A guide to which vegetables spoil the fastest
Not all vegetables are created equal. Some hardy things like carrots and pumpkin can last for weeks or months, while others may wilt within a day of two of making it into your refrigerator.
This means that it is no surprise that nearly one third of the food we waste in New Zealand is vegetables.
It is important to understand which vegetables go off fastest, so you can make sure to eat them first. This is particularly important if you are only shopping once a week.
If you don’t shop regularly, make sure you buy a variety of vegetables from each section below to make sure you have a wide enough range to last until you do your next grocery shop. Check out our handy guide below which tells you which vegetables you need to eat first.
Things to eat within a day or two:
Fresh asparagus sounds squeaky when rubbed. If it does not squeak, it is not fresh. If your asparagus has gone limp, you can soak it in cold water to perk it up. Learn more: Everything you need to know about asparagus.
- Asian Greens like bok choy, wong bok and choy sum
Should be refrigerated in a plastic bag and used quickly.
While they don’t tend to go off, they may dry and shrivel up, or go a bit slimy, depending on how they are stored. Mushrooms are best stored in a paper bag.
- Peas: fresh, sugarsnap or snow
The fresher they are, the better and sweeter they taste.
- Salad leaves
Leaves like baby spinach, rocket and mesclun salad generally have a short life span. Try to eat them as soon as possible. Storing them in an airtight container will make them last longer. If you struggle to get through a whole bag before they go limp or slimy, try buying something like baby spinach that can be used raw or cooked, or make a green dressing.
- Sweet corn
Always store sweetcorn in its husk, in the fridge. Eat as soon as possible – the longer you leave it the more the sugars turn to starch, which makes it less sweet.
Things to eat within 2 – 4 days:
If you have a whole bunch of celery, wrap the root end of the celery in a paper towel, place the whole celery in a ziplock bag and squeeze out the excess air. Store chopped celery in an airtight container lined with a paper towel.
- Courgettes / Zucchini
Telegraph cucumbers are sold with a plastic sleeve on them as this protects the thin skin and stops them from drying out. It is best to leave this plastic on until you eat the cucumber.
Iceberg lettuce can last for a long time if stored correctly. If you have one, use a lettuce crisper. Otherwise, wrap your iceberg lettuce in a paper towel and place it in a ziplock bag.
- Spring onions
Tomatoes should not be stored in the fridge.
Things that will last longer:
- Brussels sprouts
Storing carrots in an airtight container lined with a paper towel will see them last for up to 10 times longer.
Store kumara as you would potatoes – in a cool, dark place, but not in the fridge.
Onions should be stored by in a cool, dark place (not the fridge) and away from potatoes.
Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dry and dark place, like a cupboard. They should be stored away from onions, as they both release moisture which causes them to sprout faster. Unwashed potatoes last longer than clean potatoes.
Wrap cut pumpkin tightly in cling wrap, or remove the seeds and wrap it in a beeswax wrap. Learn more: How to store pumpkin
Store taro in a cool dark place that is well ventilated. Taro has a shorter shelf life than potatoes and kumara. To store it for longer, peel and freeze it.
What about fruit?
How long fruit will last depends on how ripe they are when you purchase them. Berries are best eaten as soon as possible. Apples and citrus last well, especially if they are stored in the fridge.