The Proper Way To Use 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, avocados, and tomatoes. 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 handly list of high, low, and medium ethylene gas emitting produce with their corresponding humidity setting.

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High Humidity Drawer (non-ethylene gas emitters)

  • Leafy Greens
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Green Onions
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Medium Humidity Drawer (medium ethylene gas emitters)

  • Melons
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Oranges
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Low Humidity Drawer (high ethylene gas emitters or sensitivities)

  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Peppers
  • Squash
  • Avocados
  • Pears

Understanding humidity settings will help you properly segregate your fruits and veggies. You don't want ethylene gas from tomatoes or strawberries getting all warm and fuzzy with your spinach or arugula. 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.

Related: Where To Store What in the Refrigerator

(Images: Chris Perez)