Carrie Gabriel, MS, RDN, shares the longest-lasting produce picks, tips on how to store each, and other hacks to preserve the freshness of your favorite fruits and vegetables.
There’s a myriad of valid reasons for wanting your produce to stay fresh for longer. For starters, fresh fruit and vegetables can get expensive. Next, your produce can contribute to food waste if left unused before going bad. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 94 percent of tossed food ends up in landfills. You can reduce your own food waste simply by understanding how to purchase, store, and prep your produce to last as long as possible.
The next time you’re ready make a grocery run, consider these nine produce picks that last far longer than you’d expect—provided that you store and use them properly.
Top 9 Longest-Lasting Produce Items
1-2. Apples + Pears
Apples and pears have the longest storage life of tree fruits. If left in your pantry, they can hold up for about two weeks. However, these fruits can be kept in cold storage up to four months depending on humidity and how fresh they are at the time of purchase.
Beets will last around three to five days in your pantry, but around two weeks to two months in your refrigerator. If you cook them, they must be refrigerated within two hours. To maximize the refrigerator life of cooked beets for safety and quality, refrigerate the beets in a shallow airtight container or wrap tightly with heavy-duty plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
The average time for carrots to last in a pantry is two to four days, but they last in the refrigerator for up to three to four weeks. However, the high moisture content of carrots can cause them to rot more quickly, so keep them dry to last longer. If you buy them in a plastic bag, add a paper towel to absorb the moisture. When it becomes saturated, change the paper towel out.
Tip: Cloth bags are better than plastic for storing all kinds of produce, since plastic retains moisture and accelerates the rotting process. Plus, cloth bags are better for the environment!
Garlic is one of the longest-lasting produce items, so long as you store it in a dark, cool place with moderate humidity. Unless you have an older, very dry home, your garlic should do well in a dark kitchen cabinet.
You can also store whole bulbs in the fridge, ideally in a paper bag so your refrigerator doesn’t absorb the smell. The bulbs will last for a few months. However, know that once garlic has been in the cold, it’ll start sprouting within a few days after being reintroduced to room temperature. With that in mind, keep garlic in the fridge until just before you’re ready to use it.
Onions can last in dry storage for one to two months in the summer, and for up to six months in winter. It’s best to store them in a cool, dark, and dry space since they easily absorb excess moisture. If exposed to conditions with high humidity, they’ll easily rot or sprout. For this reason, it’s also better to leave them in mesh bags instead of plastic, so that they get enough air.
7. Potatoes (sweet and white)
Both sweet potatoes and white potatoes are best stored in cool, dark places, and can stay fresh for two to three months. For optimal longevity, store them at cool temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Excess light can cause white potatoes to turn green.
Sweet potatoes don’t last as long in pantries—only about a week—but they can last longer in your refrigerator for up to two months. (I know this for a fact, as I have some in my fridge that have been there a few weeks, and they’re still fresh!)
Tip: Be sure to keep your potatoes away from onions and apples. Why? Onions and apples emit gases that speed up the ripening process for potatoes.
Red radishes store better than white ones like daikon since they’re less pungent. It’s best to store radishes as you would carrots, with their greens removed and in cloth bags with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Prepped this way, they should last up to a month in the refrigerator.
Varying quash varieties will store best in different ways. Spaghetti squash will last one to two months in your pantry or in a cool, dark place in your kitchen. Next, heavier winter squash (butternut, acorn, pumpkin) can last for two to six months in a cool dark place, or even in a cabinet if you leave the squash in a single layer so air can circulate around it.
Storage Tips for Cooked Vegetables
You can safely store cooked vegetables in the refrigerator for three to seven days. You should place meal prep veggies and leftovers in covered containers with a bit of airspace at the top. After this amount of time, bacteria can grow more quickly at refrigerator temperatures, so enjoy them sooner than later.
how Long does Frozen Produce Last?
Lastly, you might buy some of the longest-lasting produce items (or other favorites) and find that you have more than you currently need. Much of this produce can be frozen to use later if cut into small pieces or minced and kept in freezer-safe bags or containers. If you do freeze your own produce or buy it already frozen, there’s no officially USDA guideline for freshness. However, the National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends keeping frozen produce for no longer than eight months to a year.