Sticking fresh food in the fridge is a habit, and in most cases, it’s a good one. Storing food at a colder temperature keeps it from spoiling. The trouble is, your fridge can get crowded, especially if you’re keeping a lot of fresh fruits and veggies on hand. Clear up some space in your produce drawer and store these eight foods on the kitchen counter instead.
Unlike lemons, which stay juiciest when kept in the fridge, some produce tastes better if you keep it out on your kitchen counter. The cold temperature can change the taste and texture of some food for the worse. Whether it’s for taste and texture or just to free up some space in the produce drawer, here are some foods to pull out of the fridge right now.
1. Winter squash – Cured winter squash doesn’t need to go in the fridge, where one squash can take up half of a produce drawer. All of the squash you buy at the supermarket is cured for long storage, as is most of the winter squash at the farmers market. You can ask the farmer, to be sure. Store in a dark place, and try to leave a little bit of space between the squash. They tend to rot where they are touching other veggies. You can read more about how to buy, store and cook popular varieties of winter squash here!
2. Onions – According to The National Onion Association, sweet onions belong in the fridge, while other varieties keep fine in a cool dark area of the kitchen, like on the counter but away from windows. I’ve stored both sweet and regular onions on the counter for a week or more without problems. Just make sure you move them once in awhile. Like winter squash, exposure to air prevents them from bruising and rotting.
3. Potatoes – The cold temperatures in the refrigerator cause discoloration and a change in flavor. Store potatoes out of direct sunlight on the counter instead. I keep mine in a wire produce basket in a darker corner of my kitchen.
4. Sweet Potatoes - Refrigerator-levels of cold are also no good for sweet potatoes. They will keep well in a dark area on the counter, just like white potatoes.
5. Ginger – I have seen a lot of recommendations to store ginger in the fridge, but I find that it gets dry and stringy that way. I keep my ginger—even cut ginger—on the kitchen counter, out of direct light, and it keeps very well. Peeled ginger doesn’t store well on the counter, though. Blot peeled ginger with a clean, dry kitchen towel, and store in a plastic bag with as much air pressed out as possible.
6. Whole Heads of Garlic – Full heads of garlic keep just fine out on the kitchen counter. I’ve seen recommendations for storing separated garlic cloves in the fridge, but again I’ve never had a problem with open heads of garlic on my counter. Sometimes it sprouts, but the sprouts don’t hurt anything. Just cut them away, because they’re on the bitter side. This might be due to how quickly I go through a head of garlic, though.
7. Fresh Herbs – Rosemary is the one exception to this rule, but in general, fresh herbs, like basil, keep much better on a sunny windowsill, with the bottoms of the stems submerged in a cup of water, just like cut flowers. Change the water out every day or two, and they should keep for about a week. In the fridge, they tend to wither and look sad within a day or two.
8. Bananas – You probably knew about this one already, but storing bananas in the fridge is no good. The skin turns black, and they shrivel up quickly in those harsh temperatures.
Tomatoes – You’ll notice tomatoes aren’t listed as one of the eight foods to keep out of the fridge. That’s because the best way to store tomatoes is up for debate. Since it’s a hot topic right now, though, I wanted to include it here. The best method seems to depend on who you ask. Some people say to absolutely store tomatoes on the counter to avoid ruining their texture and flavor, while others say tomatoes belong in the fridge. You decide!