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Storing Fruit


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Storage Conditions

Every home gardener should have a good-sized chest (not upright) freezer. With such a tool, most vegetables not eaten fresh can be stored till the next crop is ready; not all can be stored “fresh”—tomatoes, for example, need to be rendered into paste or sauce—but there are few things we cannot freeze effectively. Moreover, many of those, such as salad ingredients or potherbs, can probably be grown year-round with some care if any suitable indoor space is available. (Melons are probably the chief unfreezeable crop, and they are best regarded as a seaonal delight.)

But though much of the food we grow in home gardens can be stored by freezing—a delightful wonder we take too much for granted—some, notably including fruits, do not freeze well owing to the inevitable loss of texture: no one wants a soggy, mushy apple. Fortunately, many of our favorite fruits and vegetables can be kept for quite a while, meaning a few to many months, by storing in suitable conditions. Of course, not every fruit or vegetable finds the same conditions “suitable”, but the ranges are such that we can classify those wanted conditions into four:

There is, however, another important issue, well known back in the days when most everyone had a “root cellar” for winter storage of foodstuffs, and that issue is ethylene gas (OK, they may not have known what the cause was, but they sure knew the problem). Some foods, notably many fruits, give off ethylene gas as they age in storage; meanwhile, many others, including a lot of vegetables, are badly affected by ethylene. Thus, rather obviously, the two types cannot be stored near each other. That freezer, though, will handle almost all of the vegetables we want to hold, so we needn’t worry much about stored fruit affecting stored vegetables, because we won’t have any of the latter outside that freezer. We have, one might say, moved from the era of the root cellar to that of the fruit cellar.

Here is a tabulation of storage-related data for the fruits we feel growable and worth growing hereabouts (as explained on the main fruits page of this site). We omit citrus because those can be grown indoors, so we don’t store them (and their storage conditions are very different anyway.)

Fruit Generates
Ethylene
Gas?
Sensitive to
Ethylene
Gas?
Ideal
Temperature
in ° F
Ideal
Humidity
in %
Approximate
Storage
Time
Notes
Apples H Y 30-40 90-95 1 - 12 months storage depends in part on cultivar
Kiwis (?), ripe H Y 32-35 90-95 ? not specified as to kiwi type
Nectarines H N 31-32 90-95 2 - 4 weeks whoa—should be same as peaches...
Peaches H Y 31-32 90-95 2 - 4 weeks whoa—should be same as nectarines...
Pears H Y 29-31 90-95 2 - 7 months storage depends in part on cultivar
Cherries, sweet VL N 32-35 90-95 ?  
Cherries, sour VL N 32 90-95 3 - 7 days  
Kiwis (?), unripe L Y+ 32-35 90-95 ? not specified as to kiwi type
Blueberries VL N 32-35 90-95 ?  
Lingonberries VL N 32-35 90-95 ? assuming same as blueberries
Raspberries VL N 31-32 90-95 2 - 3 days  
Serviceberries VL N 32-35 90-95 ? assuming same as blueberries
Strawberries VL N 32 90-95 3 - 7 days  

What we see at once is that all these fruits store best in the same conditions: 32°F and 90% to 95% humidity. But we also see rather quickly that except for the pomes—the apples and pears—storage times in the best of cases are fleeting. That argues strongly that except for pomes, fruit should either be frozen “as is” (as can be done with some berries) or reduced to a state in which it can be frozen (cooked, pureed, or the like); only the pome fruit seem worth making an effort for, as far as creating special storage conditions.


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