Refrigerate Which Veggies?
I have been debating forever about whether or not to refrigerate certain vegetables, specifically tomatoes, cucumbers and mushrooms. I'm also curious about parsley and lemons. Any insight in how to store any fresh veg would be helpful of course.
Thanks, I know you guys will know for sure!
In the USA (where I'm native), I find that different regional cultures differ a lot on these points. The basic dividing line is that some people refrigerate basically everything, whereas others (like me) like to keep things room temp or cellar temp wherever possible.
Given how central tomatoes are to Italian-American cuisine, I was surprised to find that all of the northeastern Italian-American families that I know tend to put tomatoes in the fridge. (Maybe I've got a limited sample, though.) I honestly think they prize neat counters over taste in those cases.
Here’s a good rule of thumb. If you bought it from the refrigerated part of the produce section then refrigerate it when you get home. The real question is how do you store it in the refrigerator? I leave them in the plastic bags without sealing it. They need some air or they will start to go off. Tomatoes need to ripen in order to taste like tomatoes, if that even possible this time of year. Refrigeration slows down the ripening of most produce.
Absolutely not on tomatoes. Cukes-yes, definitely. I like them much better chilled. Lemons are as needed. I live in the desert and don't crank the air conditioner, so they get iffy in the summer if left on the counter. Parsley and mushrooms I do refrigerate but I don't really have a good reason-my mom did so I do. So if anyone else has tried those both ways I'll be curious to hear data.
Your profile does not say where you live. I'm not nosey, this is important. Climates vary - hot & humid will have different storage requirements from cold/dry.
I live in the desert southwest. Right now, it is lovely - 80s during the day so the windows are open. Lemons and tomatoes live on my counter. Rarely, if ever, do I refrigerate a tomato. It's still fresh lemon season here and a freshly harvested lemon will last a couple of weeks before I stash it in the crisper. Mushrooms are wrapped in a paper bag & stored in the fridge. Cucumbers are in the crisper but when it's cooler, I can leave them on the counter. Parsley - and other fresh herbs - are treated like cut flowers. I re-cut their stems, put them in a glass of water and loosely tent them with a plastic bag. I do the same with asparagus.
Storage will also depend on how long you plan to keep the vegs as well as how fresh it was when you got it. A tired cucumber won't keep very long but a freshly harvested cuke is good for a couple of weeks. There are a lot of variables in your seemingly simple question.
Not tomatoes. They go pasty and mealy. If you have already cut or chopped them, go ahead, but use them quickly and don't expect much from them. Lemons love the fridge. Other than that, I agree with everything everyone else says. Oh, and the parsley can be treated like cut flowers - placed in a little water upright in the fridge.
I heard somewhere that tomatoes loose flavor in the fridge, so if I have really good tomatoes from a market, I normally leave them exposed on the counter (although not in plastic bags or they will mold). I think they last fairly long this way. I am curious if others have heard the same...
Any time I buy fancy mushrooms from my local mushroom growers or a gourmet shop , they put the mushrooms in a paper bag. I was told that they are best stored this way in the fridge. I want my mushrooms dry...not moist; moisture is the enemy of mushrooms.
Lemons seem to last longer in the fridge, but can easily last a week or more on the counter. Sometimes, if I have an excess of citrus I keep it in a bag outside on our balcony; last year a bag of meyer lemons I got from a friend lasted a month or two out there.
I am still undecided on the best way to store herbs and cucumbers myself... nothing I've tried has made much of a difference, so I am anxious to see what others say.
Tomatoes: oh hell no
Mushrooms: yes, in a paper or breathable plastic bag (the crinkly kind with a grid of small holes: mushrooms get slimy in regular plastic bags)
Parsley: yes, wrapped in a lightly damp paper towel in an open ziploc
Lemons: depends how long you're planning on having them around. If you're going to use them within a week or so of purchase, just keep 'em in a bowl on the counter. Longer-term storage, refrigerate.
I refrigerate all of those on your list. Tomatoes and lemons only after they've been cut. For most vegetables, the best place to store them is in the crisper. I wrap parsley in paper towels, then in a plastic bag, and put them in the crisper. Mushrooms get store in my refrigerated section, not the crisper. I cover them loosely with plastic wrap to keep them moist. Store in a paper bag or exposed dries them out. Cucumbers go to the crisper. Eventhough I do sometimes store tomatoes in the fridge, I prefer to leave them in the open with my other fruit on the counter. I have a nice large open weave bowl shaped container that holds a good supply of fruit and the tomatoes get used quite soon after purchasing so they hold well under those conditions.