Three months ago, when it was still cool and crisp outside, my kitchen counter was filled.
It was a beautiful mix of little wooden boxes full of fresh fruit, glass bowls with fresh vegetables, and a lovely hanging wire basket filled with tiny new potatoes.
But now, it’s 90 degrees outside! I can’t open the front door for even a second without letting ten flies into the house, and even the coolest spots in my kitchen are getting….TOASTY!
Let’s talk temperature.
Your fridge should generally be around 40 degrees. That’s the perfect temperature to keep cooked foods and meat safe from bacteria, but it will cause cold damage to some produce. Have you ever pulled a tomato out of the fridge that had a mealy texture? That’s from cold damage caused by ice forming inside the vegetable due to over-cooling. Likewise, cucumbers tend to get mushy watery spots when they’re in the fridge for more than a couple days.
Even refrigerated trucks aren't as cold as your average home fridge. For example, tomatoes are stored around 53 degrees and then ripened at 68 degrees.
Ideally, your counter top veggies will be at room temperature, about 68-70 degrees.
The issue I’m having right now is that my house is no longer ‘room temperature’. It’s June in Austin, Texas and my old house will bounce around between 78 and 82 degrees all summer.
I've compiled four questions to ask yourself when choosing new counter top storage and the best and worst materials to use in the summer.
Keep these on your counter
- Bell peppers
- Sweet Potato
- Winter Squash (acorn, butternut, delicata, hubbard, pumpkin, spaghetti squash, turkish)
- Citrus (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, kumquats, tangerine, clementine)
- Melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon)
- Stonefruit (nectarines, peaches, plums)
How to choose which storage solution is best for you.
Before purchasing new storage bins consider these four questions to make sure you'll purchase a system that will work for you for years to come.
Space - Can you place a container on the counter or do you need to hang it from a wall or underneath a cabinet?
Quantity - How much food will you need to store? Use the list above to see which fruits and veggies should be stored at room temperature and guess how many containers you might need.
Location - Are you able to place containers in more than one area of your kitchen? You’re probably aware that some fruits and veggies will cause each other to ripen more quickly when they’re stored together. Keeping bananas in a separate area from your avocados can go along way to keep everything fresh.
Price - Consider the questions above and the materials info below to decide which storage items might be worth spending more on, and which items you can use a less expensive version. I eat a whole roasted bell pepper with my breakfast almost every day. For me, finding a really great container that holds 5-6 bell peppers was well worth the investment.
A good rule of thumb when choosing summertime storage containers is to consider the color and thickness. You want something made of a thick material and a light, opaque color.
A white, opaque color is going to reflect heat away, where a clear or dark colored container won’t.
Thick walls or a thick bottom will insulate the food better than thin walled containers.
I’ve sorted the materials below with the most effective at the top.
Marble is an ideal material for counter top veggie storage.
Natural marble is made of an incredibly dense crystal structure which means it’s always cool to the touch. If you’re unsure whether something is made of real or fake marble, just touch it.
Real marble is always cool.
Ceramic bowls and jars are excellent insulators and look lovely in any kitchen. You're likely to find a huge variety in size, shape, and price if you go with ceramic.
These porcelain berry baskets from Heirloom Home Studio are one of the cutest counter top storage containers I've ever seen.
For some interesting reading, the Spanish botijo is a great example of how unglazed ceramic was used to keep water cool before refrigeration was possible.
White glass can be a great alternative to expensive marble. A vintage pyrex container can be a great storage solution for the countertop. If you live in a humid area, simply place a thin dish cloth under the fruit or veggies to prevent moisture from building up.
These vintage milk glass bowls would look beautiful full of cherries or tomatoes!
Woven baskets have been used for food storage for hundreds of years, especially in the desert, and for good reason.
They insulate well and provide decent air flow. A woven basket with a lid is ideal for potatoes and onions (separately) because they’ll also block out light.
Connected Goods carries a beautiful assortment of woven baskets, ranging from huge hamper baskets to little 6 inch lidded ones.
Painted wood containers with thick walls can be an excellent storage solution if you need wall mounted or under-cabinet storage.
You’ll want to allow for some ventilation, but slated apple crates may not be thick enough to insulate your food from the outside heat.
A simple hinged door over this DIY root vegetable bin from remodelaholic would help to insulate the veggies and double as a bread box.
Plastic could work if you’re able to find opaque, light colored container with thick walls.
Picnic and camping colors will work perfectly and vintage varieties might not look so bad.
A simple tupperware container won’t do anything to insulate your food.
Wire baskets and hanging containers have a lovely, rustic charm to them and they’re my go-to for storing fruits and veggies in the winter.
During the summer months, I generally need something more insulated.
This wire back from Connected Artisans has heavy duty handle . A few hooks on the wall and this basket would transition beautifully from market to kitchen.
I teach people how to cook and eat real food with confidence so that you can have less stress, better health, and WAY more fun in the kitchen and in life.
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