Plus, how to organize your crisper drawers to maximize the freshness of your produce.
It’s no secret that crisper drawers play an important role in keeping our produce fresh, but for many of us, the specific protocol to follow isn’t exactly top of mind—especially after a long day (and an even longer line at the supermarket). Too easily do we cram our fruits and veggies into whichever drawer happens to have room and call it a day.
Fortunately, getting the most out of your crisper drawers isn’t as complicated as it seems. Once you have the basic premise down, tossing mushy fruit and shriveled veggies into the trash (that you swear you just bought yesterday) will be a thing of the past.
Here’s how to become one with your crisper drawers and extend the life of your produce:
How Crisper Drawers Keep Your Produce Fresh
Because certain produce needs more airflow to stay fresh, crisper drawers typically have two settings: low-humidity and high-humidity, which can be adjusted by a vent or knob that goes from high to low. “By doing this, you’re either opening a vent (low humidity) and letting humidity out, or closing a vent (high humidity) and keeping the humidity in,” says New York City-based registered dietitian Alena Kharlamenko, RD.
Besides providing your produce with an ideal environment to chill in (pun totally intended), crisper drawers also protect your fruits and veggies from, well, each other. Certain fruits emit large amounts of ethylene gas—a natural part of the ripening process, but one that can peer pressure any produce that’s nearby to ripen faster, says Connecticut-based registered dietitian Alyssa Lavy, RD. That’s why randomly tossing your produce into crisper drawers can lead to some pretty unsightly (and unnecessary) wastage.
Use the Low-Humidity Crisper Drawer for Foods That Rot Easily
“Produce that emits ethylene gas—and has a tendency to rot—would benefit from being stored in the low-humidity crisper drawer,” says Kharlamenko. This allows the ethylene gas to escape through the vent and prevents your produce from rotting at lightning-speed. Foods that fare best in the low-humidity drawer include apples and pears, peaches and nectarines, cantaloupes and honeydew melons, kiwis and avocados.
Use the High-Humidity Drawer for Foods That Tend to Wilt
Foods that wilt (think: leafy greens and herbs), or are ethylene-sensitive (berries), belong in the high-humidity drawer. The closed window allows moisture to stay in the drawer, helping your produce stay fresh and crispy longer, says Kharlamenko. This drawer is a happy home for foods like spinach and kale, cilantro and parsley, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, green beans and asparagus, lemons and strawberries.
The Best Way to Organize Your Crisper Drawers
Crisper drawers work best when they’re almost full, but not stuffed or cramped—at about two-thirds capacity, says Kharlamenko. Pack your crisper drawers much like you would a grocery bag, with the heavier items on the bottom (carrots), so as to not damage the more delicate produce (fresh herbs).
If you only have one large crisper drawer, decide whether you want to use it as a low- or high-humidity drawer, adjust the vents accordingly, and store the rest of your produce elsewhere in your fridge. (Produce keeper containers, such as OXO GreenSaver and Rubbermaid FreshWorks, can be helpful in keeping your produce organized and fridge looking pretty.)
If the crisper drawer has no vents, it’s most likely a high-humidity drawer—in this instance, however, Lavy recommends using it to store the foods that release larger amounts of ethylene gas, in order to keep the gas contained and unable to affect the rest of your food. Also, remember that if you’re storing fresh produce on shelves in the fridge, they should be stored on separate, higher shelves that raw fish, meat, and poultry, she adds, to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.