Storing your food properly is one of the keys to extending its life. You might think that you can toss all food together in a fruit bowl or basket, but that would be wrong. Some produce shouldn’t be stored together.
When you put all of your food together, you’re dooming it from the start. Some foods contain a gas called ethylene, and it can destroy other fruits and vegetables around it.
Let’s look at what ethylene does to produce and what foods you cannot store together.
Why Some Produce Can’t Be Stored Together
Ethylene is a gas that is emitted by fruits and vegetables as they ripen. Most plants produce ethylene, but the amount varies based on the tissue each has.
It’s also more common for fruits to contain more ethylene than vegetables.
Your goal is to store the high ethylene-producing crops away from the sensitive produce. If you store these foods in your kitchen, you typically want to keep the ethylene producers in fruit bowls and the ethylene sensitive foods in the refrigerator.
Of course, that doesn’t always work. You don’t store potatoes and onions in the refrigerator, and they need to be stored separately from each other, despite what you might have been told.
Here’s everything you need to know about what produce you can and can’t store together.
19 Foods You Should Never Store Together
We’re going to look at the foods that produce the most ethylene along with the foods that are most sensitive to this gas.
1. Apples – Ethylene Producing
Apples are one of the fruits that make the most ethylene, so they need to be stored away from your other produce, unless you’re trying to ripen something like avocado or persimmon.
So, whether you’re storing your apples in your kitchen or in the root cellar, keep them separated.
Ethylene also affects the apple based on when the apple was harvested. If you harvest your apples before reaching a peak harvest, the ethylene can scald the apples, making the skin turn brown.
You can keep apples in the pantry for up to four weeks or in the refrigerator for up to six weeks. They also last up to four months in proper root cellar storage or eight months in the freezer.
2. Asparagus – Ethylene Sensitive
Ethylene increases chemicals in the asparagus, which toughens the spears or turns the vegetable yellow. You can store them in the refrigerator for up to one week.
3. Avocados – Ethylene Producer
Avocados don’t ripen on the tree, which makes picking them at the right time harder. After the avocado comes off the tree, it starts to produce ethylene and increases as the avocado starts to ripen.
4. Bananas – Ethylene Producer
Everyone knows that finding the right storing length for bananas can be hard. One day, your bananas are green, and then two days later, they’re too brown for your toddler to eat happily.
Once your bananas hit your ripeness preference, they only stay good for about three days.
Bananas release ethylene from the stem, so if possible, keep the banana stems wrapped with plastic.
5. Broccoli – Ethylene Sensitive
If you store broccoli with high ethylene producers, you can reduce the shelf life by 50% – that’s a lot! Your broccoli might only last three to four days in the refrigerator if you store it with ethylene producers
You’ll notice the florets turning yellow faster and they may turn bitter unless you store them properly.
6. Brussels Sprouts – Ethylene Sensitive
Brussels sprouts are a member of the same family as cabbage, and they produce a small amount of ethylene compared to other vegetables.
If you store your brussels sprouts with high ethylene producer, you’ll notice that the sprouts start to turn yellow faster, and the leaves might detach. Be sure to store them away from ethylene producers.
7. Carrots – Ethylene Sensitive
Most people know that carrots can last for a long term in storage, but they also make the list of foods you should never store with ethylene producers because they’re ethylene sensitive.
When exposed to higher levels of this gas, carrots develop a bitter flavor.
In a root cellar, carrots can store for up to four months. If you put them in the refrigerator, they store for up to three weeks, but exposure to ethylene decreases the shelf life. Typically, they’ll only last two weeks before their flavor alters.
8. Cauliflower – Ethylene Sensitive
Similar to broccoli, cauliflower is sensitive to ethylene. In the presence of ethylene, cauliflower will start to turn yellow, and the leaves detach from the stalks.
Remember, don’t store ethylene-sensitive produce with apples, melons, or other similar fruits and vegetables. If you don’t separate them, your cauliflower head will only last less than a week.
9. Cucumbers – Ethylene Sensitive
Cucumbers are in the gourd family, which are all sensitive to ethylene. In the presence of high ethylene, they’ll turn yellow at a faster rate and decay sooner. This is especially true when stored around bananas and tomatoes.
