Do you toss vegetables, fruits, cheese, beer, and whatever else in those deep, ambiguous drawers at the bottom of your refrigerator. It is all great till you have a sticky mess on the bottom of the drawer. Finding this, might tell you it is time to clean your refrigerator once again. It might also say you are not using your crisper drawers in the best way. Knowing the difference of where and why to best store things, will give longer shelf life to your goodies.
Why a crisper drawer?
Crisper drawers prolong the freshness of your produce by controlling the the humidity levels. Each drawer works independently with one being better suited for vegetables and the other for fruits. There will normally be a dial ranging from low to high. This opens and closes a small window in the drawer controlling the airflow. The low setting opens the window allowing air to flow through, creating a low-humidity atmosphere. The high setting closes the window thus reducing airflow to create a high-humidity atmosphere. If you don’t have controls, the default setting is normally high-humidity as there is no way to control the airflow. In some refrigerators, the drawers will be labeled as “fruits” and “vegetables”, based on the pre-set humidity level for each.
What produce is best kept in low humidity?
Certain fruits and vegetables release ethylene, a naturally occurring gas that promotes ripening. Being that the goal is to keep your produce fresh, this ethylene needs a way to escape to prevent premature ripening. That’s why the trick for speeding up the ripening process for bananas or avocados is to place them in a closed paper bag, or other closed container, trapping the ethylene gas inside.
Besides bananas and avocados, examples of other ethylene-releasing produce that you should store in your “low-humidity” drawer include: apples, apricots, blueberries, cantaloupes, cranberries, figs, grapes, honeydew, kiwi, mangoes, peaches, pears, plantains, and plums. Potatoes and tomatoes fit in this category if for some reason you have them in the refrigerator. Because this list is comprised mostly of fruits, if your drawers are labeled, these produce items would intuitively belong in the fruit drawer.
What produce is best kept in high humidity?
Fruits and vegetables that are particularly sensitive to ethylene should be stored in the “high-humidity” drawer in order to keep the away from the produce items that release the gas. These might include asparagus, blackberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplants, onions, peppers, raspberries, squash, sweet potatoes, strawberries, and watermelon. Ethylene-sensitive produce, be it a fruit or vegetable, should be stored in the drawer labeled “vegetables.”
This closed environment is great for produce that wilts easily or dries out quickly. The high humidity-drawer is a space that retains moisture well for leafy greens such as spinach, kale, various lettuce varieties, and Swiss chard. Herbs like thyme, rosemary, parsley, and dill tend to dry out quickly without moisture, they should be stored in this drawer. Wrapping your herbs in a damp paper towel and storing them in a zip-top plastic bag is a way to preserve their freshness.