In the UK, over one billion tons of fruit and vegetables are produced, of which a whopping 46% heads straight to the wheelie bin. And that’s simply because we haven’t been able to eat them in enough time or we’re not entirely sure how to keep fruit fresh or veggies vibrant. So, when our pristine produce becomes the best version of itself, how do we extend that window of deliciousness? Because let’s face it, nobody wants to bite into a limp lychee if they can help it.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep your pears perky, your apples ‘appy and your pennies protected in our ultimate guide to preserving fruit for longer and reducing food waste. From storage hacks to fruit life-cycle tips, keep your eyes peeled, and you’ll soon have keeping fruit fresh down to a fine art.
The Best Ways to Preserve and Store Fresh Fruit
Store It in the Fridge (Properly)
If you’re really motoring through your five a day and planning on eating your freshly ripened fruit within a few days, the fridge and its crisper drawer are definitely your best friends.
Store fruit in paper bags, on plates, or even in glass jars rather than plastic. Why? Well, not only is plastic bad for our planet it’s also a nasty condensation trap. By stopping any excess moisture from escaping, it accelerates decay and eventually spoils our still-life-worthy fruit. Thanks a bunch, plastic.
But before you start loading up that crisper drawer, check that the fridge is the best place for it.
Fruits That Should Be Refrigerated
Berries are delicious, sweet, and juicy. They’re also delicate little things, too. Being mostly water, they spoil quickly when exposed to light and air for too long. Again, the fridge pumps the breaks on this process.
Refrigeration also slows down the chemical reactions that would otherwise take away all the sweet, juicy goodness.
Grapes are porous but rich in flavour. That means they’re good at absorbing moisture and odours. Yesterday’s stir fry? Yep, grapes will lap that up.
When they’re stored in the fridge, they retain their flavour and hold their shape for longer.
Sliced, diced and pre-cut is great for grazing, but once again air and moisture threaten the ripeness of our beloved fruit. By storing cut fruit in the fridge in an airtight container, like a mason jar, the juicy chunks can stay fresher for longer without browning or bruising. Simply keep them chilled in the crisper drawer until you’re ready to tuck in again
Fruits That Shouldn’t Be Refrigerated
Bananas are tropical fruit and thrive in warmer temperatures. Something the fridge just can’t offer. But bananas are also very good at driving other fruits a bit bananas too.
To kickstart their own ripening process they release ethylene gas. A gas which then kickstarts the ripening process for every other piece of produce in the vicinity too. In some cases, this could be quite handy. But, if you’re not in a rush to devour all your fruit at once, it’s important to stop this from happening. So, bananas should be kept out of the fridge, and placed into a paper bag instead. Or we’ve heard on the grapevine that you can cover the crown of the bunch with tin foil to slow down the release of ethylene. A crown for the crown.
All you have to do is look at a pineapple, and you get the feeling they know how to take care of themselves. Another tropical fruit that likes to keep warm, once a pineapple has been picked, it doesn’t get much riper. In fact, keeping them in the fridge has hardly any effect on their ripening process at all. And instead, cool temperature causes the pineapple to lose some of its flavour and nutrients. When asking ourselves, ‘how to keep fruit fresh?’, best to leave the big pineapple in the bright lights of the countertop.
Look out! There’s another ethylene gas producer on the loose. When placed into the fridge, however, gas production stops – and the ripening process along with it. So, to keep their flavour and their texture, store them in a paper bag at room temperature. This way, those lovely melons can continue to ripen, build up nutrients and stay fresher for longer.
Buy Under-ripe Fruit and Leave It On the Countertop
Keeping fruit fresher for longer often depends on how ripe it was when you bought it. Like Goldilock’s porridge, fruit has to be just right before we prep and store it.
Underripe fruit can take anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks to ripen, so fruits last longer if they’re not ready to eat when you buy them. Underripe fruit lasts longer, naturally, because it’s fairly early in its lifecycle.
You can help underripe fruit reach its peak at home by mimicking growing conditions. No trowel necessary. Leaving fruit on the countertop, at room temperature and in a light, airy space will encourage the fruit to ripen.
Can you slow down fruit ripening?
If room temperature stimulates fruit ripening, then lowering the temperature does the exact opposite.
Keeping fruit unripe is just a matter of keeping it in a cool place – much like how fruit is transported to avoid it ripening too soon. The fridge is a great spot to store fruit you’re trying to keep fresh for as long as possible.
Freeze Fruit You’re Not Using Straight Away
The same process that allows the fruit to ripen on your counter will keep going and going until the produce eventually wastes away. Putting them in the freezer interrupts this cycle, locks in all the good stuff, and stops bacteria from growing. In the business, they sometimes refer to this as ‘flash freezing’. But we like to call it ‘Fleezing’. Although it hasn’t caught on yet.
Most fruits and even most vegetables can be frozen. And if you’ve been wondering how to keep fruit fresh for long periods of time, storing them in your freezer is your best bet. Frozen fruit can happily chill in the ice box for up to 12 months. Just give them a wash and a dry, wrap them up, and store away. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Just how we like it.
Don’t Throw Out Overripe Fruit
Your mandarins are mushy, and your peaches are past their prime but don’t worry. All is not lost just yet. There’s still time to use up overripe fruit and make something delicious at the same time. From jams to crumbles, here are a few ways to stop that perfectly imperfect produce from going to waste.
The mushiest, saddest, squelchiest fruits can make the best jam. And if you think the process of preserving fruits has to take forever and a day, think again. It’s possible to use up your leftover currants in a compote within the hour. Especially with the help of this quick and easy fruit compote recipe.
Make Fruit Bread
It’s easy to go bananas over banana bread. But it doesn’t just have to stop there. A recipe like this is versatile and can be great for peaches, oranges, and strawberries too. Take a look at these healthy fruit bread ideas for every season. There are loaves of recipes!
Whether it’s your grandmas’ recipe or a chuck-everything-in-a-dish-and-cover-it-with-breadcrumbs approach, fruit crumbles and pies are a simple way to use up any overripe produce. It’s one dish that always seems to turn out a complete masterpiece. Good enough for the National Gallery, though? Maybe.