Extending produce life - stop throwing away spoiled food

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Droughts, floods, hail and freezing temperatures - all of which we've seen this year, impact the costs of fresh fruit and vegetables. According to the EPA, Americans throw away more than 31 million tons of spoiled food every year. The way you store produce can extend the freshness of the food.

We'll start with mushrooms. If you leave them in the store bought container, you've got a few days before they're slimy. Remove them from that packaging and put them in a paper bag, then store them in the refrigerator. Mushrooms should last a full week this way.

I toss more asparagus than anything else, which is frustrating because it's not cheap. Wash and cut off the ends and store it upright in a container with a little water. The same can be done to prolong fresh cut herbs.

Leafy greens will go farther if you wash and dry them, and then wrap them in paper towel to absorb excess moisture. You can store them in packaging they came in, just make sure it's resealed.

Squash, onions and potatoes should be removed from plastic bags and stored separately in a cool dry place. They should last weeks longer this way.

Fresh berries just don't last long, but if you wash them, they spoil even quicker. Wash only the berries you intend to eat and pick out any moldy ones, they'll cause the good ones to spoil faster.

Apples and oranges last about a month in the fridge, but you have to be careful with apples. They emit ethylene gas that ripens other produce at a more rapid rate.

Most uncut fruit will last on your countertops, but that spot should be out of the sunlight and well ventilated. If your lettuce, carrots and celery look limp, they can be revived using a cold water soak.

If you can't use peaches and green peppers before they spoil, toss them in the freezer. They will last for months when properly packaged.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.