In an ideal world, you’d never need to put produce in the fridge. You’d go to the market before each meal, pick up your locally-grown vegetables, walk home, unpack, and start cooking right away. There’d be no need for refrigeration at all. And that sounds nice, but that’s definitely not the world we live in. Some produce needs to go in the fridge, because we don’t have the time or energy to go to the market three times a day.
But there are also some fruits and vegetables that would prefer to be left out on the counter. Or in a little ceramic pot on top of the fridge. Or in a cabinet under the drawer where all your spoons and ladles go. You shouldn’t just go throwing everything in the fridge. Here are the fruits and vegetables that are best kept outside the fridge:
Tomatoes do best on the counter, in the warm light of the sun (assuming you have a window in your kitchen), where they can ripen to absolute perfection. Putting a tomato in the fridge does weird things to it’s texture, making the flesh mealy and unpleasant. And when we’re shelling out cold hard cash for heirloom tomatoes at the peak of their season, preserving that perfect texture and juicy flesh is our number one priority.
Garlic, Onions, and Shallots
With the exception of spring onions and scallions, alliums shouldn’t be stored in the fridge. These bulbs benefit from being kept in a cool, dry, dark place. And make sure to avoid wrapping them in plastic bags. Your shallots, onions, and garlic want to breathe! And breathing in a plastic bag isn’t the easiest thing to do.
You should store summer squash (like zucchini) in the fridge, but thick-skinned squash like acorn, butternut, or kabocha should stay at room temperature. This is partially to preserve their texture, but it’s mostly because squash tend to take up a lot of real estate in the drawers and on the shelves of your fridge. It’s crowded enough as it is in there, so keep those hard squash out on the counter and save that space for something else.
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Similar to the alliums we were talking about earlier, you want to store these starchy vegetables in a cool, dry, dark place. This keeps potatoes from sprouting, which is facilitated by sunlight and moisture. Sprouting your potatoes won’t result in more potatoes, just the added chore of trimming off the sprouts (which taste terrible and have some potentially harmful compounds in them).
Corn isn’t really a vegetable—a story for another time—and it doesn’t really belong in the fridge. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t call it one…or put it in the fridge. Putting corn in the fridge isn’t going to hurt it per se, and it may keep it fresher longer, but if you’re going to use it within a day or two you might as well leave it out and free up some fridge space.
Like tomatoes, putting stone fruits—think plums, peaches, and cherries—in the fridge can make their flesh go mealy. So if you want that incredible, silky, juice-dripping-down-your-chin bite, leave them out on the counter.
Once you pick a pineapple, it doesn’t get any riper, so you should try to buy a perfectly ripe pineapple with the intention of eating it sooner rather than later. That also means that you should just leave it at room temperature—keeping it in the fridge isn’t going to have an effect on its ripeness.
You could put melons in the fridge…if you really wanted to. But we prefer to eat melons at room temperature, so the flesh is as soft as possible. Changing the temperature of the melon will tense up the interior, possibly making it a tad less succulent.