You’ve just returned from the wet market or grocery store with plenty of lovely fresh vegetables in tow. You’ve spent the time and money in sourcing these goodies but how do you store them to keep them for optimal freshness and how long before they go bad? Provided here is a handy go-to guide for storing fresh vegetables (and fruits that are used as vegetables), especially in a country as humid as Hong Kong. This list is not exhaustive and is mostly based on the ingredients I use most frequently at home. Feel free to comment if you want me to add anything.
General tips for storing vegetables
- Never store vegetables and fruit together. Many fruits give off a ripening gas called ethylene which can prematurely ripen and spoil your veggies.
- If you store vegetables in plastic bags make sure to cut a few holes so there can be some form of ventilation. Good air-flow keep vegetables fresh for longer.
- Try to store your vegetables as loosely as possible, the closer together they are packed the more likely they are to spoil.
Sprinkle whole artichokes with a few drops of water and store in a perforated zip-lock or plastic bag for up to 1 week. Unless you know the artichokes are very fresh it’s better to use them as soon as possible. Artichoke hearts need to be used in 1-2 days.
Trim the ends off of the asparagus, you can leave the rubber band around the bunch. Add 3-5 cm of water to a glass jar and put the cut ends of the asparagus in the water so they stand upright. Loosely cover the tips with a piece of plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Change the water every other day. Fresh asparagus can last for up to 2 weeks.
Fully ripe avocados can be stored in the refrigerator uncovered and should be used within a day or two. If you’ve got fully ripe avocados that you do not want to use right away, place them in the fridge in a plastic bag for around 3-5 days
Bok Choy (白菜)
Store the leaves loosely packed in a plastic bag without washing, preferably in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Wash before serving. Bok Choy can be stored like this for 1-3 days. Trimmed and blanched bok choy can be frozen in a plastic bag for up to a month.
Mist or sprinkle the unwashed heads and wrap loosely in damp paper towels before refrigerating. It is better to use broccoli within 2 to 3 days as it can spoil rather quickly. Do not place broccoli in a sealed container or bag as this will speed up deterioration.
Fresh beetroot bulbs can be stored for up to 10 days in a plastic bag with ventilation holes. Leaves can be stored in a separate plastic bag in the refrigerator but should be used in a day or two.
Keep Brussel sprouts in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator for up to a week. If you can buy brussel sprouts on the stalk they will last even longer.
Uncut butternut squash should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Under these conditions the butternut canlast for up to 2 months. Once cut the butternut pieces can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2-4 days. Cut butternut squash can also be frozen. Just spread it out on a baking sheet, and quickly freeze it. Once frozen put it in plastic bags and keep in the freezer for up to 12 months.
Keep the cabbage whole for as long as possible as it loses nutrients as soon as it is cut. Store a whole head in the refrigerator for up to weeks, when you’re ready to use it remove the outer leaves and discard them. Once cut place loose leaves in a plastic bag and use within 2-3 days. Note: Cabbage releases an odour so you might not want to store this for too long.
Carrots can be kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 months if they are stored correctly. It is recommended that you keep carrots, unwashed in a plastic bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator. Alternatively, trim off the green roots and place the carrots in a bowl, cover with water. Carrots tend to keep crisp like this for up to 3 weeks, just make sure to change the water every 2-3 days.
Store your head or florets of cauliflower in a loosely sealed plastic bag, don’t wrap it too tightly as you don’t want to trap excess moisture. A good tip is to place a piece of kitchen towel at the bottom of the bag to absorb excess moisture.
The best way to store cut celery is to wrap it in aluminium foil and place it in the Cut butternut squash can also be frozen. Just spread it out on a cookie sheet, and flash freeze it. Transfer the squash to a freezer-safe container or plastic bag once it’s frozen. Celery can be stored this way for 1-2 weeks.
Choy Sum (菜心)
Simply store unwashed choy sum loosely packed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Choy sum normally stays fresh for around 3 days.
Chinese Broccoli (芥兰)
Store Chineses broccoli in a plastic bag in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. Chinese broccoli also freezes well. Wash thoroughly and cut off the thick stems. Blanch, chill, drain and place in freezer bags. Freeze immediately.
Wrap the cucumber in a paper towel and place in a plastic bag to prevent it from becoming limp. Cucumber can be stored for 7-10 days.
Daikon can be stored for up to 2 weeks stored in the fridge in plastic bag or wrapped in damp towel in the refrigerator. It is recommended that your store the leaves and the roots seperately if you want to keep both.
Eggplant or Aubergine is best stored at room temperature for up to three days. If you need to keep it for longer however it is necessary to place it, whole in the refrigerator.
Just like daikon it is better to separate the leaves and roots and store them in two plastic bags. This will keep it fresh for 7-10 days. Another option is to place the entire bulb in water and leave it on the kitchen counter, this could keep it fresh for 3-5 days.
Once again storing this vegetable is about avoiding excess moisture. Wrap the leaves loosely in paper towels and place in a plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
Remove the core from the lettuce heads, wash and dry well. Wrap the leaves loosely in paper towels and place in a plastic bag. Store in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.
By far the best way in my opinion to store mushrooms is to place them, unwashed, in a paper bag with the top folded over. Place them in the refrigerator with the top of the bag still open for 4-7 days. Avoid plastic bags as they speed up deterioration.
Wrap the okra in a paper towel and place it in a perforated plastic bag. Okra can be stored like this for for 2 to 3 days.
Onions should not be stored in the refirgerator unless they have been cut.
Store raw peppers in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. As an added tip green bell peppers will usually last longer than orange or red bell peppers
Potatoes should not be stored in the fridge. Ideally place them in a cool, dry place that is well ventilated. Try to take them out of the bag they came in and place them in a paper bag or vegetable drawer. In general with slightly humid conditions potatoes last for around 1-2 weeks.
Whole pumpkins can generally be stored for a long time (1-2 months) at room temperature in a cool, dark place. Cut pumpkin can be refrigerated, covered for 2-4 days.
Same rules that apply for potatoes as they should not be stored in the fridge. Ideally place them in a cool, dry place that is well ventilated. Try to take them out of the bag they came in and place them in a paper bag or vegetable drawer. In general with slightly humid conditions sweet potatoes last for around 1-2 weeks.
Wrap the leaves in a paper towel and place it in a ventilated container. Place it in the refrigerator for up to 7-10 days.
If you can avoid it don’t place them in the refrigerator, keep them on the counter and eat them in a day or two. Tomatoes taste way better if they have never been refrigerated. Ripe tomatoes can be stored uncovered in the fridge for 1-3 days.
Clean the turnips well, shake off excess water and store for up to 5 days in plastic bags in the refrigerator.
Water Spinach (空心菜)
Gently wrap in the a paper towel before placing it in a plastic bag. Store for 1-3 days as it wilts fairly easily.
Keep the zucchini whole, dry and unwashed and place them in a ventilated plastic bag in the refrigerator. They’ll keep like this for 1 to 2 weeks.
*All images sourced from Pixels