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17 Fruits and Veggies That Last the Longest

17 Fruits and Veggies That Last the Longest

If you’re loading up on groceries for any reason, it’s important to know that some fruits and vegetables stay fresh longer than others. And there are several factors that can impact how long produce lasts, according to Elizabeth Mitcham, Ph.D., Director of Postharvest Technology Center at U.C. Davis and Ricardo Badia, Ph.D., an expert in food waste, food security, and cold chain:

1. Travel time and distance. “As a general rule the closer to harvest you get it, the longer it will last, so locally grown could last longer,” Mitcham explains.

2. Storage. How you store produce also greatly affects how long it stays fresh — and not everything should go in the fridge. Long-lasting root vegetables, such as potatoes and onions, fare better in cool, dark spaces.

3. Organic vs. conventional. Organic produce may spoil faster than conventional, since it’s not treated with the same waxes or preservatives.

4. Handling. Bruising and/or cutting can also speed up the expiration date of fresh fruits and vegetables.

5. Home vs. commercial refrigeration. When it comes to refrigeration times, there’s a difference between commercial storage — which has been extensively researched — and consumer storage, which is not well-studied, and typically yields shorter preservation times.

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Fresh Fruits That Last the Longest

Some fruits lend themselves to longer room-temperature storage, while others can be refrigerated or frozen for maximum shelf life.

Apples

how long does produce last - apples

These fiber-filled fruits have a notoriously long shelf life, Badia explains. Fortunately, studies have found such extended storage has little effect on their phytochemicals (a.k.a. the stuff that keeps the doctor away).

Apples have a very slow respiration rate compared to other produce, such as broccoli and Brussel sprouts, for example, which respirate much faster,” Badia says. Respiration is the process by which sugar and oxygen are converted into CO2, water, and heat, causing produce to eventually rot or spoil. “Cutting or injuring fruits and vegetables also speeds up respiration,” says Badia.

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): 1-3 weeks

Fridge (40°F or below): 4-6 weeks

Freezer (0°F or below): 8-12 months

Pears

how long does produce last - asian pear

This solid source of fiber and vitamin C reaches ideal taste and texture when it’s not left to ripen on the tree (where it can become mealy and gross). So it’s actually better to buy pears unripened.

“Once you get them home, European pears will last one to two weeks in the fridge and Asian pears can last four weeks in the fridge,” says Mitcham. “I also wouldn’t recommend you leave European pears at room temperature unless you’re planning to eat them soon,” says Mitcham. “[That’s] a way to ripen them, not store them.”

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): 1-2 days (once ripe)

Fridge (40°F or below): 1-4 weeks

Freezer (0°F or below): Not recommended

Cranberries

how long does produce last - cranberries

Unlike strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, which get mushy after a few days, cranberries enjoy a much longer shelf life. “In your home fridge, they could last up to two months,” Mitcham says.

You’ll get the most benefit from fresh cranberries over the dried variety, but you need to cook them before consuming to minimize the chance of digestive discomfort.

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): Not recommended

Fridge (40°F or below): up to 2 months

Freezer (0°F or below): Not recommended

Pumpkins

how long does produce last - cooked pumpkins

“Pumpkins could last two to three months in home storage,” says Mitcham. “In the fridge, 40 degrees is really too low a temperature for pumpkin, so storing them at room temperature is recommended, and 50 to 60 degrees is optimal.”

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): 2-3 months

Fridge (40°F or below): Not recommended

Freezer (0°F or below): Not recommended

Oranges

how long does produce last - orange

Oranges rate slightly lower in hardiness than some other citrus fruits like lemons (1 to 6 months), but can still hang out for 12 weeks in commercial storage without degrading, depending on the variety. “At home, you can keep oranges for up to three weeks in the fridge,” says Mitcham.

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): 10 days

Fridge (40°F or below): 10-21 days

Freezer (0°F or below): 2-3 months

Watermelon

how long does produce last - watermelon

“An uncut watermelon will stay good for two to three weeks at 45 to 50 degrees,” says Mitcham. At a warmer temperature — 59 to 65 — you can get about two weeks.” “Watermelons are chilling sensitive, so after a week in the fridge at temps below 45, you might see some damage.”

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): 1-3 weeks

Fridge (40°F or below): 1 week (uncut); 2-4 days (cut)

Freezer (0°F or below): Not recommended

Grapes

how long does produce last - grapes

“Grapes are often treated with sulfur dioxide to prevent mold, which is the top reason grapes go bad,” he explains. The trick to prolonging shelf life is keeping them on the stem and rinsing them only when you’re about to eat them. “One week in the fridge is probably realistic,” says Mitcham.

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): 1 day

Fridge (40°F or below): 1 week

Freezer (0°F or below): 1 month

 

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Fresh Vegetables That Last the Longest

Maximizing vegetable longevity often involves additional measures like blanching. So aim for the lower end of the range when employing normal storage methods.

Carrots

how long does produce last - baby carrots

Mature carrots can last three to six months in commercial storage. “They could last three to four weeks in your home fridge,” says Mitcham.

“It’s important to note that a lot of these numbers might be shorter though if you’re talking about organic produce.” If you buy a bunch of carrots with leaves attached, be sure to trim those off as they’ll spoil faster.

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): Not recommended

Fridge (40°F or below): 3-4 weeks

Freezer (0°F or below): 10-12 months

Celery

how long does produce last - celery

“Store-bought celery should last two to three weeks in your fridge,” says Badia. “It can stay fresh five to seven weeks, starting from the moment it leaves the field,” but he notes that it is customarily cut, which increases respiration and loss of water.

