Food poisoning: Expert gives advice on safe food storage
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Fresh fruit and vegetables are weekly shopping staples, but they are quickly becoming one of the biggest expenses on the list. While using up your fresh ingredients is essential to get the most for your money, some groceries can be difficult to keep fresh for more than a few days. According to an expert at Blue Apron, this is often a result of the incorrect storage of several different fruits and vegetables in one place. He explained that “ethylene-rich” ingredients are the main culprit when it comes to over-ripening groceries in a short time.
Storing perishable groceries correctly is crucial for both your health and the longevity of fresh produce. The fridge and kitchen cupboards are the main areas to store food at home, though according to John Adler, head of culinary at Blue Apron, location is not the only thing to consider.
He said: “In general, don’t store ethylene-sensitive fruits or vegetables with fruits or vegetables that produce a high amount of ethylene gasses. Probably the best example of this is storing onions with apples – you will end up with onion-scented apples! – and more commonly, onions with potatoes.”
John noted that in addition to creating peculiar flavours, storing onions and potatoes together “will hasten the ripening process” of the spuds, leading them to grow eyes and sometimes roots.
The culinary expert added that the same principle applies to garlic too, even though all three ingredients are meant to be stored in a cool, dark place.
How to make fruits and vegetables last longer
It’s not just cupboard groceries that need to be stored away from other items. In fact, according to John, there are at least 11 ethylene-sensitive foods that will perish next to certain ethylene producers.
Though they are commonly stored in fruit bowls, apples emit “lots of ethylene gas”, and should be kept around 6-8 inches away from other fruits and vegetables.
However, according to John, there is one exception to this: if you want to quickly ripen countertop fruits, like bananas, putting them closer to apples on the counter will speed up the process
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Like apples and bananas, melons are ethylene producers, making nearby groceries vulnerable to over-ripening. For this reason, melons are typically best stored on your countertop, until they are ripe enough to cut, eat, or store in sealed packages.
Cauliflower, kiwi and onions
John said: “Cauliflower is very ethylene sensitive, so it is best not to store it in the same drawer as apples, melons, kiwis, or onions.”
If your cauliflower is in a plastic or compostable produce bag, ensure the top is open so it can breathe. It keeps best in a refrigerator drawer with other vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage which are also sensitive to ethylene.
Though they are not actually classed as a vegetable, mushrooms are also prone to “spoiling” if stored with other common fridge items. The fungi easily absorb odours from smelly foods nearby, so should be kept away from pungent options in the refrigerator.
To prevent sliminess, it’s best to store mushrooms in a paper bag to allow the mushrooms to breathe, and prevent contamination. The bag also acts as a moisture absorber and should be changed if it feels wet or flimsy. John noted that the bag should not have close contact with other products.
Unfavourable storage combinations aren’t the only thing to think about when unpacking your groceries. According to John, reducing moisture is also crucial for the longevity of your shopping.
He explained that you should always allow fruit and vegetables to return to room temperature before packing them away, in addition to washing and drying certain items like green beans and salad leaves. If in doubt, here is a full list of ethylene producers, and sensitive foods that should be stored separately:
- Ripe bananas
- Peaches and nectarines
Ethylene sensitive foods
- Unripe bananas
- Brussels sprouts
- Leafy greens
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