You’re Storing Apples Wrong–And 5 Other Fruits And Veggies That Shouldn’t Be Left Out On The Counter

It’s impossible not to be inspired by the mesmerizing fridge organization tips being shared on TikTok. But, take a minute before you scurry over to Target for stackable drawers and space-saving bins. Aside from making sure the kitchen is clutter-free and clean, there are a few general guidelines for storing fresh produce.

A few fruits and veggies can be left out on the kitchen counter, while others should be promptly chilled. Truth be told, when it comes to storing fruits and vegetables, there is plenty of variation in how they can be stored.

But if you don’t get it right, you’ll have plenty of food waste on your hands, as produce will spoil more quickly. Even though just keeping certain veggies and fruits off the counter may seem like an easy task, there is actually more to produce preservation than just that.  

Guidelines For Storing Fruits And Veggies

Even with the myriad of brilliant storage products available to keep your fridge neat and orderly, there is a science behind storing fruits and veggies. Certain produce types such as root vegetables, citrus fruits, and salad leaves, can be stored together. But in the vast majority of cases, produce should be stored separately in single containers. 

While we are all guilty of tossing fruit and veggies at random into the crisper, this is not the way to do it. Interestingly, both foods contain Ethylene, a gas emitted when fruit and vegetables become ripe. Despite ethylene being found in both fruits and vegetables, the amounts of it tend to vary depending on the tissue from which it is derived. Conversely, fruit tends to have a greater amount of ethylene than vegetables.

Due to the release of ethylene from some produce, other sensitive crops are spoiled faster. This is why it is advised to separately store your produce.

So, following these guidelines, which fruits and vegetables should be kept cold and off the counter?

Fruits That Should Never Be Left On The Counter

Apples

apple sitting in an empty fridge
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In a fruit bowl or on the kitchen counter, apples may seem harmless. However, apples produce the most ethylene. As a result, apples can damage nearby produce and speed up their own deterioration.

So if you’re not planning on making an apple pie right now, make sure your apples are chilled. Keep apples in a separate container in the refrigerator for up to six weeks. Alternatively, you can freeze them for eight months. 

Berries

Eating healthy food conceptual background, weight loss and body care concept, fresh strawberry in hands, full fridge of diet nutrition,
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It is no secret that any berries purchased at the grocery store tend to soften quickly and spoil. Plus, you’re doing your berries no favors if you leave them on the counter. When you get them home, chill them right away. However, do not wash them until you’re ready to eat them. The list of berries that should never be left out on the counter includes: blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, currants, grapes, strawberries, and raspberries.

Additionally, some berries, particularly strawberries, are known to be high ethylene producers, similar to apples. For this reason, they should be stored separately. 

Citrus

Beautiful woman with fresh lemon standing near refrigerator
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Citrus fruits can be stored together without fear of spoilage, but there is disagreement about whether or not they should be refrigerated. Some people believe that citrus can last longer when chilled and they tend to stay ripe longer when stored on their own.

Vegetables That Should Never Be Left On The Counter

Vegetables do better in the refrigerator for the most part. There are a few exceptions, however. As an example, garlic, whole onions, winter squash, and potatoes do better outside the fridge. You must however keep the potatoes in separate quarters because they emit ethylene. As a result, potatoes can cause some produce to spoil, or sprout.

As for vegetables that shouldn’t be left on your counter, the list seems endless. Simply put, storing vegetables in the refrigerator helps them last longer. Here’s the lowdown on a select few.

Carrots

View Looking Out From Inside Of Refrigerator As Man Opens Door And Unpacks Shopping Bag Of Food
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You’re not doing carrots any good by leaving them on the counter. It’s impossible to keep carrots on the counter without refrigeration for more than three to five days. Alternatively, carrots can last up to three weeks in the fridge. However, storing them with produce that contains high levels of ethylene could reduce their shelf life by one week.

Corn

Woman taking frozen bag of corn from refrigerator, closeup
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Summer isn’t complete without corn on the cob with butter. So, can you leave the corn on the counter until you’re ready to prepare it for the weekend barbecue? Most likely not. If you and your guests enjoy corn with a sweet flavor, you’d be wise to store your ears of corn in the refrigerator rather than letting them warm up at room temperature. Moreover, chilling preserves the natural sugar in the corn.

Summer Squash And Zucchini

Two green zucchini on white plate in open empty refrigerator
(Andrew Rafalsky/Shutterstock.com)

You may have debated how to store zucchini or summer squash if you tend to take advantage of your neighbor’s extra bounty. Oddly enough, the best place to keep this squash is not on your counter but in the refrigerator. Before you put it in the refrigerator, make sure it is unwashed and completely dry. Also, store the squash in the crisper to keep humidity at a minimum. When stored correctly, zucchinis and summer squash can last up to one week in the fridge.

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