Handling and
Storing Fruits and
Vegetables at Home
Guidelines for Storing Produce
• Harvest fruits and vegetables at optimum
maturity for best storage. Only a few fruits ripen after
• Use produce that is free from evidence of
disease or severe insect damage.
• Avoid cutting or bruising.
• Leave an inch of stem on most vegetables.
• Store late-maturing varieties & those suited
for storage.
Plant Biology
Fruits and vegetables come from all parts of a
• Seeds and pods – peas, beans
• Bulbs - onions
• Stems – celery, rhubarb
• Leaves – leafy greens
• Roots & tubers – potatoes, sweet potatoes
Life of a Plant
Growth _ _ _ _
_ _ _____Maturation
_ _ Ripening_ _ _
_ _ _ _Senescence
Is it a fruit or a vegetable?
These fruits are most commonly consumed
as if they were vegetables: cucumber,
tomato, eggplant and avocado.
And rhubarb, a vegetable, is most
commonly consumed as if it were a fruit!
Postharvest Handling of
Harvested fruits and vegetables are living
• Respiration:
Glucose + O2
CO2 + H2O + Heat
• Transpiration:
Tissues lose water as they breathe
Postharvest Respiration
Fruit Respiration Patterns
•Climacteric fruits exhibit a burst of respiration
as senescence begins. This burst of respiration
is triggered by the plant hormone ethylene.
(apples, avocadoes, bananas, pears, peaches,
•Non-climacteric fruits exhibit a decline in
respiration through ripening and senescence.
(blueberries, cherries, citrus, cucumbers, grapes,
pineapple, strawberries)
Quality & Temperature
Refrigeration slows respiration, extending
shelf life and preserving quality. The right
temperature can maintain the proper starch-sugar
Sweet Corn & Peas: sugar is desired in these crops;
warm temperatures allow sugar to be converted to
starch  store cool (38ºF)
Potatoes: starch is desired; cold temperatures allow
breakdown of starch to sugar  store warm (52º F)
Chill Injury
•Refrigerating some fruits and vegetables
(tomatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas), causes chill
•Signs of chill injury are pitting of the skin
(eggplant, tomatoes), browning of the flesh
(avocadoes, bananas, sweet potatoes), and watersoaked areas (cucumbers).
•Refrigeration causes
toxic products to accumulate
in the tissue, and cells die.
Store these crops at room
temperature for best
Quality & Water Content
Maintaining tissue moisture levels is
important for quality.
• Maintain the natural waxy cuticle –
an edible wax is applied to tomatoes,
cucumbers, citrus fruits, apples and
• Package to maintain moisture
• Lower the temperature to reduce
respiration and transpiration water
Induce Ripening with Ethylene
Situation: Climacteric fruits like bananas
and apples will ‘ripen’ if exposed to
• Avocadoes, bananas, pears and other
fruits can be forced to go through some
changes associated with ripening by
exposing them to ethylene gas.
• At home, hasten ripening of fruits by
enclosing them in a paper bag!
Preventing Disease During Storage
• Most fruits and vegetables will resist
disease as long as the skin is intact.
• Before storage, carefully inspect produce
for cuts, bruises and signs of decay.
• Maintaining the correct moisture level is
also important.
 Do not attempt to preserve damaged
Successful Storage Begins in
the Garden
• Harvest early in the day, but after dew
is gone
• Gently remove soil
• Sort produce
• Wash, if necessary, and dry
Maximizing Storage Life
• Maintain moisture but not too much!
• Remove diseased produce
• Store at ideal temperature & avoid
temperature extremes
– Cold & moist: 32°F-40°F & 95% humidity
(apples, broccoli, spinach)
– Cold & dry: 32°F-40°F & 65% humidity(onions,
– Cool and dry: 50°F-60°F & 60% humidity
(winter squash, pumpkins)
–  See Storing Fruits and Vegetables from the
Home Garden (UWEX A3823)
Storage Compatibility
‘Beware’ of strong odors – don’t store cut
onions near apples or potatoes
Ethylene-producing fruits can damage
other produce – don’t store apples near lettuce,
asparagus, beans
Humidity and temperature requirements
can vary
Building a Storage Area
• Outdoor storage – in-garden storage,
mounds or pits, or buried containers
• Indoor storage – basement, cellar,
attic….you choose!
 See Storing Vegetables and Fruits at
Home (Washington State EB1326)
Safety First!
Avoid foodborne illness with careful handling
• Purchase undamaged produce
• Purchase cut produce only if surrounded by
ice and kept cold
• Bag fruits and vegetables separately from
meat and poultry
• Wash all produce before eating or preparing
• Use clean cutting boards and utensile
Wash…For Safety
Wash hands and surfaces well
Rinse all produce under running water; do
not use soap
Scrub the surface of melons, potatoes, and
thick-skinned produce items
Gently rinse berries
Remove outer leaves of leafy greens
Remove tops of carrots and beets, and
stems, where appropriate
Safety Tips & Questions
• Avoid sprouted seeds
• Avoid unpasteurized juices
• Avoid cut melons held at room
• Wash bagged produce, just for
• Refrigerate all leftovers

Master Food Preserver Training