Produce tips: Cleaning, storing & using

Fresh Produce Tips: cleaning, storing and using / @loveandlemons

Once or twice a week, I get a huge bounty of fresh produce. My Farmhouse box arrives every other Wednesday, and I shop my local farmers market on Saturdays. Over the years I’ve learned a few strategies for cleaning, storing and using fruits and vegetables to make sure everything lasts throughout the week. I absolutely hate throwing food away. I know you do too, so I’m hoping you find this little guide helpful to avoid food-waste for yourself.

We’ve partnered with McCormick to share these tips as well as a few easy ideas to whip up farm-fresh dishes using their Gourmet dried herbs & spices.

Fresh Produce Cleaning Tips / @loveandlemons


1. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables (except mushrooms) in cold running water. Clean mushrooms with a damp cloth to gently remove the dirt.

2. I like to wash leafy greens in a large bowl so any dirt can fall to the bottom.

3. Dry salad leaves in a spinner or just lay them on a towel for 20 or so minutes.

4. Scrub root veggies (sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.) with a brush to remove dirt. Or just rinse & peel, but I like to preserve the nutrients by leaving skins on.

5. Except for leafy salad greens, fruits and vegetables should be washed just before you’re ready to use it, (i.e. not days in advance).

Storing Fresh Produce / @loveandlemons


1. Certain vegetables (and fruits) contain a gas called ethylene. Ethylene triggers the ripening process and will deteriorate some veggies faster. My #1 storage tip is to make sure you store ethylene-producing vegetables separate from ethylene-sensitive vegetables.

ethylene-producing produce: apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, melons, mango, peaches, pears, tomatoes.

ethylene-sensitive produce: apples, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, eggplants, green beans, leafy greens, potatoes, summer squash.

2. Store veggies un-cut to last the longest. Cut produce should be tightly covered and used within 1-2 days.

3. Below are a few storage suggestions. This is just a rule of thumb – your vegetables may last longer or shorter depending on when (and where) they were picked and when you took them home.

Storing Fresh Produce / @loveandlemons Storing Fresh Produce / @loveandlemons spicing up fresh produce / @loveandlemons


At the start of the week (with the freshest fruits & veggies):

I always use up my most fragile produce first. Early in the week I make salads from crisp lettuces, cucumbers, peppers, and lightly roasted summer or winter squash. I start the week off with lightly cooked meals while produce is at peak freshness. For example:

Salads with chili-lime dressing: whisk olive oil, lime, honey, and chili powder.

Sliced veggie plates with hummus: blend chickpeas with olive oil, lemon, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin & coriander.

Simple pasta: lightly sauté summer squash with basil, oregano & parmesan.

using up leftover veggies / @loveandlemons

Toward the end of the week (with any veggies that are left):

I usually end up with a random assortment of (lightly wilted) veggies to use up. I often make frittatas or stir fries but, especially now that it’s fall, my favorite go-to meal is soup. Chop everything up and toss it in a big soup pot with olive oil, salt & pepper. Cook veggies until lightly browned, add a splash of white wine (or white wine vinegar) and let it cook out (2-3 minutes). Add vegetable broth and simmer until all veggies are cooked through. Create different flavor profiles by changing just a few spices and pantry items:

Mediterranean: add crushed red pepper, bay leaves, oregano & a can of tomatoes. (Click for the full recipe).

Mexican/southwestern: add coriander, chili powder, cumin & black beans for a soup that’s similar to this vegetarian chili.

Indian: add madras curry, turmeric, cayenne & a can of coconut milk for a creamy curried soup similar to this one.

spicing up fresh produce / @loveandlemons

This post is sponsored by McCormick. All thoughts, words and images are my own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that support Love and Lemons.


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  1. Melissa from

    This post is definitely getting bookmarked. Despite dealing with some of the same veggies every season, I still find myself asking google “how to store…” before I put my veggies away. Thank you for the great reference page!

    • jeanine

      you’re welcome!

  2. Thanks for the tips! Some of my fruits and veggies have been known to go bad before I can use them. I’m working on doing more kitchen and cooking tips on my blog, so it’s inspiring to see how helpful it is to others.

  3. Heather from

    I hate throwing out food but do it far too much so these tips are great! Until recently I’d been putting my tomatoes in the fridge – they really do taste so much better when you leave them out on the counter.

    • jeanine

      I know, it’s hard sometimes to use everything up on time! Tomatoes are the one rule I never break – they don’t last super long but they taste so much better left out of the fridge 🙂

  4. Thanks for the great tips! I really avoid to throw out food, so I use up as much as possible – even if the veggies don’t look so nice any more. Wrinkled bell peppers and tomatoes are just fine in a ratatouille or a veggie-lasagna.

  5. Wow I was doing so much wrong, so helpful. Thank you for posting this!

  6. ale from

    Love the pictures! You make everything look so yummmmmmmyyyy!!!

