Does your Farmer's Market or grocery store produce get shoved in the refrigerator crisper drawer without a second thought as to how it actually should be stored? There is a purpose to that fruit or vegetable crisper; it's designed to control the humidity level to help your fresh produce last longer. However, understanding how to use this drawer is a key component to preventing your produce from spoiling prematurely.
Consider both temperature and humidity when storing produce. Different produce will want different storage conditions. Some like it cool and dry (50-60 degrees Fahrenheit and 60 percent relative humidity) for pumpkins and winter squash. Basements generally provide a good environment for these conditions.
Refrigerators provide cold and dry conditions (32-40 degrees Fahrenheit and 65 percent relative humidity). However, most fruits and vegetables don't like this environment. Produce like it cold and moist (32-40 degrees Fahrenheit and 95 percent relative humidity) which is the most challenging to create. This is where refrigerator crispers can help.
Most crisper drawers have an adjustable high-to-low setting. A high humidity level will close the airflow and help keep produce moist. Use a high setting for any produce that wilts, such as leafy vegetables, like kale and spinach. Setting the drawer on the lowest humidity level, which opens the airflow, is best for citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges. Set the control somewhere in the middle for most other fruits and vegetables, including apples and grapes.
Besides controlling humidity levels, crisper drawers also allow the separation of produce. Ethylene producing foods should be stored away from produce that is sensitive to ethylene. Apples, plums, pears, peaches, mango and cantaloupe make ethylene gas and shouldn't be stored next to broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, or cucumber. The best advice is to simply store fruit away from vegetables.
There are some other things to remember:
If produce such as avocados, peaches or pears are under ripe, do not store them in the fridge. Rather, keep them at room temperature to further ripen.
Tomatoes will lose their flavor and become mushy if stored in the fridge and thus should be stored at room temperature until cut.
Potatoes, onions and garlic prefer cool, dry conditions and should not be stored whole in the refrigerator.
Store bananas at room temperature unless you wish to delay ripening, in which case you should store them in the fridge; the banana peel will turn brown but the fruit will not.
By following these guidelines your fresh produce will last longer! Use this recipe for a delicious and healthy treat.
Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 small acorn squash
2 cup apples, chopped
4 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoon raisins
Cut squash in halves and scoop out seeds. Place squash in a baking dish. Add one-quarter inch water in baking pan so the skins don't burn and the squash doesn't dry out. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
While squash are baking, mix apples, maple syrup, cinnamon and raisins together in a medium bowl. Once squash are baked, fill centers with apple mixture. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until squash and apples are soft.
Yield: 4 servings
Nutrient analysis: 180 calories, 0 grams fat, 10 milligrams sodium, 45 grams carbohydrate,
5 grams dietary fiber, 2 grams protein