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When it comes to spending time together, fruits and vegetables are surprisingly human-like. It seems the real secret to keeping them at their freshest for as long as possible is simply knowing where they like to spend their time and which fruits and veggies get along best.
Fruits and vegetables give off an odorless, harmless and tasteless gas called ethylene after they're picked. All fruits and vegetables produce it, but some foods produce it in greater quantities. When ethylene-producing foods are kept in close proximity with ethylene-sensitive foods, especially in a confined space (like a bag or drawer), the gas will speed up the ripening process of the other produce. Put spinach or kale in the same bin as peaches or apples, and the greens will turn yellow and limp in just a couple of days.
You can take advantage of this if you want to speed up the ripening process. Put an apple in a bag with an unripe avocado, or a peach in a closed paper bag with a ripe banana. But if you want your already-ripe foods to last longer, keep them away from ethylene-producing foods.
Store cold-sensitive fruits and veggies on the counter, not in the fridge since lose flavor and moisture at low temperatures. Once they’re fully ripe, you can refrigerate them to help them last, but for best flavor, return them to room temp. Never refrigerate potatoes, onions, winter squash or garlic. Keep them in a cool, dark, dry cabinet, and they can last up to a month or more. But separate them so their flavors and smells don’t migrate.
And remember: One bad apple really can spoil the whole bunch. Mold spreads rapidly and contaminates everything nearby, so toss any spoiled produce immediately. For longer life, keep your produce whole --don’t even rip the stem out of an apple until you eat it. We love how this quick-reference chart from sparkpeople.com puts it all in order.