Badia suggests putting clean and cut pieces of celery in water to keep it moisturized. That will push the limits of its shelf life, which also keeps it crisp. Staying hydrated is good for you — and for celery!

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): Not recommended

Fridge (40°F or below): 2-3 weeks

Freezer (0°F or below): 10-12 months

Onions

how long does produce last - red onion

Onions are some the most low-maintenance veggies you can buy. They store for up to seven months commercially, depending on type. “There are spring onions, which have a pretty short shelf life, and dry onions,” says Mitcham.

“At home, dry onions can last two weeks or up to four weeks in a dry, dark place, but they should never be stored in the fridge unless they’ve been chopped. I also wouldn’t freeze them unless they’ve been peeled and sliced or chopped.”

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): 1 month

Fridge (40°F or below): 2 months

Freezer (0°F or below): 10-12 months

Potatoes

how long does produce last - potatoes

White potatoes will last four to nine months in commercial storage and sweet potatoes will last six to 10 months. “You can keep white potatoes for two to four weeks in a dark, dry place at home,” says Mitcham. “Do not store white or sweet potatoes in the fridge.” Fortunately, potatoes give you plenty of time to get creative without refrigeration!

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): up to 1 month

Fridge (40°F or below): Not recommended

Freezer (0°F or below): up to 10 months

Beets

how long does produce last - beets

Beets can last three to five months under optimal storage conditions (i.e. commercial refrigerator or a root cellar). If you’re planning on keeping them for the long haul though, it’s best to cut off the leafy tops and stems (which are edible, just not as resilient). “When you cut off the leaves — and this tip also applies to radishes — be sure to clip the stems, but not cut into the actual beet,” says Mitcham.

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): Not recommended

Fridge (40°F or below): 1-2 weeks

Freezer (0°F or below): 3-5 months

Cabbage

how long does produce last - cabbage

This hearty cruciferous veggie can keep for up to six months in commercial storage. “At home, you might get two to three weeks in the fridge,” says Mitcham.

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): Not recommended

Fridge (40°F or below): 2-3 weeks

Freezer (0°F or below): Not recommended

Winter squash

how long does produce last - squash

From butternut to acorn, winter squash varieties will keep for two to six months in commercial storage depending on the type — which is all the more reason to finally dig out that spiralizer sitting in the back of your cupboard.

“Personally, I think winter squash should be stored at room temperature. I think the fridge is a bit too cold, and they store for quite a long time outside of it. They could last four to six weeks at home,” says Mitcham.

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): 4-6 weeks

Fridge (40°F or below): 1-3 months

Freezer (0°F or below): Not recommended

 

Fresh Leafy Greens That Last the Longest

Greens aren’t the most strapping of produce, but you might be surprised by how long some can keep.

Living lettuce

Hydroponically grown (i.e. in water without soil) living lettuce comes with roots still attached. In your fridge, some report that it can last 18 days or longer.

If you’re not consuming it all at once, the best method is to break off a few leaves at a time. (Although it has roots attached, you shouldn’t try to replant it.)

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): Not recommended

Fridge (40°F or below): Up to 20 days

Freezer (0°F or below): Not recommended

Romaine

how long does produce last - romaine lettuce

Romaine lettuce is crisp and delightful and contains bone-building vitamin K. “It will last 14 to 20 days — growers usually put 18 days,” says Badia. “It lasts longer when you buy it whole versus in a salad mix because romaine is very sensitive to abrasion, which accelerates the decay.”

Prepackaged salad mixes, especially ones with chopped leaves, always deliver shorter shelf lives than whole veggies that you store, wash, and prep yourself before eating. “Whenever you buy fruits and vegetables whole and cut them at home, they’ll last longer,” Mitcham explains.

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): Not recommended

Fridge (40°F or below): up to 20 days

Freezer (0°F or below): Not recommended

Kale

how long does produce last - kale

This dark-green veggie from the cruciferous family stays fresh longer than many leafy greens. It has a shelf life of 10 to 14 days in commercial storage, proving this trendy veggie has staying power. “In your home, it could last seven to 10 days in the fridge,” Mitcham says.

Room temp. (50 to 70°F): Not recommended

Fridge (40°F or below): 7-10 days

Freezer (0°F or below): 10-12 months

 

Should You Freeze Your Own Fresh Produce?

Throwing a chopped overripe banana or some mushy berries in the freezer to make smoothies or banana bread isn’t the worst idea for those loath to waste food. But it’s not optimal for preserving taste and texture.

When it comes to quality and freshness, the better option is to buy fruits and vegetables that are already frozen. “Basically, your home freezer isn’t equipped to freeze produce correctly,” explains Badia. “Freezing fruits and vegetables is a specialized process done in stages by companies in the food preservation industry to make food last longer and keep the nutrients intact.”

So stick to fresh fruits and vegetables from the produce section and frozen fruits and vegetables from the freezer aisle. And for guidance on safe handling and storage of produce and other foods, the government’s FoodKeeper app is a useful resource on specific storage timelines for the fridge, freezer, and pantry.

cemile kavountz

About

Cemile has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing about everything from style icons to fancy sinks. She studied at Boston University, and has written for New York magazine, GQ, Travel + Leisure, Women’s Health, WIRED, Food + Wine, Surface, Fortune, and Entertainment Weekly. Follow her on Instagram

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