Pears and apples and quince! Figs and persimmons and pomegranates! Grapes and kiwi and fresh dates! Some of the most delicious fruits come to us in the autumn. It can be confusing to figure out how to store them, as every fruit has different requirements. Some ripen on the tree, some afterwards. Some need refrigeration, some don't. Read on for our guide on how to store autumn fruits.Typically when we bring fruit home from the market, we do one of two things: place it it a bowl on the kitchen counter or chuck it all into the refrigerator. Neither one is wrong, it just depends on what kind of fruit you have.
Apples: Apples stop ripening once picked, so despite the fact that they store beautifully, try to purchase freshly picked apples and keep them in the coolest part of your refrigerator. Heirloom varieties are not well-suited for long storage (which is why many have fallen from favor) so try to eat them right away.
Asian Pears: Asian pears are cousins to the European pears we usually find in the grocery store but their characteristics most resemble an apple. They are round and firm to the touch, and crisp, slightly sweet and juicy to eat. Like apples they are tree-ripened. Keep them for a week or so on your counter or for several weeks in the refrigerator.
Avocados: We've had many discussions on how to store avocados after they've been cut open (I like the sealed in a container with a slice of onion method!) Avocados continue to ripen after packing so store whole avocados in a cool but not cold place (such as a cool cabinet in your kitchen or in the garage before the frost season.) Once ripe, you can stabilize them for a few days in your refrigerator.
Fresh Dates: Dates are the fruit of the date palm and can be purchased fresh from August through December, mostly on the west coast. For long term storage, dates should be placed in a well-sealed container and put in the refrigerator or a cool cupboard.
Fresh Figs: Figs do not continue to ripen after being picked and are extremely fragile. If you think you will be eating your figs within a few days, leave them on the counter. Refrigerate them to extend their shelf life, but always be sure they are spread out in a single layer to avoid molding.
Grapes: Grapes are best stored in a paper bag (or perforated plastic) in the refrigerator. They will last 1 to 2 weeks.
Kiwi Fruit: Kiwi will continue to ripen after picking. If your kiwi is underripe, leave it on the kitchen counter for a few days. Ripe kiwi's can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Pears: Pears are always picked underripe as they do not benefit from ripening on the tree. They should be stored at room temperature. You will know a pear is ripe because it will give slightly when gently pressed and smell wonderfully aromatic. The stem will have a little give when jiggled slightly.
Persimmons: There are two types of Persimmon generally available in the markets. The Hachiya is heart-shaped and often picked unripe. Since Hachiya is virtually inedible when it's unripe, it must be kept at room temperature until it is very soft (Emma says it's like holding a water balloon.) They should be eaten as soon as possible when fully ripe but I've heard it said that they can spend a day or two in the refrigerator once ripe. The Fuyru will also ripen after picking and can stay on your counter. They will not get soft and can be eaten slightly underripe.
Pomegranates: Pomegranates will not ripen after picking. They should be kept in a cool, dark place such as in a paper bag in the refrigerator.
Quince: Quince is picked before it is ripe (while still green.) To ripen them, store them on the counter until they turn yellow (or in a bowl in your living room where they will perfume your house!) They can be refrigerated after that to keep them a little longer. Since quince is never eaten raw, their texture isn't as important as other fruits.
Note: Much of my research for this post was supported by a new cookbook from San Francisco's Bi-Rite Market. Called Eat Good Food, it's an excellent reference for shopping and cooking from a man who has be involved in his family's grocery store for decades and knows a lot about produce. Look for my full review later this week.
Related: Autumnal Fruits on Display
(Image: Dana Velden)