University of Vermont

Cultivating Healthy Communities

Food & Nutrition Programs

Storing Fresh Garden Produce

Fresh fruits and vegetables require different storage methods and can be stored for various lengths of time. Some fresh produce including onions, potatoes and tomatoes, are better if not refrigerated.

Fruits and vegetables stored at room temperature should be in a cool, dry, pest-free, well-ventilated area separate from household chemicals. When storing in the refrigerator, keep at 40 degrees F or less. If your refrigerator has a fruit and vegetable bin, use that, but be sure to store fresh produce away from raw meats, poultry or fish.

To wash or not to wash?

Even the experts disagree when giving advice on washing garden produce. Some tell you not to wash before storage. Others will tell you to wash off any garden dirt before even bringing produce into the home.

If you bring in garden dirt on your fresh produce, you may be introducing pathogenic microorganisms into your kitchen. However, if you rinse your produce before storage, you run the risk of increasing the likelihood that your fresh produce will mold and rot more quickly.

If you choose to wash produce before storage, be sure to thoroughly dry fruits and vegetables with a clean paper towel. To store without washing, take care to shake, rub or brush off any garden dirt with a paper towel or soft brush while still outside. For berries, never wash until you are ready to eat them.

Storing fresh produce in plastic bags or containers will minimize the risk of contaminating other foods in the refrigerator. Keep your refrigerator fruit and vegetable bin clean.

For specific storage information on a particular fruit or vegetable, please refer to http://www.uvm.edu/extension/food/pdfs/preservation/storagecharthomeproduce.pdf