This Is the Most Long-Lasting Fresh Produce to Buy Right Now

published Mar 20, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

You’ve probably noticed one very apparent thing at grocery stores right now: All the bags of frozen produce and canned fruits and vegetables are wiped out while the fresh produce section appears to be mostly abundant. In these uncertain times, we’ve all been stocking our pantries with items we know for certain will last awhile. That’s great, but if you’re heading to the store to pick up a few more bags of frozen broccoli only to be left with a cleared out aisle, what should you do?

Rather than head to your next closest grocery store, make the best of what’s available at the store you’re at. There are lots of fresh fruits and vegetables that have a surprisingly long shelf life and provide the nutrients you need to stay as healthy as you can right now.

Your Best Choices from the Produce Section

We’ve been asked to limit our trips to the grocery store as the coronavirus continues to spread, which is why stocking up of frozen and canned fruits and vegetables makes sense. Most of these items were cleared out when I hit my local store this past weekend but I knew I needed wholesome produce to bring home and cook so I headed to the fresh produce department. While there are plenty of items that won’t last more than a few days (strawberries, say, or that perfectly ripe avocado), there are lots of things that will stay fresh for weeks or even months. Here are your best bets:

Apples: These hearty fruits can last for up to six months depending on how they’re stored. Place apples in a plastic bag in your crisper drawer and they’ll be good for one to two months, but if you store them at an extra cool temperature, like in a cellar or basement, they’ll last for months longer. Beyond snacking on them, try tucking them into grilled cheese sandwiches or turning them into a pantry-friendly crisp.

Cabbage: Tuck a whole cabbage in your crisper drawer and it will stay fresh for anywhere from two to six months. If you start to notice any wilted or discolored outer leaves, just remove them and continue on. Once you cut into a cabbage head, any remaining halve or wedge will keep for about a week when wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in your crisper drawer. Cabbage is the perfect base for a crunchy slaw, of course, but you can also wilt it into soups, tuck it into tuna salad, and roast it with bacon.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Carrots: Carrots can last up to month or two if stored correctly. The key is to remove their green tops, which suck up all the moisture from the orange vegetable causing them to shrivel. Keep them whole, with their peels still on, to protect them from spoiling and store them in the crisper drawer. Add some color to your plate by simply roasting them or try whirling them into hummus or baking a comforting quick bread.

Winter Squash: The thick skin of hefty winter squashes like butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash is the reason they last for up to six months. Store them in the fridge or in a cool, dark spot like your basement or pantry. Try turning them into a creamy pasta sauce, stuffing and roasting them, or tossing chunks into chili.

Potatoes: Whether you pick up white potatoes or sweet potatoes know that they’ll last quite awhile in your kitchen. These are an outlier, though, because they’re best stored out of the fridge. The cold refrigerator can actually alter the flavor of your potatoes. Instead, store them in a cool, dark place like your basement or pantry, where they keep for about a month. Grab them to make your own oven fries, the ultimate baked potatoes, or a simple Thai-inspired curry.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Beets: Just like carrots, beets are best stored without their leafy greens (try braising them like collard greens for an easy side). When kept in a plastic bag in your crisper drawer they’ll keep two to four months. Try roasting them then tossing them into everything from salads, veggie burgers, and even pesto sauce.

Bagged or Hydroponic Greens: I started buying hydroponic lettuce a year or two ago and I was completely shocked by how long it lasts in my fridge. Since it’s sold with the roots still attached, it will stay fresh for a couple of weeks in the fridge as long as it’s kept whole. Bagged, pre-washed greens, especially hearty varieties like kale and spinach, are also a good choice because they’re packaged in such a way that they’re meant to have an extended shelf life. Sauté hearty greens or add them to a frittata and use the lettuce to make simple salads.