Refrigeration is one of the modern conveniences many people cannot imagine living without. You shop, pop items in the fridge and forget about food going bad for at least a day or two. What we place in our refrigerators is based on a habitual belief that our foods will stay fresh and last longer. For the most part this is true. However, you might be surprised to learn that some of what is sitting in your fridge at this very minute has no business being there. In fact, fridge storage can diminish the quality of certain products and may even cause them to go mouldy faster.
The tomato is the fruit of the tomato plant. Anyone who has grown these lovelies in some of their more than 7500 varieties know that they adore heat and detest the cold. Tomatoes need the sun to grow and to enhance their flavour. Even when removed from the vine they still don’t like the cold. So, if you store them in a fridge, they become uncooperatively floury and lose their flavour.
The argument goes that potatoes enjoy cool temperatures but don’t like cold temperatures. Rule of thumb is that they do best at room temperature. But room temperature can vary depending on where you are and few people walk about with a thermometer in their pocket.
Regardless, the point is this. A fridge is too cold to store potatoes. It increases the conversion of starch to sugar more rapidly, which in turn can affect flavour, texture and discolouration when they cook.
Onions are one of the oldest foods known to humankind. They are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, they really do make you cry, and they go soft and mouldy when placed in a fridge. They also perish when stored too close to the humble potato. Tatties emit moisture and gas, which cause onions to spoil rapidly. That said once peeled you can keep your onion in a covered container in the fridge.
An avocado, like the tomato is a fruit. In fact it’s classified as a single-seeded berry. If you purchase an unripe, hard avocado you shouldn’t store it in your fridge. Avos need time to ripen and the cold will hamper the ripening process. However, ripe avos may be placed in the fridge if you are not intending to use them immediately.
This is a tricky one. There are arguments for and against refrigeration. Most fresh food experts would agree that they are best stored at room temperature but can tolerate up to three days in a fridge. Too long in a fridge and they develop water-soaked patches, pitting, and all around general decay ensues.
Tips to store fresh foods
- Store tomatoes on your counter (away from direct sunlight) and eat them / cook with them when ripe
- Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry place and should outlast most if not all other fresh veggies
- Keep your unpeeled onions in a cool, dark, ventilated space in order to keep the outer layer dry and papery until ready to use
- Store avocados at room temperature until they’re ripe or you can place them in a brown paper bag with to speed up the ripening process
- Keep cucumbers on a counter away from your tomatoes, bananas and melons
Most of make use of a fridge with limited knowledge of the types of food that should be refrigerated. We see a fridge and our brains immediately associate it with food conservation. Now that you know otherwise you might be encouraged to try some new storage methods. In fact, you may well have some fresh food storage tips of your own. Feel free to share them with us.