How to store your vegetables

We think of “storage” as keeping your fresh vegetables in good condition for use while they’re fresh. See “How to Preserve Your Vegetables,” for suggestions for saving your vegetables for longer periods.

We’re always interested in learning! If you have suggestions for other, or better, ways to store vegetables, please let us know.

Basil

Store basil using the “basil bouquet” method. Snip a bit off the bottom of the basil stems, then stand them in a glass of water. Cover the leaves loosely with a plastic bag, and refrigerate.

Beets and Beet Greens

Unless you’re using your beets right away, separate the beets from their greens. To store the greens, cut them off an inch or two above the beet.  They can then be stored, washed or unwashed, in the refrigerator. Either way, wrap them in a towel or paper towel and refrigerate in a plastic bag or container. Beet greens should be used within a few days.  To store the beets themselves, just put them in an open bag or container in the fridge. They should keep well for a couple of weeks – if you can wait that long to use them!

Bok Choi

Don’t wash bok choi until you’re ready to use it;  just keep it in the refrigerator in a loose plastic bag or container. Bok choi bruises easily, so storing it in a container rather than a bag may provide it better protection.

Broccoli

Broccoli should be kept in the refrigerator. You can wrap it loosely in a damp – but not wet – towel or paper towels, then put it in the fridge.  Alternatively, you can trim an inch or less off the stem end, then put the broccoli stem down in a container holding a couple of inches of water, like a broccoli bouquet. As always when storing vegetables or herbs in containers of water in the fridge, try to put your broccoli bouquet somewhere where it won’t get knocked over!

Brussels Sprouts

The sooner you use Brussels sprouts, the sweeter and better they are! But they can be stored for a few days before they’re used.  For storage, you can cut the Brussels sprouts off their stalk, or leave them on. Don’t wash them;  just put them in a plastic bag or other container, then keep them in the refrigerator. Some recommend first wrapping Brussels sprouts in a damp towel or paper towel before placing the whole bundle inside a bag or container.

Cabbage

Cabbage should be stored in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag. Don’t wash your cabbage until you’re ready to use it. 

Carrots and Carrot Greens

Carrots and carrot greens need to be stored separately. (Did you know that carrot greens are edible? They are!) Because the greens continue to draw nutrients from the carrots as long as they’re attached, cut them off;  your carrots will be better this way. Store both carrots and their greens in the refrigerator.  You can keep your carrots in an open bag or container. Keep the greens, unwashed, in a plastic bag or container;  or, stand them cut-end down in a container of water.

Cilantro

Like scallions and green garlic, cilantro lasts best if it is kept in water in the refrigerator. Stand your cilantro in a glass that contains about two inches of water. Cover the leaves loosely with a plastic bag, and place the glass in a safe area of the fridge where it won't get knocked over. Change the water in the glass every few days.

Collard Greens

To store collard greens, or collards, don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them. Just keep them in the refrigerator in a loose plastic bag or container.

Cucumbers

Many of us grew up storing cucumbers in the refrigerator, and many people still do. If you're going to refrigerate your cukes, we recommend keeping them dry and uncovered - don't wrap them in plastic or plastic bags. However, a widely-cited study published by UC-Davis and publicized by Root Simple recommends storing cucumbers at room temperature.  Ideally, at around 50°-55° Fahrenheit. Either way, don't cut or peel cucumbers until you intend to eat them! And of course, the peel on our cukes is chemical-free and delicious, so there's no need to remove it.

Edamame

To store edamame, you can leave the pods on the vine or take them off, but don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them. Store edamame in the refrigerator in an open container or perforated bag.

Fennel

If the stems and fronds are still attached to the fennel bulb, leave them on until you’re ready to use your fennel. Attached or not, store all fennel parts in the refrigerator, wrapped loosely in plastic bags – you may need to bag the fennel from the top and the bottom to achieve this!

Garlic

Garlic should not be refrigerated. To store garlic, keep the garlic head whole – don’t separate the cloves – until you’re ready to use it. Store garlic heads in a dark, dry place in an open container, or one with holes in it – to stay in good condition, garlic needs air circulation.

Garlic Scapes

Stand garlic scapes in 1-2 inches of water in a glass or other container. Cover their tops loosely with a plastic bag and stand the glass in a sheltered corner inside your refrigerator. Replace the water every 2-3 days. Or, if you’d rather, you can wrap the garlic scapes in a damp towel or paper towel and store them in the fridge that way.

Green Beans

To store green beans, don’t wash them. Just keep them in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them. 

Green Garlic

Stand green garlic in 1-2 inches of water in a glass or other container. Cover the tops loosely with a plastic bag and stand the glass in a sheltered corner inside your refrigerator. Replace the water every 2-3 days. Or, if you’d rather, you can wrap the green garlic in a damp towel or paper towel and store it in the fridge that way.

Kale

Kale can be stored washed or unwashed. Wrap it in a towel or paper towel to absorb any moisture and refrigerate it in a plastic bag or container. 

Kohlrabi

Refrigerate Kohlrabi until you’re ready to use it. You can store it unwashed, whole, in a plastic bag or container.

Leeks

Don’t wash or trim leeks until you’re ready to use them. Keep them refrigerated in a loose plastic bag or container.

Leeks require special washing, because they tend to pick up a lot of sand and grit. So, in case it’s helpful, here’s a good way to clean your leeks: Cut off the root end of the leek and the dark section at the top. You want to save the white to light green portion of the leek. Take that portion and cut it into quarters, the long way: the result will be long, thin sections of leek. Take one quarter section at a time and rinse it well in cold water, separating the layers to make sure that all grit and dirt wash away. Drain the cleaned leek in a strainer or on a towel or paper towels and clean the other three quarter sections the same way!

