Properly storing food is one of the keys to extending its shelf life. You may think you can put all the food together in one bowl or fruit basket, but that would be a mistake. Some products should not be stored together.
If you put all the foods together, you doom them from the start. Some foods contain a gas called ethylene, which can spoil surrounding fruits and vegetables.
Let’s see what ethylene does to produce and what foods you can’t store together.
Why certain foods cannot be stored together.
Ethylene is a gas released by fruits and vegetables as they ripen. Most plants produce ethylene, but the amount varies depending on the food. It is more common for fruits to contain more ethylene than vegetables.
The objective is to store crops that produce a lot of ethylene away from sensitive products. If you store these foods in your kitchen, you will generally want to store ethylene producers in fruit bowls and ethylene sensitive foods in the refrigerator.
Of course, that doesn’t always work. Potatoes and onions do not keep in the fridge and should be stored separately, despite what you have been told.
Here’s everything you need to know about the products you can and can’t store together.
Foods you should never keep together.
We will see the foods that produce the most ethylene and those that are more sensitive to this gas.
Apples – Ethylene producers.
Apples are one of the most ethylene-producing fruits, so they should be kept separate from other foods, unless you’re trying to ripen something like avocado or persimmon.
So whether you store apples in your kitchen or pantry, keep them separate.
Apples can be stored in the pantry for up to four weeks or in the refrigerator for up to six weeks.
Asparagus – Sensitive to ethylene.
Ethylene affects asparagus, causing them to turn yellow. You can store them in the fridge for up to a week.
Lawyers – Ethylene producers.
Avocados don’t ripen on the tree, which makes it harder to pick them at the right time. Once the avocado is picked, it begins to produce ethylene and it increases as the avocado begins to ripen.
Bananas – Producer of ethylene.
Everyone knows that calculating the shelf life of bananas can be tricky. One day your bananas are green and two days later they are too ripe for your little one to eat.
Once the bananas have reached the desired degree of ripeness, they only keep well for about three days.
Bananas release ethylene through the stem, so if possible, keep the stems of bananas wrapped.
Broccoli – Sensitive to ethylene.
Storing broccoli with ethylene-producing foods can reduce its shelf life by 50%, that’s a lot! Your broccoli may only last three or four days in the refrigerator if you store it at ethylene producers.
You will notice that they turn yellow faster and can become bitter unless you store them properly.
Brussels sprouts – Sensitive to ethylene.
Brussels sprouts are in the same family as cabbage and produce a small amount of ethylene gas compared to other vegetables.
If you store your Brussels sprouts with a high ethylene producer, you will notice that the sprouts begin to yellow more quickly and the leaves may drop. Be sure to store them away from ethylene producers.
Carrots – Sensitive to ethylene.
Most people know that carrots can last a long time in storage, but they are also on the list of foods you should never store with ethylene producers because they are sensitive.
When exposed to high levels of this gas, carrots develop a bitter taste.
If stored properly, carrots can be stored for up to four months. If you put them in the refrigerator, they will keep for up to three weeks, but exposure to ethylene will shorten their shelf life. Normally they only last two weeks.
Cauliflower – Sensitive to ethylene.
Like broccoli, cauliflower is sensitive to ethylene. In the presence of ethylene, the cauliflower will begin to yellow and the leaves will drop.
Remember that you should not store ethylene sensitive products with apples, melons or other similar fruits and vegetables. If you don’t separate them, the cauliflower will last less than a week.
Cucumbers – Sensitive to ethylene.
Cucumbers are sensitive to ethylene. In the presence of a high level of ethylene, they will yellow faster and spoil sooner. This is especially true when stored near bananas and tomatoes.
Cucumbers stored away from ethylene will last a week or more, but their shelf life will be much shorter when stored with high ethylene producers.
Melon – Producer of ethylene.
Most melons produce ethylene. However, others, such as cantaloupe, do not. Not all melons behave like honeydew.
Honeydew melon ripens more slowly when cut, but ethylene production is increased. Do not store them together, especially cut, with sensitive products.
Lettuce and green leafy vegetables – Sensitive to ethylene.
Most green leafy vegetables are sensitive to ethylene. When exposed, the leaves may begin to discolor and become bitter.
Vegetables rarely last more than two weeks if stored without ethylene producers. A bud lasts longer than loose leaves. With an ethylene producer, this time is greatly reduced.
Mangoes – Ethylene producers.
Compared to other fruits, mangoes produce less ethylene, but still ripen with this gas. Typically, mangoes can be stored in the pantry for up to a week and in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Onions – Sensitive to ethylene.
Like potatoes, onions have a long shelf life, which is why many people try to store potatoes and onions together. This is a bad idea because potatoes produce a small amount of ethylene.
If you store the onions with the potatoes, the potatoes will start to sprout and eventually develop fungus on the skin.
If you store onions away from potatoes, they can usually last two months in the pantry. They keep even longer in the refrigerator than in the pantry. Storing onions with potatoes can cut the shelf life in half.
Pears – Ethylene producers.
Pears ripen faster when they are in warmer temperatures, so the best way to extend the life of pears is to place them in a cooler environment. This reduces ethylene production.
If you store pears in your cellar, be sure to separate them from those that produce ethylene and keep them cool so they can keep for up to three months.
Peaches and plums – Ethylene producers.
These fruits create a similar amount of ethylene. When peaches and plums are unripe, they produce very little ethylene, but as they begin to ripen, ethylene production increases rapidly.
Peaches and plums usually only keep for two to five days in the fruit basket, but can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator or two months in the freezer. Just be sure not to store this product with other ethylene sensitive foods.
Potatoes – Ethylene producers.
Potatoes have a long shelf life when stored properly. In the pantry, you can expect your potatoes to last about two months.
Pumpkins and courgettes: sensitive to ethylene.
Believe it or not, despite the tough skins of pumpkins and zucchini, they are sensitive to ethylene. When exposed to crops that produce ethylene, it will cause the interior to ripen rapidly.
Pumpkins and zucchini are known to last for months in a root cellar, usually up to six months. Stored in your warmest pantry, pumpkins last two to three months, and winter squash will keep for a similar amount of time.
It is halved if stored with ethylene-producing cultures. Be sure to add these to your list of products you should never stock with ethylene producers.
Strawberries – Ethylene producers.
Unlike most ethylene-producing crops, strawberries only begin to produce ethylene when picked when fully ripe. Do not store strawberries outside of the refrigerator.
Instead, put them in the fridge and make sure there are no ethylene-sensitive crops nearby. Most strawberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for a year.
Tomatoes – Ethylene producers.
Tomatoes are a moderate ethylene producer; they can be stored in the pantry for up to a week while they ripen. The amount of ethylene tends to increase as they continue to mature.
Store tomatoes with other fruits or vegetables that produce ethylene.
Did you know that it is not recommended to store tomatoes in the refrigerator? This can negatively affect the flavor, so make sure you don’t store them like that.
It is important to know which foods produce ethylene and which are sensitive to ethylene. This way you will know which fruits and vegetables you should not keep together. This allows your food to last longer in storage than mixing it all together.