Fridge, pantry or the kitchen bench? The place you keep your fruit can have a surprising effect on whether that stunning mango or ripe red watermelon delivers its sweet, tropical, juicy best - and how long they last. So have we been doing it all wrong?
Accredited practicing dietitian and The Biting Truth founder Alex Parker tells SBS how to avoid a food faux pas over the summer holidays.
Watermelon, pineapple and mangoes are among a number of in-season fruits that should stay in your fruit bowl before being cut.
“Tropical fruits are best to keep out of the fridge because they are quite sensitive to chill, so putting them in the fridge is going to affect their quality,” Parker tells SBS.
“Watermelon in particular is quite sensitive to ethylene, which is the hormone emitted by some fruits and vegetables as they ripen and it can affect the quality of other fruits and vegetables," she explains.
So while a whole watermelon will be happier living on your kitchen bench, it "should be kept away from things like bananas and apples that release more ethylene and can cause other fruits to ripen quickly."
You could also use these strong ethylene-emitting fruits to your advantage if you want to quickly ripen other produce. A common example is that an avocado will mature faster if you leave it in a paper bag with a banana.
To do the reverse meanwhile, you can store ripe fruit in the fridge to keep it for longer.
When it comes to stone fruit such as nectarines, plums and peaches, Parker says they are best starting out on the bench and moving into the fridge once mature.
“If you put stone fruit in the fridge before they ripen, they’ll lose some of their favour and not taste as good,” Parker says, “but if you keep it on the bench until it’s ripe and then put it in the fridge then you’re retaining flavour.”
Pears, grapes and berries meanwhile, prefer a cold climate and last longer when stored in the fridge from the time you bring them home.
When it comes to vegetables, Parker says “potatoes are better in dryer conditions and don’t need to be in the fridge, onions also fall into that category”.
She adds that a spot in the pantry is better than the bench for these veggies as moisture in the air can cause mould to grow.
All greens on the other hand, belong in the fridge. “Leafy greens are really sensitive to ethylene so they will just deteriorate really quickly if they’re left next to a banana,” Parker says.
“They will also basically turn to mush as soon as they’re near water, which is why people often keep leafy greens in veggie bags or wrapped up in a cloth so they’re kept cool but also dry.”
As with fruit and veggies, not all herbs like being stored the same way and Parker divides them into three different categories to help keep them fresher for longer.
The first are those that “can get mouldy when they get damp, so you want to keep them dry” like thyme and rosemary.
“Other herbs like parsley, oregano, chives and coriander, like to be kept damp so you could wrap them in a damp towel and keep them in the fridge,” she explains.
“Then basil and mint really don’t like being cold but they like the water, so you should keep them on the bench in a glass of water.”
It’s important to remember that fruit, vegetables and herbs are perishable items with a short shelf life, but will last longer when stored correctly. Cut fruit and vegetables however, should always be kept in the fridge.