Food

The vegetables that can (and can’t) be refrigerated

An expert breaks down the scientific reasoning behind what can and can't be refrigerated.
vegetables in the fridge

To refrigerate or not to refrigerate, that is the question. For most, the decision on whether to put your groceries in the pantry or the fridge comes entirely down to preference. But did you know that with some foods, there are hard and fast rules when it comes to storage?

When it comes to vegetables, you might think that as a blanket rule, all vegetables should go straight into the crisper. However, you might be surprised to learn that lots of vegetables shouldn’t go in the fridge at all.

Read on for a break down of what vegetables can and can’t be refrigerated.

Broccoli

Broccoli should be stored in the fridge, as with cauliflower. However, both of these vegetables should be stored away from ethylene-producing produce such as apples, melons, kiwis, or onions.

“The science behind this is that some fruits produce ethylene gas, which can cause other fruits and vegetables to ripen and spoil faster. For example, onions and potatoes produce ethylene gas, which can cause other vegetables to spoil faster if stored together,” Andrew Scammell, Allara Learning Food Safety Expert and Trainer, explains to The Weekly.

“When storing fruit and vegetables in your fridge, separate your fruits and vegetables and separate them from each other with separate draws if possible. “

Capsicum

Capsicums thrive in more humid conditions. If you plan to use them quickly, they can sit on the counter for a few days. But if you plan to save them for later in the week, they can go in the fridge to ensure they don’t spoil too quickly.

Carrots

Whilst carrots and other root vegetables can be left on the counter for a short while, the general rule is that they should be refrigerated. This is because root vegetables can be prone to moisture loss and bacteria growth when not stored in proper conditions. 

Cucumbers

You can keep a cucumber on your countertop for two days if you plan to eat it quickly, but generally cucumbers should be in the fridge for maximum freshness. Cucumbers lean more towards preferring humidity, so once they’re in the fridge, keep them towards the front of the fridge and away from the cooling elements at the back.

Eggplant

Eggplant is another vegetable that can survive on your countertop for a couple of days. Any longer than that, then it should be refrigerated. This particular veggie also leans towards favouring humid conditions within the fridge. 

Whilst putting eggplant in the fridge can extend its shelf life by several days, refrigeration can also affect its texture and flavour.

Garlic

You may be inclined to pop your bulbs of garlic in the fridge, however, garlic should ideally be stored in a cool, dry place and away from direct sunlight. In the pantry or on your countertop is ideal.

Putting garlic in the fridge can cause it to sprout which can affect the flavour and texture.

Ginger

Meanwhile, ginger thrives in the fridge. The best way to store ginger in the fridge is in a zip-loc bag or an air-tight container in order to prevent it from drying out. When stored correctly, ginger should be fresh for about a month. 

To extend its shelf life even further, you can try grating ginger up and freezing it in an air-tight container.

Lettuce

Lettuce should always go in the fridge. Due to its high water content, it can spoil very quickly if not stored correctly. When shopping, you should opt for a head of lettuce – which will stay more crisp for longer – over packaged lettuce.

Remove the outer, wilted leaves of your head of lettuce, wrap it in some paper towel to absorb extra moisture and always store your lettuce in the crisper.

Onions

Whole onions should typically be stored in a cool, dry place like the pantry or the countertop. If you’re storing your onions on the countertop, be sure to keep them out of direct sunlight as this can promote mould growth.

Onions can be stored in the fridge, but in the wrong conditions, they can quickly go soft and soggy. 

Potatoes

Ideally, potatoes shouldn’t go in the fridge. “Potatoes should be stored in a dark, dry place with plenty of ventilation,” Andrew Scammell explains. 

Whilst you can refrigerate potatoes depending on your preference, the cool environment can cause the potatoes to develop a sweet taste when cooked.

Pumpkins

Like potatoes, Andrew Scammell says that whole pumpkins also need to be stored in a dark, dry place with ample ventilation. 

Once the pumpkin is cut, it can be refrigerated to maximise freshness. The seeds should be removed prior to refrigeration as they decay quicker than the pumpkin itself. 

vegetables in the fridge

Sweet potatoes

Again, like potatoes, sweet potatoes shouldn’t go in the fridge. This particular vegetable thrives in cool, dark places like the pantry. Putting your sweet potatoes in the fridge can cause them to go hard and produce an unpleasant flavour.

Tomatoes

Though tomatoes are technically a fruit, the question of where they should be stored is a divisive topic. The general consensus is that tomatoes should be kept on the counter. This is because tomatoes have an enzyme that, when exposed to cold temperatures, can turn tomatoes mushy and flavourless.

Ripe tomatoes should be eaten straight away, whereas unripened tomatoes will thrive on the countertop for a few days.

Zucchinis

Zucchini should be stored in the fridge, but away from ethylene-producing produce which can cause it to decay quickly.

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