  7. awesome post! I gotta stop storing my tomatoes in the fridge! what is the reason for that? Does it affect the flavor? Because I think they do last longer in the fridge.

    • jeanine

      yep – they lose their flavor and become bland really quickly.

  8. I <3 <3 <3 all the tips & tricks here cause I have always had problems with too much veggies I usually buy at Farmers Market. Thank youuuuu.

    P.S. I love those photos as always; simply wonderful 🙂

  9. I got hungry because of your photos! Fantastic website. Lots of helpful information here! Thank you! <3 I'm coming back soon!

  10. Susie

    Thank you so much for this post. So helpful. Wondering if you could also tell us where you got the big canvas bag? Looks like a great bag to use at the market!

    • jeanine

      Hi Susie, I got it for free somewhere (I turned it around so the logo that’s on it wouldn’t show in the photo) 🙂

      • Susie

        Thanks Jeanine. It does look like a great bag! Keep up the wonderful posts and recipes.

  11. Thanks for this super-detailed and clear post! You’ve actually told me something new about which veggies shouldn’t be stored together, and now my apples are resting comfortably in the fridge. Thanks!

  12. Crista from

    ha! i cut all the veggies i had and made them in to a soup tonight – great minds think alike 🙂

    i love this blog post, i’m going to bookmark it

  13. Christi

    So helpful. Thanks so much for the guides and recipe ideas.

  14. I just found your blog and love it. This is SUCH a useful reference—not to mention I now will save money by not throwing away produce gone bad quickly (thanks, especially, to the ethylene tip). Thanks for the great information.


  15. Great tips, Jeanine! Jealous of your highly organized spice drawer….mine is in shambles right now!

  16. AGS

    Excellent – love how you broke out how to “use up” – though, you might consider that we don’t all have tons of veggies left each week. An easy way to handle this, is to chop up/throw veggies into a big freezer bag and keep it in the freezer. Once it is full, you have the base for either a terrific veggie broth for cooking , or a soup.

    • jeanine

      Hi Ariel – you’re absolutely right – I actually do that too. I use the leftover (collected) frozen veggies in frittatas and leftover frozen greens for pesto.

  17. Lan

    Thank you so much for all these useful tips!

  18. Love this little cheat sheet! So smart to plan to use your fragile veggies first too, how have I never thought of that? We freeze all sorts of fruits and veggies and throw the frozen fruit in overnight oats and smoothies and the veggies into eggs and fritatas on the weekends. I’m always glad we saved them that weekend when I enjoy my eggs!

  19. Christina from

    I love this post. It is extremely informative, and I love the variance in tips. I always struggle with having certain produce go bad because I buy too much or use the wrong things first. I am very excited to try your seasonings for different kinds of soups! Thanks! I

  20. Christina from

    Im not sure why these showed up so many times. Sorry about that!

    • jeanine

      no worries! Hope you enjoy the soups!

  21. I love all these little diagrams. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  22. Emily

    The “green bags” by Debbie really do work for keeping veggies fresh longer. I also learned a trick recently for celery which is to wrap it in aluminum foil before you put it in the fridge. It really works! I was so tired of throwing out celery all the time.

  23. Bobbi

    Loved the tips just retired and doing more experimental menus. Your tips were extraordinarily helpful. Trying to work them into a grid for everyday reference

  24. Mandy

    I put my kale in a plastic grocery bag and spritz it down with water, then just tie the bag shut. My kale stays good for up to, and sometimes past, a week. I learned it off some you tube video on raw food. Works great!!!!

  25. Eva Brown from

    Your diagrams are great! I’m going to print, frame and hang them on my kitchen wall!

  26. Emma Hopper from

    So interesting article! I eat a lot of vegetables just because I have a garden at the back of my yard. I love the part with the cleaning because sometimes we forget how important is to clean the production properly. Thanks a lot! Charlton Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

  27. Chloe Burns from

    This site is fantastic. Thanks for all the tips and the great vibe i got from your fine pictures.

  28. I’ve never had enough vegetables that I needed to store them, but I’m really trying to work on my food storage these days. That little earth quake in California a few weeks ago made me think about my emergency preparedness. I’d like to eventually have a good-sized food storage in its own room.

  29. B. Nicole from

    This article is lovely. With all these beautiful pictures and everything so clean. I can almost smell vegetables while reading it <3

  30. What camera did you use for these pictures? They are great! I’m looking for a new camera and I will be very happy if you answer me 🙂

    • jeanine

      thanks 🙂 We use a Canon 5d Mark 2

  31. Doris from

    Such a useful article! This year I’ve decided to freeze some of my home-grown fresh vegetables instead of buying cans or already freezed from the store, so this post will come in handy. Thanks for sharing!

  32. geet

    This is amazing! never knew about this before.
    crazy amazing, thanks for sharing

  33. rohit aggarwal

    thank you loveandlemons for giving me wonderful information

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.