A Guide on What to Store in Your Refrigerator Humidity Drawers

Tips from The Kitchn

Have you solved the mystery of the crisper or humidity drawers in your fridge? If you're like me you probably just bump the notches towards the middle as a safety precaution. You may also put things into them haphazardly: all greens in one drawer, colorful things in the other. Sounds good enough, right?

Well, last week, after seeing carrots and cucumbers not survive their time in these cryogenic chambers, I figured I had to look into how to use these refrigerator drawers properly... for the veggies' sake!

Most humidity drawers are adjustable with a few clicks between low and high. If you bend down and take a look you'll see that the settings simply open or close a window in the drawer (a plastic flimsy one in my case). For the low humidity setting the window is completely open; for the high humidity setting it is completely closed.

The general rule of thumb is to put things that rot in a drawer with a low humidity setting. This means veggies that, as you may know from experience, emit an ethylene gas or are sensitive to the gas, like strawberries or avocados. Leaving the window open on the drawer by choosing the low humidity setting gives those gases a chance to escape and keeps the fruits and vegetables from rotting prematurely.

Things that wilt go in the high humidity drawer. This will be all your leafy greens like arugula, spinach, and basil. By having the window closed water vapor is held in the drawer and the moisture keeps the greens crisper and fresher longer. And a tip like this one will help extend the life of those greens even further.

What this basically means is you need to mind the gas when choosing which drawer and setting to put your produce in. Here's a handy list of high and low ethylene gas-emitting produce with their corresponding humidity settings.

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High Humidity Drawer

The high humidity drawer should contain:

  • Produce sensitive to moisture loss.
  • Produce sensitive to ethylene gas.
  • Here are some common fruits and vegetables to keep in this drawer:

    • bananas (unripe)
    • Belgian endive
    • broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • cabbage
    • carrots
    • cauliflower
    • cucumbers
    • eggplant
    • green beans
    • herbs (cilantro, dill, parsley, thyme)
    • leafy greens (kale, lettuces, spinach, Swiss chard, watercress)
    • okra
    • peas
    • peppers
    • strawberries
    • summer squash
    • watermelon
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    Low Humidity Drawer

    The low humidity drawer should contain:

  • Produce not sensitive to moisture loss.
  • High ethylene gas producers.
  • Here are some common fruits and vegetables to keep in this drawer:

    • apples
    • avocados
    • bananas (ripe)
    • cantaloupes
    • figs
    • honeydews
    • kiwis
    • mangoes
    • papayas
    • pears
    • plantains
    • stone fruits (apricots, nectarines, peaches, plums)

    Finally, the drawers work best if they are at least two-thirds full, and we like to think of it as good motivation to have a supply of healthy foods around!

    Understanding humidity settings will help you properly segregate your fruits and veggies. This knowledge will also help you determine which fruits and veggies are likely to expire first, as the high emitters check out before the others. Hopefully this little lesson helps you keep things fresher longer, so you can literally enjoy the fruits of your labor.