Store at room temperature in an open container, to allow air circulation. Don’t take off a clove’s protective papery husk until you’re ready to prep. And it’s fine to store garlic next to its buddy, the onion.
Keep them in a dark and cool place, but don’t refrigerate. The cold, damp air in the refrigerator causes their starches to turn into sugars, which can affect taste and texture. Store them in a paper bag — more breathable than plastic — in a coolish spot, such as a pantry. Keep them away from onions or fruits like apples that exude ethylene gas, which can make your spuds begin to sprout.
Cook’s Illustrated tested four ways of storing asparagus; the best one, hands down, was to trim a half-inch off the end of the stalks and then stand them up in a small amount of water (covered loosely with a plastic bag) in the refrigerator, like a bouquet. They stay fresh for about four days. Re-trim the ends before using.
First, trim off any green tops; they draw out moisture and cause carrots to go limp pretty quickly. Trimmed, unpeeled carrots can be refrigerated in an unsealed zip-top bag in the crisper drawer for about two weeks. Trimmed carrots (such as baby-cut carrots or carrot sticks) will last longer when kept submerged in a tightly covered container filled with water. Change the water frequently, Deering advises.
They hate to be cold. Anything below 50 degrees will cause them to spoil faster, according to researchers at the University of California at Davis. If you must refrigerate them, do it for no more than three days. Cucumbers also are sensitive to ethylene gas, so keep them away from bananas, melons and tomatoes.
Stem side up or down? Refrigerator or countertop? The debate continues, but North Carolina tomato expert Craig LeHoullier, author of “Epic Tomatoes,” says the evidence in favor of storing standard-size tomatoes stem side down, which Cook’s Illustrated magazine advised in 2008, is scant at best. It might help keep moisture from collecting around the stem and causing spoilage, he concedes, but “it really depends on the type of tomato: A thin-skinned, delicate heirloom will have a different result than a thick-skinned supermarket variety.” More important: Cook’s Illustrated and others have done an about-face when it comes to tomato refrigeration. As long as tomatoes are fully ripe, a few days in the fridge won't ruin their flavor — and it will extend their shelf life. So let whole tomatoes ripen on the counter, then store them stem side down on a plate in the refrigerator. Cut tomatoes do better in an airtight container so they don't pick up any off-flavors. Let tomatoes come to room temperature before serving.
Break up the bunch, as charming as it might look. Then wrap each stem in plastic wrap. That will reduce the emission of ethylene gas, and the bananas will ripen more slowly. Once a banana reaches the desired amount of ripeness, you can refrigerate it; the cold will keep it from ripening further.
About this story
Design and development by Amanda Soto. Illustrations by Tommy Perez for The Washington Post. Art Direction by Amy King. Candy Sagon, a former Post food writer, is a freelance writer and editor based in Reston.