The best ways to store your summer fruits, from fresh berries to mangoes, melons and more

These tips and tricks from an ICE expert will help keep your fruits both fresh and tasty for longer

Published July 1, 2022 2:00PM (EDT)

Chopped Fruits With Cutting Board And Spoon (Getty Images / Karen Van Atta / EyeEm)
Chopped Fruits With Cutting Board And Spoon (Getty Images / Karen Van Atta / EyeEm)

One of the many perks of summer is the return of local farmer's markets, where fresh, seasonal fruits are always available in abundance. Rows of fresh berries, neatly arranged in blue-colored cartons, can be found alongside hefty melons and juicy cherry tomatoes. And baskets of stone fruits, from fuzzy peaches to miniature sugar plums, fill the surrounding air with their sweet, syrupy aromas.   

Simply put, summer fruits are enticing and buying them in bulk is the best way to enjoy all the flavors this season has to offer. But warm weather — and intense humidity — also mean that your purchases are at risk of going bad quickly, especially when they are stored incorrectly.    

RELATED: You should be roasting your summer fruit

To help keep our summertime fruits fresh and delicious, we spoke with Ann Ziata, chef-instructor of Health-Supportive Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). Ziata breaks down which fruits should be kept in the refrigerator, on the countertop, in the pantry or in hybrid environments.

Here are her tips for storing each specific type of fruit:   

Berries

Ziata says berries, like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, should be stored in the fridge because they can go bad quickly due to their small size and delicate nature. She also recommends not washing berries until they are ready to be eaten.

"Don't wash them ahead of time…because they will get extra water on the surface and that water will make them mold more quickly," Ziata explains. "So keep them in the container [and] right before you eat them, just give them a little rinse and they are good to go."

She adds that berries can also be stored in their original plastic containers or cartons, which allow some ventilation and won't expose the fruits to any humidity. If you are not a fan of the original packaging, you can also store berries in any closed containers. Just make sure they aren't airtight as those containers will cause moisture to build up inside.  

Stone fruits

Peaches, plums, nectarines and other fruits that have a hard pit or "stone" in the center will stay fresh in room temperature environments, like on countertops, in fruit bowls or inside the pantry.

"You can store them at room temperature, especially if you would like them to ripen a bit more, because they will continue to ripen after they are picked," Ziata explains.

But stone fruits can also be stored in the fridge. It all depends on how firm and ripe the fruits are, Ziata says.

"Judge them on how they look. If they are a little firm or if you know that you are going to eat them pretty soon, definitely keep them at room temperature. If they are slightly overripe or you think you have more than you are going to eat at a time they get too ripe, then go ahead and put them in the fridge."

Cherries

Although they contain a hard seed in the center akin to stone fruits, cherries should be stored just like berries because they ripen slowly after they've been picked. Thus, cherries are best kept in the fridge and should only be washed right before eating.

According to Ziata, cherries taste better when they are stored in the plastic bags they are sold in. The bags are breathable, allowing the fruits to stay fresh for longer.  

Melons  

Watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydews are best kept in room temperature spots, preferably on a kitchen countertop that is away from both the oven and stove.

"If you chill them, because they have a lot of water content, it might change the texture and become a little unpleasant," Ziata says of melons that are stored in the fridge. The only time she recommends putting whole melons in the fridge is if they were kept chilled at the time of purchase.

On the other hand, freshly sliced melons should be placed in the fridge at all times to prevent spoilage.  

Avocados

Unripe and firm avocados can be stored at room temperature. To increase their ripening process, especially in preparation for making avocado toast or guacamole, Ziata recommends storing avocados in a brown paper bag. They can also be stored next to fruits that produce high levels of ethylene gas, like bananas or apples or peaches, which will help them ripen faster.

Once a ripe avocado is cut, it should then be placed into the fridge where it will stay fresh and "hold it's ripening stage for about three days," Ziata says.

Mangoes

Similar to avocados, mangoes should be ripened at room temperature and transferred to the fridge once they are ready to eat and cut into. Ziata adds that half-eaten or overripe mangoes freeze really well and can be used later to make smoothies, baked goods or preserves.  

Pineapples

Ziata says unripe pineapples are best kept at room temperature and should be stored standing straight up, with the top facing the ceiling. Pineapples that are kept on their sides run the risk of being bruised, which ruins both the quality and taste of the fruit.

Like mangoes, cut-up pineapple will stay fresh and tasty when stored in the fridge. They can also be kept in the freezer for later use.  

Papayas

In the same vein as mangoes and pineapples, unripe papayas will stay fresh in room temperature environments. Once the fruit is ripe and cut into, it should be popped into the fridge.   

Grapes

Ziata says grapes are quite unique because they are small, delicate and can absorb the flavors of more pungent foods. Grapes are best kept in the coldest part of the fridge, but not directly near where the cold air blows out.

"If it's placed where the cold air blows out, sometimes grapes will dry out more quickly," Ziata explains. She recommends storing the fruit in a Crisper drawer, which is a cool and isolated area.

Because grapes are also really sensitive to strong flavors, they should not be stored alongside onions, garlics and other bold tasting food items. The last thing you want is to have sweet grapes that taste and smell funky.  

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By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon, covering Culture and Food. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

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Berries Food Ice Peaches Produce Storage Summer Fruits