Lettuce

Store lettuce in the refrigerator. You can wash it before storing it or when you’re ready to use it. If you wash it before storing, be sure to remove excess moisture with a salad spinner or gentle tossing. Washed or unwashed, wrap your greens lightly in a towel or paper towel, to absorb moisture. To prevent their getting crushed and bruised by other objects, you can put the whole bundle into a lidded container. 

Okra

Don’t wash okra until you’re ready to use it; until then, keep it in the refrigerator in a loose plastic bag or container.

Onions

Spring onions: Spring onions have not been cured for long-term storage and should be refrigerated. If the onions aren’t too big, you can store them like scallions: stand them in a glass filled with an inch or two of water, cover their tops loosely with a plastic bag, and put the glass in a safe place in the fridge, where it won’t get knocked over. Alternatively, you can wrap them in a damp towel or paper towel, put them in a plastic bag, and refrigerate them.

(Storage) onions:  Storage onions are what we typically think of as onions – generally larger onions with dry, papery skins. They have been cured so that they will keep for a long period of time. Storage onions prefer a cool, dry, dark place. They will last best if they have air circulation – don’t keep them in a plastic bag, or in the refrigerator. Only refrigerate this type of onion when you’ve used part, but not all, of the onion and want to keep the rest.

Pea Pods – Snow Peas, Sugar Snap Peas

To store pea pods, don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them. Just keep them in the refrigerator in a closed container or plastic bag. And we have to say – the sooner you eat them, the fresher and better they are!

Peppers – Bell, Hot, Sweet

Do not wash peppers until you’re ready to use them; keep them dry and in the refrigerator, in an open container or paper bag.

Potatoes

New potatoes: New potatoes have not been cured for long-term storage, so they should be used fairly soon to be at their freshest and best. If you do store them for a few days, don’t wash new potatoes until you’re ready to use them. They can be refrigerated, but be aware this will convert their starch to sugar faster than if you can keep them in a cool, but not cold, place. (We suggest a paper bag on the counter or in a cupboard, if you don’t have a root cellar.)

Cured (storage) potatoes: In contrast to new potatoes, what we often think of as “regular” potatoes have been cured so that they develop a stronger skin that helps them to keep for extended periods. Store these potatoes in a cool, dark, dry place – but not in the refrigerator.

Pumpkins

Store your pumpkins in a cool, dry place (but not the refrigerator: that’s too cold!). Put them on top of something like a layer of cardboard or straw, or suspend them in a mesh bag;  they do better with air circulation around them. They should last for weeks or months, depending on your storage space. Check them occasionally for soft spots. 

Radishes

Radishes should be stored in the refrigerator. You can wash radishes when you get them or when you’re ready to use them. If they’re damp, wrap them in a towel or paper towel before you put them in the fridge.

Scallions

Stand scallions in a glass filled with an inch or two of water, cover their tops loosely with a plastic bag, and stand the glass in the refrigerator somewhere where it won’t get knocked over.

Spinach

Store spinach in the refrigerator. If you want, you can wash it when you get it, before storing it; if you do, be sure to remove excess moisture with a salad spinner or gentle tossing. Or, you can wash spinach when you’re ready to use it. Either way, wrap your spinach lightly in a towel or paper towel, to absorb moisture. To prevent its getting crushed and bruised by other objects, you can put the whole bundle into a lidded container. 

Sweet Potatoes

Store sweet potatoes in a dark, cool, well-ventilated place. Don’t store sweet potatoes in the refrigerator, though: they don’t last as well and they can get hard in the center.

Swiss Chard

Don’t wash Swiss chard until you’re ready to use it. Until then, store it in the refrigerator, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag or in a container.

Summer Squash – Yellow, Zephyr, Zucchini, etc.

Don’t wash summer squash until you’re ready to use them, just keep them in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator. Summer squashes are tender and easily damaged, compared to winter squash, so try to keep them somewhere where they won’t be crowded or knocked around.

Tomatoes

Ripe Tomatoes: Here is perhaps the single most important piece of vegetable storage information we know: NEVER REFRIGERATE A RAW TOMATO! Really! Both flavor and texture suffer when a tomato is stored in the fridge. Instead, just keep your tomatoes out of the sun, in a bowl or on a plate. If you have too many tomatoes – is such a thing possible? – it’s still a bad idea to refrigerate them! Instead, preserve them.

Green Tomatoes: How you store green tomatoes depends on what you want to do with them. At the end of the season, many folks like to ripen their green tomatoes to extend the local, fresh tomato season. Some of us have eaten our own ripened tomatoes into December in years past! Green tomatoes are also wonderful eaten green. 

As with ripe tomatoes, don’t ever refrigerate green tomatoes!  Leave on their stems, if they have them, and keep the tomatoes in a single layer on the counter.  If you’d like them to ripen, they will, given enough time.  The speed of ripening will depend on the temperatures – faster if it’s warmer, a little slower if it’s cooler.  If you’d like to eat your tomatoes green, keep an eye on them, and be sure to use them before they begin to ripen.

Wax Beans

To store wax beans, don’t wash them. Just keep them in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them. 

Winter Squash – Acorn, Butternut, etc.

To store your winter squash, keep it in a cool, dark, dry place. Not the refrigerator – ideally, somewhere where the temperature is around 50-55° F. Don’t have a root cellar? Not to worry – just use the coolest dark place in your kitchen or any other part of your home where you don’t mind keeping squash! Winter squash should last for a long time – just check it periodically to make sure it’s not shriveling or developing any dark spots. If it is, trim off any bad spots and quickly use the rest!