How-To & Diy

A Handy Chart for How Long Fresh Produce Will Last

June 24, 2015

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: Stop letting your produce go to waste. Follow our guide for the week and enjoy your fruits and vegetables when they're at their best.

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It’s fun to spend a Saturday morning wandering through the farmers market, picking up whatever fruits and vegetables strike your fancy. But buying on a whim means you might not have a plan for everything, and it’s not always obvious which items should be used first.

To maximize the shelf life of your produce, take the time to store everything properly before you put it away. This doesn’t mean you need to wash everything—in fact, you shouldn’t. Most items will last longer if you don’t.

More: Berries are an exception, they’ll last much longer if you give them a diluted vinegar bath. Here’s how to do it.

On the other hand, the most important thing is that you’re actually eating the produce that you buy, so if you’re less likely to make a salad without washed greens at the ready or munch on a carrot unless it’s already washed and chopped into sticks, go ahead and wash and chop your vegetables—just know their shelf life will be reduced.

Remove any twist ties and rubber bands, and cut the greens off of any root crop that comes with edible greens on top (like radishes, carrots, beets, etc.). Store the two parts separately. Note that most produce that needs to be stored in the refrigerator is happiest stored in something, either loosely wrapped in a plastic bag or secured in a reusable container, rather than just tossed directly in the refrigerator.

Assuming you go shopping on Saturday morning, and all of your produce is perfectly ripe and ready to eat, follow the handy illustration below to help you decide what to eat when. (Don't you want to hang this guide in your kitchen? To print it, right click, then press print!)

Disclaimer: Your corn and tomatoes will likely still be edible 4 days after buying them (but their quality will also likely have suffered a little bit) and you might find your parsley and tarragon lasts just as long as your rosemary does. Storage times will depend on a number of factors, like how ripe the produce was when you bought it, how cold you keep your refrigerator, and how much effort you put into proper storage techniques. This is all to say that this list is by no means the final word on your produce's lifespan; it's merely intended to help you decide which produce to eat first. Please use common sense to determine whether items are still fit to eat and compost any produce that looks or smells past its prime, no matter when you bought it.

More: Three ways to start composting.

Tell us: What are your tricks for making the most of your fresh produce? 

Photos by James Ransom; illustration by Libby VanderPloeg

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • liliana
  • EL
  • James
  • isabel hansen
    isabel hansen
  • Lindsay-Jean Hard
    Lindsay-Jean Hard
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


liliana April 22, 2018
I would certainly appreciate a list of veggies according to how long they can be kept.
Roaming over the drawings may appeal to the aesthetic eye but is quite frustrating if you are looking for a particular veggie decision.
A chart would be much appreciated.
Lindsay-Jean H. April 23, 2018
Thanks for the feedback liliana, I get how that would be frustrating. This isn't a chart either, but an good post on the same topic that might be of interest if you haven't seen it before:
EL February 22, 2016
Interesting. The flow chart is very nice.

I notice that you don't have lettuce or spinach on your flow-chart, but they are two of the types of produce most commonly purchased (especially in early spring). I have found the two are not interchangeable with the spinach definitely rotting faster than lettuce (especially romaine). I also have not had problems with endive -- that is, I have been able to eat it up to a week after purchase as long as it is stored in the fridge.
James June 28, 2015
Thank you.
isabel H. June 24, 2015
Bunches of cut herbs such as parsley and cilanto will stay fresh up to several weeks if stored in refrigerator in a tall cup partly filled with water and covered loosely with a plastic bag.
J July 14, 2023
Same with asparagus! I a plastic bag loosely over the top and it lasts for at least a week in the fridge.
James June 24, 2015
I have been freezing or making a paste and refrigerate the berries all along. Blueberries, organic or not, seem to get fungus in a couple of days even if I washed them as soon as I got them. I should try that trick.

I know that other produce lasts longer when in a container. If you remove the air from the container and moisture from outside the produce, it lasts even longer, in the refrigerator. I don't have anything to suck the air out of the plastic bag but I just squeeze out as much as I can.
DS June 28, 2015
Re getting the air out of a plastic bag - remove as much as you can by compressing the bag around the contents. If it's a zip-loc, zip it until almost closed (maybe 1/2" left open, insert a straw and suck out the air while holding the bag opening tight around the straw. If not a zip-loc, just hold it around the straw as tight as possible while sucking the air out. Hope this helps!
James June 28, 2015
Thank you.