You can expect cucumbers stored away from ethylene to last a week or longer, but their shelf life will be much shorter when stored with high ethylene producers.
10. Honeydew – Ethylene Producer
Most melons, including honeydew, produce ethylene. However, some others, such as cantaloupe, don’t. Don’t assume all melons behave like honeydew.
Honeydew ripens slower when cut, but the ethylene production increases. Don’t store them together, especially cut, with sensitive produce.
11. Lettuce & Leafy Greens – Ethylene Sensitive
Most leafy greens are ethylene sensitive. When exposed, the leaves might start to discolor and turn bitter.
Greens rarely last longer than two weeks if stored without ethylene producers. A head lasts longer than loose leaves. With an ethylene producer, that time is greatly reduced.
12. Mangoes – Ethylene Producer
Compared to other fruits, mangoes produce a smaller amount of ethylene, but it still ripens with this gas. You typically can store mangoes in the pantry for up to one week and up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
13. Onions – Ethylene Sensitive
Like potatoes, onions have a long shelf life, which is why many people try to store potatoes and onions together. That’s a bad idea because potatoes produce a small amount of ethylene.
If you store onions with potatoes, the onions will start to sprout and will eventually develop fungi on the skin.
If you store onions away from potatoes, they typically can last two months in the pantry and up to six months in a root cellar. You can store them even longer in the refrigerator than in the pantry. Storing your onions with potatoes can cut the shelf life in half.
14. Pears – Ethylene Producer
Pears ripen faster when in warmer temperatures, so the best way to extend the pears’ lives is to put them in a colder environment. Doing so reduces ethylene production.
If you are keeping pears in your root cellar, make sure to separate them from ethylene producers and keep them cold so that they can last up to three months.
15. Peaches & Plums – Ethylene Producer
These fruits create a similar amount of ethylene. When peaches and plums are unripe, they produce very little ethylene, but as they start to ripen, the ethylene production increases rapidly.
Typically, peaches and plums only store two to five days on the counter, but they can store up to one week in the refrigerator or two months in the freezer. Just be sure not to store this produce together with things that are sensitive to ethylene.
16. Potatoes – Ethylene Producer
Both regular and sweet potatoes create small amount of ethylene, but when the potatoes are chilled, wounded, or start to decay, the ethylene production increases.
Potatoes have a long storage life when stored properly. In the pantry, you can expect your potatoes to last around two months, but they can store up to six months in the root cellar.
17. Pumpkins & Squashes – Ethylene Sensitive
Believe it or not, despite the hard rinds on pumpkins and winter squashes, they’re sensitive to ethylene. When exposed to ethylene-producing crops, it’ll cause the interior to ripen quickly.
Pumpkins and winter squashes are known to last for months in a root cellar, typically up to six months. Stored in your warmer pantry, pumpkins last two to three months, and winter squashes store for a similar amount of time.
You can expect to cut the storage life in half when storing them with ethylene-producing crops. Make sure to add them to your list produce you should never store together with ethylene producers.
18. Strawberries – Ethylene Producer
Unlike most high ethylene-producing crops, strawberries don’t start to make ethylene until they’re picked at peak ripeness. Don’t store strawberries outside of the refrigerator.
Instead, put them in the refrigerator and make sure that there aren’t any ethylene sensitive crops nearby. Most strawberries can last in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for a year.
19. Tomatoes – Ethylene Producer
Tomatoes are a moderate ethylene producer; they can be stored in the pantry for up to a week as they ripen. The amount of ethylene created tends to increase as the fruits continue to ripen.
The biggest concern is how the ethylene produced by tomatoes will negatively affect vegetables and fruits close by. Store tomatoes together with other ethylene-producing fruits.
Did you know that it’s not recommended to store tomatoes in the refrigerator? Doing so can negatively affect the flavor, so make sure you don’t store them like that. You can either put tomatoes in the pantry or the freezer, where they can keep for up to two months.
It’s important to know which foods are ethylene-producing and which are ethylene-sensitive. That’s how you figure out which fruits and vegetables you shouldn’t store together. Doing so helps your foods last longer in storage than if you mixed everything.