We joke in our home that the refrigerator’s crisper drawer should really be called the molding drawer. It seems to be the place where fruits and vegetables go to rot. We put things in, forget about them, and then find them weeks later covered in a green goo. Also, when you put fruits and vegetables in the drawer, all of the healthiest items in the refrigerator are instantly out of sight. Only the pizza leftovers and soda pop are right at eye-level.
A number of months ago, I started to wonder about my refrigerator and if the crisper drawer should even be used at all. I then went on a quest to learn about the fruits and vegetables in my refrigerator and the best ways to store them. The information I found was enlightening:
Apples: According to the Purdue Horticulture Dept., apples are best stored in plastic bags with air holes in a 30-32ºF refrigerator. They recommend putting them on shelves instead of the crisper drawer to permit proper circulation and humidity. Do not freeze.
Bananas: From Chiquita Banana, “To slow the ripening process once bananas reach your preferred ripeness, put them in the refrigerator. Even though our original jingle warned consumers not to refrigerate bananas, it’s really OK. The skin may turn dark, but the fruit will be just right for several days.” (It doesn’t say anything about them having to be stored in the crisper drawer.)
Corn: Being from a family of corn growers, I know this one without having to reference anything. In husk, use it the day you buy it. If you’re not going to use it that same day, remove the husk, vacuum seal it, and store it in the freezer.
Bell peppers: According to the Texas Produce Association, bell peppers can handle short-term storage for seven days or less at 45-50 degrees with 85-95 percent humidity. If you store a pepper below 42 degrees it will suffer from chill injury. (Which means that I need to use peppers the day I buy them. My refrigerator sits below 42 degrees.) Additionally, don’t store next to apples because of a chemical reaction.
Tomatoes: According to the Penn State Agriculture Dept., tomatoes should be stored in an aerated basket on your counter, out of direct sunlight. Putting them in the refrigerator will cause them to lose their aroma and flavor.
Potatoes: According to the Delicious Organic website, “Because their starch turns to sugar in the refrigerator, they should be kept in a dark, dry, cool area like a cellar or a brown bag. However, out of sight, out of mind, and our south Florida temperatures cause them to sprout too quickly and we don’t have cellars so what to do? Store them in the refrigerator but let them come to room temperature for a day (take them out in the morning) so that their sugar can return to starch.”
Herbs and lettuce: According to the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension, “Lettuce should be rinsed under cold running water, drained, packaged in plastic bags, and refrigerated.” The refrigerator should be at least 40ºF or lower, and you should eat the greens within a week. Do not freeze.
Onions: According to the Foodservice Guide, “Store your onions in a cool, dry ventilated place–not in the refrigerator. Lack of air movement reduces storage life. Chopped or sliced onions can be stored in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to 7 days.” Do not freeze.
After looking at all of the research, I couldn’t find a single reason to keep my crisper. So, my refrigerator is now crisper-drawer free. I’ve pulled out the drawers and have deep shelves where they used to be. Rotten food is the epitome of clutter, so hopefully I’m starting out the year on the right foot with my refrigerator’s organization.
Additionally, if you want to read more about uncluttering your refrigerator, check out Serious Eats’ post on How to unclutter your winter fridge.