One of the best ways to eat a healthier diet is to eat more fruits and vegetables. And one of the worst things about buying fresh fruits and vegetables is watching them go bad in your produce drawer and throwing them away (find out 10 tips to reduce food waste). No one wants to throw their food—and money–in the garbage. One way to help ensure you're eating your produce is to make a plan. Having a few meals and snacks planned out means you're more likely to eat up. Another key is to make sure you're storing your fruis and vegetables the right way to keep them fresh. The fridge isn't always the answer.
As it turns out, the refrigerator is not the go-to storage unit for all your produce. Below are 5 types of produce you shouldn't keep in your fridge.
Pictured recipe: Smashed Cucumber Salad with Lemon & Cumin
Everyone I know keeps their cucumbers in the fridge and finds this very hard to believe, but cold temps actually damage cucumbers. The best temperature for cucumbers is actually between 50-55 degrees F according to plant scientists at UC Davis, so warmer than your fridge but a little cooler than room temp. Cucumbers are sensitive to cold and the refridgerator may accelerate decay and cause parts of the cucumber to become watery.
Keep them on your counter, but it's worth nothing that cucumbers are also very sensitive to ethylene gas, a natural gas that some fruits emit. Store them separate from ripe bananas or melons to help keep them fresh for as long as possible.
Pictured recipe: Herbed Tomato Gratin
If you've ever grown tomatoes, then you know that they love the heat and hate the cold. Turns out even after they're plucked from the vine, they still hold their aversion to cold. The fridge is not the ideal place to store tomatoes. Store them there and your perfect tomatoes turn into a mealy disappointment. They'll still be good for cooking, but not the best for eating fresh. Instead store them on your counter (not in direct sunlight) and enjoy them when they're ripe.
Pictured recipe: Basil Vinaigrette
Fresh herbs like basil, parsley and cilantro actually don't belong in the fridge. Extended periods of time in a cold environment like a refrigerator causes them to wilt prematurely. Fresh herbs do best if it's stored on your counter and treated as you would fresh cut-flowers. A fresh bunch of basil can be stored for in a cup of water (change it every day or two) away from direct sunlight. Covering it loosely with a plastic bag will help keep it moist (but make sure the bag has an opening to allow for some fresh air to seep in).
Pictured recipe: Air-Fryer Broccoli & Cheese Baked Potatoes
Potatoes like cool, not cold temperatures. They do best at around 45 degrees F, which is about 10 degrees warmer than the average refrigerator. Most of us don't have a root cellar (a cool, dark place to store root vegetables like potatoes), so keeping them in a paper bag in a coolish spot (like a pantry) is best. Why paper? It's more breathable then plastic so potatoes won't succumb to rot as easily. And why not the fridge? Storing potatoes at cold temperatures converts their starch to sugar more quickly, which can affect the flavor, texture and the way they cook.
Pictured recipe: Sautéed Peppers & Onions
Onions don't come out of the ground with that protective papery skin. To develop and keep that dry outer layer, they need to be "cured" and kept in a dry environment like a pantry, which is not as damp as the refrigerator. Also, lack of air circulation will cause onions to spoil, as will storing them near potatoes, which give off moisture and gas that can cause onions to spoil quickly. Store onions in a cool, dry, dark, well-ventilated place. (Light can cause the onions to become bitter.) Scallions and chives, however, have a higher water content, bruise more easily and have a shorter shelf life, so store these alliums in the fridge.
Keeping these produce items out of the fridge will actually help improve their quality and shelf life. Worth a mention—some produce, like avocados and stone fruit, can stay out on the counter to ripen and then moved into the fridge to slow down the ripening process.So the bottom line on storing avocados is store hard, unripe avocados on your counter and store ripe avocados in your refrigerator if you're not going to eat them right away.
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