than the size of a tennis ball, and the skin should be tender without blemishes or soft spots. Kohlrabi leaves can be washed then stored, wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag and placed in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The globes can be stored in the same fashion for up to 10 days.

Leeks
Select leeks that have firm, crisp stalks and as much white and light green coloring as possible. Avoid those which have yellow leaves or cracked/discolored bulbs. Raw leeks can be stored, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Cooked leeks can only be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Wash thoroughly before preparing.

Lettuce
Pick lettuce with colorful leaves, and avoid those that are withered, yellow or brown. The leaves should be tender (if choosing looseleaf varieties such as Butterhead) or crisp (if choosing crisphead varieties such as Iceberg or Romaine). If harvesting from the plant, pick the larger outer leaves, snapping them off at the base of the plant. Wash the lettuce thoroughly by separating each leaf and briefly soaking them in a bowl of cold water. Store, away from fruits, in the refrigerator in a plastic bag along with a couple of paper towels for 1-2 weeks.

Lotus Roots
Choose lotus roots that are firm, plump and light brownish orange in color. There should be no soft spots or blemishes. To store, wrap lotus roots and store in the produce drawer of your refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Mushrooms
Select mushrooms that are clean, firm and plump, avoiding those that are slimy or have blemishes. If purchasing prepackaged mushrooms, remove them from the plastic wrap and place in a paper bag. They are best kept when not touching one another. Mushrooms can be stored in this manner in the refrigerator for approximately 1 week. Wash only just before use.

Mustard Greens
Pick bright green, crisp mustard greens with thin stalks, avoiding those which are yellow or blemished. If harvesting from the plant, choose the larger leaves on the outer edge of the plant, snapping them off at the base. Store by wrapping in a paper towel and placing in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Do not wash until use.

Onions
Choose red, white or yellow onions that are clean and firm with dry, crispy outer skins, and choose green onions (or scallions) that have bright green, crisp, non-wilted tops and firm white bases (where the roots are). All onions should be free of cuts, soft spots and dark patches. If uncut, red, white or yellow onions can be stored in a cool, dry, ventilated area, such as in a paper bag in a cabinet for up to 2 months. Once cut, wrap tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Green onions can be placed in a ventilated bag along with a paper towel in the produce drawer of your refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Okra
Select okra that are bright green (depending on the variety) without dark spots or scars. The pods should be dry, soft and fuzzy, but not limp. They can be stored in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Don’t wash until just before use.

Parsnips
Similar to carrots, pick parsnips that are firm and unblemished, and are no more than 10 inches in length. If still attached, the leaves should be fresh, green and not wilted. To store raw, remove the tops and wrap parsnips in a paper towel then place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Once cooked, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Do not wash until just before use.

Peas
Choose peas that have crisp, firm, green, smooth pods that snap when bent. They should be without blemishes or cuts and should not have any yellow coloring. Store, unwashed, in an airtight bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Potatoes
Select firm, smooth potatoes without green coloring, soft spots or sprouts. Place in a paper bag and store in a cool, dry, ventilated area such as on a counter top. Potatoes should keep for up to 3 months.

Pumpkins
Though technically considered a type of squash, pumpkins are often thought of as a separate vegetable. Pick pumpkins that are firm and heavy for their size, uniform in color, and have no bruises or cuts. They are best if their stems are still intact, and the greener the stem, the fresher the pumpkin. Turn them over and press the bottoms with your thumbs. If they give at all, they are not fresh. Pumpkins can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month. Pumpkin that has been cut should be tightly wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Radicchio
Choose radicchio that are evenly-colored and have firm, compact heads. There should be no browning, cuts or wilted leaves. Radicchio can be stored, unwashed, in a breathable plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Radishes
Select radishes that have bright green, unwilted tops (if still attached), with smooth, brightly-colored, firm roots and no bruises or cuts. They can be stored, with tops removed, in a plastic bag in the produce drawer of the refrigerator for up to 7 days. The greens can be stored separately, in the same fashion, for up to 3 days. Don’t wash until just before use.

Rutabagas
Pick rutabagas that feel smooth, firm and heavy for their size, and have no cuts or soft spots. They can be stored, in a cool, dark place, at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Do not wash until just before use.

Shallots
Select firm, round shallots with dry skin. Avoid those which are shriveled, have soft spots or are sprouting. Shallots can be stored at room temperature in a dark, dry, ventilated area for up to 2 months.

Spinach
Pick spinach with tender, evenly colored deep green leaves. Avoid those which are slimy or wilted, or are beginning to yellow. Spinach can be wrapped loosely in a paper towel then stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Do not wash until just before use.

Sprouts
Sprouts come in a variety of sizes and colors, depending on the type of seeds you are using. Delicate sprouts such as Alfalfa should be crisp with yellow or green leaves. More hearty sprouts like Mung been should be crisp and plump. Sprouts should not be bruised or discolored. Most sprouts can be stored in a ventilated plastic bag and rinsed every 1-2 days with cold water. They should stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Squash
Select squash that are firm and heavy for their size, with dull rinds. There should be no cuts or soft spots. Summer squash (Pattypan, Yellow Crookneck) can be placed in a perforated plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Winter squash (Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti) can be stored stored in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months. Larger, hard rind squash can be stored for up to 6 months. Winter squash are not to be refrigerated. Do not wash until just before use.

Sweet Potatoes (or Yams)
Pick sweet potatoes that are firm and heavy for their size, without bruises, soft spots or wrinkled skin. They can be stored in a ventilated paper bag in a cool, dark, dry place such as a low cabinet, for approximately 2 weeks. Do not store in the refrigerator.

Swiss Chard
Select chard that has vivid green leaves and firm stalks. They should not have yellow/brown spots or holes. When harvesting from the plant, choose leaves along the outer edge that are at least 8 inches tall, and snap them off at the base. Chard can be stored in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Do not wash until just before use.

Taro
Choose taro that are firm (at both ends), plump and heavy for their size, with hairy roots. Avoid those which have blemishes or soft spots. Taro can be stored in a cool, dry, ventilated area for up to 1 week. Do not refrigerate.

Tomatoes
Though technically a type of fruit, tomatoes are often thought of as vegetables. Select richly-colored tomatoes with smooth, taut skin. They should be plump and heavy for their size, and should not have cracks, wrinkles or soft spots. Store at room temperature away from direct sunlight for up to 1 week. It is best not to refrigerate tomatoes as cold temperatures can affect their taste and texture. Wash just before use.

Turnips
Pick turnips that are brightly-colored, firm, smooth and feel heavy for their size. More mature turnips will have a purple hue towards the tops. Avoid those with blemishes and soft spots. If still attached, the greens should be bright green and not dried out. To store, remove greens (if still attached) and wrap bulbs loosely in a plastic bag and place in the produce drawer of the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Greens will store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Water Chestnuts
Choose water chestnuts that are firm, with smooth skin. They should contain no soft spots. Unpeeled water chestnuts can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. If peeled, they can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Watercress
Select crisp, green watercress. It should not be discolored or wilted, or have slimy areas. To store, place a wet paper towel around their roots and store in a breathable plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Zucchini
Though technically considered a type of squash, zucchini are often thought of as a separate vegetable. Choose zucchini that are less than 8 inches in length, and have firm, shiny, dark green skin that is free of cuts. Zucchini can be tightly wrapped and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Do not wash until just before use.

Be the first to add a comment.

Log in or register to post comments

More Posts Like This