Storing Fruits and Vegetables

Most of us are buying more fruits and vegetables. That is a good first step.  But should you wash them before you put them away or just before you serve them?  Should you store them in the refrigerator or on the counter?  Will they continue ripening at home?  The answer to these questions is…it depends!

Some fruits have better flavor if they are stored at room temperature. Tomatoes, unripe melons, and tree fruits (pears, peaches and nectarines) should be kept at room temperature so they can ripen and become sweeter.  After they are fully ripe, store them in the refrigerator until you are ready eat them.  Tomatoes will keep longer if stored with the stem side down.

Generally it is better to eat vegetables as soon as possible after picked. However, some vegetables like celery, cabbage, bell peppers and carrots will keep one to two weeks in the refrigerator.

When to wash fruits and vegetables also “depends”. If your produce has dirt on it, wash it before storing.  Otherwise you can probably wait to wash your fruits and vegetables before you eat them. Neither the USDA nor FDA recommends washing fruits and vegetables in anything but cold, drinkable water.  Do not let produce soak in the sink.  You do not need to wash them with special products or dishwashing detergent.  Melons, cucumbers, winter squash, citrus fruit, and potatoes should be scrubbed with a brush. Bananas need to be rinsed off as well.  Imagine how many hands touch the fruit before it gets to your mouth.

The University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension has a handy chart called Garden to Table: Storing Fresh Garden Produce.  I posted a copy on the side of my refrigerator for more specifics for each vegetable and fruit.

Citrus fruits “in season” now!

Have you noticed that oranges are frequently on sale at this time of the year? That’s because oranges are “in season,” meaning this is the harvest time for citrus fruits. Right now they taste the best, and cost the least, compared to other times of the year. Other fruits that are “in season” now are grapefruits, apples, bananas, and grapes. Knowing this schedule and planning ahead a bit can be a big boon to your food budget.

But when you get to the store, you still have lots of choices. You need to use unit pricing to figure cost. To do this, you divide the cost by the unit. The unit for the oranges is either pounds, or the number or count. Here are some prices I found.


10 for $2.00

.20 each  ($2.00/10= $.20)


4# bag for $1.99

.17 each or .50 a pound. There are 3+ oranges in a pound. You really need to count the oranges, but at 3 oranges in 1 pound there would be 12 oranges in 4#, so the cost per orange is 17 cents.


3 oranges for $2

.66 each. These oranges were the same size as all the others. I couldn’t find any reason to pay 3 times more than the oranges in #1 that were 10 for $2.00.


10# bag for $4.99

.25 each or .50 cents a pound. These were bigger oranges and there were 20 oranges so this added to the cost per orange.


4 pounds for $2.49

12 oranges in 4 pounds, so .21 each or .62 a pound.


5# Clementines for $5.98

Clementines are about half the size of oranges. There are about 6 clementines in a pound. A 5# box would have around 30 which cost $1 a pound or .20 each.

Clementines are mandarin oranges. The exterior is a deep orange color with a smooth, glossy appearance. They separate easily into seven to fourteen segments and are very easy to peel, like a tangerine, but are almost always seedless. Clementines are also known as seedless tangerines. Cuties are a trademark of California mandarin oranges.

Unit pricing only reflects the cost, not the quality or taste. You might like the flavor of Clementines better than oranges, or your kids might be willing to peel and eat them for a snack. In my book, this would make them a good buy.

A publication from Texas A and M has details on Safe Handling of Fresh Oranges.

-pointers by Peggy

Join Our Mailing List

Enter your email address:


Recent Posts

Posts from the Past