I do not presume to know your personal rate of fruit consumption. I just know that a hell of a lot of lemons, limes, and oranges come into my home on a weekly basis, and the vast majority of them are dispatched in the form of cocktails. There's very little chance that the fruit will remain intact long enough to degrade in any measurable way. In my kitchen, citrus sits out in a hanging wire basket for a brief time before it's transformed into an old fashioned or a bourbon sour. I like how it looks, and frankly, I can't spare the fridge space.
But last week at Extra Crispy HQ, we brought in some citrus to test a recipe, and my colleague stashed it alongside the milk, eggs, and butter. Suddenly I worried: Had I been storing my fruit incorrectly this whole time? I did a deep dive into the best way to store fruit and found out that we were both right.
If the fruit is going to be consumed in a week or less, it's fine for it to remain out on the counter or in a cool, dark cupboard. Just make sure to take it out of any plastic bags and give each piece some breathing room. If individual pieces of fruit are touching, they may quickly grow mold. If the fruit is going to be hanging out for longer than that, it may start to dry out. Store uncut citrus in the produce drawer of your refrigerator for several weeks, and for maximum longevity, Cook's Illustrated suggests sealing the fruit in zipper-lock bags. Cut fruit should be wrapped, refrigerated, and used as quickly as possible.
Berries are a frequent source of heartbreak in many people's homes because they go bad so quickly. To prevent mold growth and extend berries' freshness, rinse them in a mixture of one cup white vinegar and four cups of water, then drain and dry them thoroughly. Store them in the refrigerator in a paper-towel-lined sealable container with the lid slightly ajar and consume them within two weeks, or freeze them.
Sling those babies in the fridge in a plastic bag as soon as humanly possible, and don't even bother washing them until you're ready to eat them. Freeze cherries (remove the stems first; but pits are optional) if you'd care to enjoy them after the cruelly brief season has ended.
That whole cantaloupe or honeydew can stay out on your counter for a day or two where it will continue to ripen, but after that it should go into the fridge in a plastic bag. Once the melon has been cut, store the halves (with the seeds intact if you can), chunks, or cubes in a sealed container or bag for 3-5 days in the refrigerator, or several months in the freezer. Never refrigerate a watermelon unless you'd care for it to lose all of its nutritional value.
Let peaches and plums loll on the counter out of direct sunlight for a few days to ripen, stashing them in a paper bag to hasten the process if you're antsy. After that, store them in the crisper drawer for up to a week, keeping a close eye (especially on the plums) to make sure they've not going mushy.
It's fine to leave apples out for up to a week and pears for 2-3 days, but after that, into the crisper drawer they go, ideally with a slightly damp paper towel on top. Before you stash them, inspect the peels for brown or soft spots because contrary to what Michael Jackson sang, one bad one can indeed spoil the whole bunch. Apples and pears give off ethylene gas, which makes other fruit swiftly ripen and rot. That's great when you need an avocado to hurry up and soften for your guacamole, less so when you don't have the bandwidth to go on an all-fruit diet for a few days so as not to waste your haul. Sliced apples and pears should be eaten as soon as humanly possible unless you're cool with brown, mushy fruit.
People have plenty of theories about rates of banana ripening, and are seemingly willing to put a lot of time to devote to the cause. But if you don't care to get too wacky about it or making the effort to wrap the tops in plastic to deter ethylene emission, just leave the bananas in a bunch on the counter and don't forget that they're there. Keep the bananas (which technically are herbs!) away from fruits and vegetables that you'd rather not have ripen lickety split. If you don't think you'll be able to get through the whole bunch swiftly enough, once the bananas have reached their optimal ripeness, it's fine to stick them in the fridge to slow the process. The peels may brown swiftly, but the fruit inside will stay delightfully fresh. Keep them in there in a paper bag for up to a week. After that, it's banana bread or smoothie time.