How to choose and store produce

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Here’s how to choose and store produce, especially the ones we buy loose. Get all of the tips to make the best selection and keep produce nicer, longer. Lettuce in plastic boxes holds just fine that way in the fridge, but your cukes and tomatoes and other produce need different treatment.

How to choose produce like Pickling cucumbers in a gratin dish on the counter.

Eat great Tomatoes, year-round.

In winter, go for cherry or small tomatoes for best flavor. Store at room temperature for best flavor and longevity, kept in the plastic box they were purchased in or in their own bowl.

No more mushy Cucumbers.

The smaller, narrower Persian cucumbers are big on flavor. But they can degrade swiftly, so use them up within a couple of days. Store in the crisper drawer, loose—not in a bag or in the plastic-wrapped container they came in. English cucumbers are long and narrow with fewer seeds; these are great too and should be kept same, in the crisper drawer. Keep these in their tight wrap until you use them.

How to choose and store Eggplant.

Firmness is key. Squeeze the eggplant, and if you find much give, move on. Look for narrow, deep purple globe eggplant to ensure fewer seeds. Use eggplant swiftly as it likes to over-ripen rather quickly. Keep your eggplant in the crisper drawer of your fridge, loose (not in a closed bag).

How to choose and store Fresh herbs.

Clean mint and parsley by dipping them in cold water when you bring them home from the grocery. Allow them to get bone dry by wrapping in a towel and squeezing, and allowing them to sit out before packing them in a zip top plastic bag with part of the top left open for breathability. Again in the crisper drawer of the fridge.

Basil is a different story. This herb bruises and degrades quickly. This may be surprising, but store basil at room temperature and rinse and dry just before using.

And remember, you can dry your herbs when you see them losing it. Do this in the oven or microwave. Mint dries nicely just spread out on a plate for several days. See this!

Eat perfectly ripe avocados, every time.

I buy very green avocadoes and allow them to ripen in a plastic container (no lid) in the fridge. There they soften slowly and rarely brown or bruise. Once this is a routine, there is always a perfect avocado at the ready.

What tips and tricks do you use for your produce?! Let us know how you choose and store produce so it lasts and stays as beautiful as when it’s purchased!

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  1. Heads of lettuce keep very well this way: Rinse the head, and let it drain (cut end up). Wrap loosely in a layer of paper towel, or better yet a dampened and well wrung out “retired” dish towel. Pop it in a plastic bag, left open, then into the crisper drawer. Lettuce likes to breathe a bit, and this method keeps the leaves from melting down where they touch the plastic, and maintains enough humidity to keep it from drying out.

  2. Once they’re ripe, I store most of my veg & fruit in paper bags in the fridge.
    I leave berries & tomatoes in the hard plastic boxes that they come in, but add paper towel or paper to bottom & between layers.

  3. Do you have a recipe for mechanic? I have a family one, but haven’t seen any in my Lebanese cookbooks. I wondered if you make it. I enjoy following you, and those are great tips on keeping produce fresh.
    Thank you, Mae

  4. My sitti could keep cucumbers for weeks by wrapping them in paper towels and storing them in her crisper drawer in the refrigerator. She kept it very dry. Cold and dry were good. Cold and moist were not good. She made great Laban and her starter had to be 30 or 40 years old when she died. I loved her dearly and learned so much from her. Getting ready to make stuffed squash like she and my mother taught me. I am a good cook. They were legendary Lebanese cooks.

  5. In addition to your tips, i also use BluApple in my crisper drawer for vegetables and fruits. They absorb the co2 that the fresh items emitt to help keep them fresher longer. I change the crystals in them every 3 months and sprinkle the old crystals on my house plants and in my garden.

  6. We keep parsley, basil, and even asparagus in water on the counter or in the fridge for freshness. Works very well. I grow basil and parsley in my basement garage under LED lights in the winter just to have a small supply.

  7. Tip: place basil with fresh cut stems in a small vase or jar like you do with flowers. Place in a cool spot with indirect light. Do not let the water touch the leaves. If you are lucky, the basil might even start to grow roots.
    This also works really well with green onions after cutting off the green tops—just stick the white bottom bulb so the roots are in a bit of water.