Fridge or Counter: Where to Store Fruit for Best Flavor?

by Ashley Marcin on 27 February 2014 1 comment

Fruits have been on the planet for far longer than refrigerators have been plugged into kitchen wall sockets. So why are many of us inclined to stick all our fruit in this chilly contraption immediately upon returning home from the store? It probably has a little to do with habit and a lot to do with ignorance, in the sweetest sense of the word. (See also: Guide to Choosing Fruits and Veggies)

When it comes to fruits, there are those that thrive in refrigeration and those that don't. A down-and-dirty way to identify these foods is by sight, smell, and touch. Those fruits that are ripe, especially overly so, when you grab them and stash in your cart should be placed in the cold.

Thing is, a lot of the foods shipped to your local grocer are picked before they are ripe. If they don't have opportunity to develop properly, you'll be more inclined to toss them out, along with whatever money you spent on them. Over time, that waste can add up to some major lost dollars. (See also: How to Choose and Store Fruit for Maximum Flavor)

Here's a quick guide for how to handle some of your favorites.

Avocados

How many times have you reached down to squeeze the flesh of an avocado, only to find it hard as a rock? That firm texture means the fruit isn't ripened and, therefore, will not thrive in the refrigerator. Avocados can take up to five days to ripen, so Haas experts suggest storing "unripe [avocados] at room temperature unless room conditions exceed that range."

Bananas

Bananas, when ripe, should be a cheery yellow color with even a few brown spots in the mix. Often when we see them at the store, they are still green and need a few days to graduate. The ripening process will be slowed — or halted entirely — by placing bananas in the refrigerator. They might also turn black in the fridge, though they'll still be edible. Chiquita experts recommend keeping bananas on the counter, perhaps beside those lonely avocados. (See also: Bizarre Uses for Banana Peels)

Cantaloupe, Honeydew, and Watermelon

Unless you grab a particularly sweet smelling, heavy melon from the bunch, you'll likely want to keep these guys out of the fridge as well. These types of fruits take up to two days to ripen fully, but once they achieve those classic signs (soft, sweet smelling, heavy), you can store them in the fridge for up to five days (whole) or three days (cut and covered).

Tomatoes

I always placed my tomatoes in the refrigerator until my CSA farmers told me not to. Texture is the main issue, as they will get softer prematurely. The good news: Tomatoes left out at room temperature (out of direct sunlight, note our farmers) do surprisingly well. (See also: 25 Fresh Tomato Recipes)

Citrus Fruits

According to the folks at Sunkist, most citrus fruits — oranges, tangerines, lemons, grapefruit, limes — will last on the counter for several days before requiring refrigeration. They also suggest once transferring to the refrigerator to "store in a plastic bag or the crisper drawer" for best results.

Mangoes

As yet another fruit that will not ripen in the refrigerator, mangoes can reach their peak ripeness with a few days on the counter out of the sun. A paper bag may help move things along, but once they're soft and fragrant, experts say to move those mangoes to the refrigerator for up to a week.

Pineapple

Did you know that a pineapple's color doesn't indicate its ripeness? I certainly didn't! Instead, their color is dictated by the time of year. Regardless, pineapples are picked when they are ready to eat, so Dole experts recommend storing pineapples at room temperature until they are cut into. (See also: Delicious Ways to Use Pineapple)

Stone Fruits

Sadly, peaches, plums, and nectarines are almost always unripe when I see them at our grocery store. I used to refrigerate, but I found they never softened or sweetened. Experts suggest letting them sit — stems down — on the counter until they show those classic ripening signs. I then transfer mine to the refrigerator to use within a few days, if I don't eat them all first.

Berries

Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and all other varieties can be frustrating. They are usually quite ripe upon inspection and seem to spoil almost immediately upon returning home. Refrigeration helps, but to avoid the green fuzz and mushy texture, follow these helpful steps, including washing them in a solution of water and vinegar to ward off the dreaded mold.

Apples

Well, apples are tricky. You technically can place them in the refrigerator right away. However, if you're low on space, they stay fresh just as long on your countertop as they do in the cold. I've found that when I keep my apples out and visible, I use them up before they spoil, which helps eliminate food waste.

Did I overlook your favorite fruit? Where do you store it — fridge, pantry, or counter?

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Thanks for the food storing tips. I eat a plant based diet so these tips are really appreciated.