With the rising temperatures of late spring and summer, the potential for your room-temperature produce to spoil increases. In food manager certification MN classes, we often discuss the dangers of rotting food. Rotting produce attracts pests, can cause bacteria to grow on countertops and in storage containers and can create a cross-contamination hazard.
Food Manager Certification MN and Summer Produce Storage
When we ask our students which fresh produce items spoil the quickest in the summer, the list is always pretty close to the same. Some of the most frequent offenders include:
Bananas and avocados are generally stored at room temperature because they are produce items that need to ripen before consumed. The idea that bananas and avocados store best at room temperature has led many to believe that they can never be refrigerated. The colder temperatures that prevent these produce items from ripening can also slow the process of over ripening. A simple way to extend the life of these items is to simply wait for them to ripen to your liking and then place them in your produce cooler.
Tomatoes can often be difficult to store in the summer time. The ideal temperature for tomato storage is usually between 50 and 60 degrees. As anyone who works in food service knows, finding a storage space kept at this temperature is nearly impossible.
Many chefs insist that tomatoes lose their flavor under refrigeration and it’s better to allow them to expire rather than destroy their natural tastes. If you’re a budget conscious operation, however, this may not be an alternative that you’re willing to face.
Tomatoes are harvested like bananas. They are picked several days before they have ripened and are allowed to mature at room temperature. While there may be some truth to the idea that tomatoes lose their flavor when refrigerated, they will maintain their crispness at a lower temperature and you will have less waste if you store them in the refrigerator. If you’re insistent that tomatoes can never be refrigerated, then we suggest that you only purchase only enough to fill your needs during the summer months. We have also heard that several experienced chefs employ the use of a wine refrigerator or wine cellar that is temperature controlled to extend the life of their tomatoes without sacrificing their flavor.
Do you have any tips and tricks for storing produce that doesn’t thrive at high or low temperatures? If so, feel free share them in the comments section below.