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Clever storage tips to keep food fresh for longer

Carrots
To counter the curl? Keep carrots in a cold, moist and airtight environment - iStockphoto

A study by the University of Bath has concluded that, thanks to air exposure and moisture loss after the root vegetable is sliced lengthways, the outer layer of the carrot – known as the cortex – dries out faster than the centre, making it bend outwards. To counter the curl? Keep them in a cold, moist and airtight environment, the scientists say.

With 4.5 million tons of food binned by UK households each year that could have been eaten, keeping our carrots, not to mention all our fruit and veg, in good nick will benefit more than just our crudité game.

Try these ingenious storage tips to keep food fresh for longer.

Carrot sticks

Cut carrots are quick to dry out so the best approach is to eat them immediately, but if you’re preparing them ahead to nibble when needed, there’s an easy way to keep them fresh and crisp – just place sticks or thick slices in a jar of cold water and store in the fridge. Change the water every couple of days if keeping them for long.

Store carrot sticks in cold water in the fridge to keep them fresh before serving
Store carrot sticks in cold water in the fridge to keep them fresh before serving - iStockphoto

Half an onion

A common fridge-lingerer. The best way to store half an onion is in an airtight container where it will last up to seven days. It’ll also prevent the pungent odours from dispersing through the fridge and tainting other foods, such as loosely-wrapped cheese or puds.

Half a lemon or other citrus fruit

These should last a week without deterioration if kept airtight. Lemon slices for warm drinks or G&Ts keep well when enclosed in small boxes or sealable silicone pouches, ready for easy access.

Half an apple/apple wedges

Once cut, an apple is difficult to keep fresh for more than a day or two. Coating with acidic juices such as lemon or lime will help prevent browning, but for a milder flavour, try pineapple or orange juice. Alternatively submerge in water with a generous squeeze of citrus juice and keep in the fridge.

Remove damaged or over-ripened apples from a fruit bowl to avoid spoiling the others
Remove damaged or over-ripened apples from a fruit bowl to avoid spoiling the others - Getty

Whole apples

The saying about one rotten apple spoiling the barrel is true. Lots of ethylene gas released by rotten apples speeds up the ripening and subsequent spoiling of neighbouring fruit. Remove any damaged or over-ripened apples from the fruit bowl, salvage what you can of the fruit (stew it, for example) and throw the rotten bits away.

Salad

Help sliced lettuce or baby salad leaves to stay perky by storing in the fridge an airtight container lined with kitchen paper. The container keeps out bacteria while the paper wicks away excess moisture to maximise shelf life.

Store sliced lettuce or baby salad leaves in the fridge in an airtight container lined with kitchen paper
Keep sliced lettuce leaves perky by storing them in an airtight container in the fridge - E+

Mushrooms

The most effective way to prevent mushrooms becoming slimy is to keep them in a paper bag or wrapped in kitchen paper rather than an airtight container. If you like to wash them, wait until just before using.

Aubergines

Standard fridge temperatures are a little cool for aubergines so wrap in kitchen paper to protect them from the chill; keep away from ethylene-producing foods such as apples and tomatoes. Once cut, the aubergine will need to be used swiftly; halves or slices do not keep well.

Wrap aubergines in kitchen paper to protect them from the chill
Wrap aubergines in kitchen paper to protect them from the chill - iStockphoto

Avocados

Leave the stone in an uneaten avocado half, coat the cut side with lemon juice and wrap in cling film, ensuring it presses against the exposed surface. Refrigerate. Alternatively, place a handful of onion chunks in a plastic container, add the avocado half cut-side up and cover. The theory is that gases from the onion prevent the avocado from spoiling.

Onions

Store unpeeled onions in an old pair of clean tights – this allows the air to circulate – and tie a knot between each one so they don’t touch each other. Hang the onions somewhere cool and dark, and they will stay fresh for up to eight months. Don’t store onions with potatoes as the gases each vegetable produces make the other spoil more quickly.

Bananas

This one’s slightly contentious but advocates swear it works. To keep bananas fresh for longer, break up the bunch and wrap the stems in cling film. The theory is that a lot of the ethylene gas that hastens the ripening process is released from the stem.

Advocates swear by breaking up a bunch of bananas and wrapping the stems in cling film
Advocates swear by breaking up a bunch of bananas and wrapping the stems in cling film - Razvan Dinu

Berries

Give berries a water and vinegar bath – one part vinegar to three parts water – to prevent them developing mould and going soft. Rinse the berries well in clean water and dry them, ideally in a kitchen paper-lined salad spinner. Store in the fridge in a sealable container lined with kitchen paper.

Celery

Wrap tightly in foil and store in the fridge to keep crisp.

Asparagus and spring onions

Keep asparagus and spring onions fresh by storing them like flower bouquets in the fridge. Trim the bases of the asparagus spears, place in a jar of water cut-side down, and refrigerate. Do the same with spring onions, but place the white, hairy end in the water.

Herbs

Bunches of fresh soft herbs (anything except basil) and indeed watercress can also be stored like a bouquet of flowers in a jar of water in the fridge, covered with a plastic bag. Basil is best kept out of the fridge.

Alternatively, chop fresh herbs, combine with olive oil, then pour into ice cube trays and freeze. Remove the cubes and store in the freezer.

General fruit and vegetables

If you have a glut of fruit and veg you know you won’t have time to eat fresh before it spoils, freeze it all. Chop the vegetables, blanch in boiling water, then store in freezer bags.

And for dairy and eggs…

Cheese

Don’t wrap cheese tightly in cling film: it encourages bacteria, prevents the cheese from breathing and allows it to absorb flavours and chemicals from the plastic. Ideally, wrap in several layers of wax paper, seal with tape and store in the fridge.

Hard and semi-hard cheese freezes well – cut into 250g-300g blocks, wrap in cling film and store in a freezer container. Frozen cheese can be crumbly and a little dry when thawed, but the flavour is just as good as fresh.

Frozen cheese can be a little dry when thawed, but the flavour is just as good, says Franco
Frozen cheese can be a little dry when thawed, but the flavour is just as good, says Franco - iStockphoto

Other dairy

High-quality butter, milk, yoghurt and cream can also be stored in the freezer. Cut blocks of butter into smaller portions, wrap individually in foil or cling film, and store in freezer containers. Pasteurised and homogenised milk and double cream (40 per cent fat or more) freeze well: transfer to freezer containers and leave a 3cm space at the top to allow for expansion. Yoghurt can be frozen but tends to be grainy, so best used in cooking. Thaw all frozen dairy in the fridge.

Eggs

Eggs can’t be frozen in their shells but whites, yolks and whole broken eggs can. Gently stir the whites, yolks or whole eggs with a pinch of salt or sugar – don’t beat – then strain through a sieve and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze, then remove the cubes and store in the freezer. Frozen this way, eggs can last a year.

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