Handling Fresh Produce

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
The aim in storing fruits and vegetables is to slow their inevitable deterioration. This begins with choosing and handling the produce. Mushrooms as well as some ripe fruits—berries, apricots, figs, avocados, papayas—have a naturally high metabolism and deteriorate faster than lethargic apples, pears, kiwi fruits, cabbages, carrots, and other good keepers. “One rotten apple spoils the barrel”: moldy fruit or vegetables should be discarded and refrigerator drawers and fruit bowls should be cleaned regularly to reduce the microbial population. Produce shouldn’t be subjected to physical stress, whether dropping apples on the floor or packing tomatoes tightly into a confined space. Even rinsing in water can make delicate berries more susceptible to infection by abrading their protective epidermal layer with clinging dirt particles. On the other hand, soil harbors large numbers of microbes, and should be removed from the surfaces of sturdier fruits and vegetables before storing them.