Cooking Tips

The Fridge Fix: Tips to Preserve Your Produce

Please stop letting your herbs and produce go mushy. We’re here to help.

Published Feb. 23, 2023.

I’m going to come clean about the corpses in my fridge.

OK, so you might not normally describe a wilted bunch of parsley as a “corpse,” but I’ve murdered enough produce now that every time I hear sirens outside my window, I start to worry they’ve finally come for me.

Are you a serial produce killer too? Do you keep letting your asparagus stalks wither or your bok choy wilt? It’s OK. We all do it. That’s why the Cook’s Country team is here to talk about their own fridge felonies and how to avoid them in the future.

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I used to be a cilantro killer: a mass murderer, really, as there was rarely a bunch that didn’t end up black and slimy in its bag in the crisper drawer. We composted a LOT of cilantro. The test kitchen recommends loosely wrapping cilantro (and other soft, leafy herbs like basil, parsley, and tarragon) in paper towels and storing them in the crisper drawer. And this does indeed work. But my preferred method is to first remove the twist tie around the stems, plunk the bunch in a glass of water, and store it on the counter, changing the water every day or so to keep things fresh. Now my cilantro stays in tip-top shape for a week or more. — Scott Kathan, Executive Editor


Grilled Chicken Fajitas with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream

A quick rest in a lime juice– and chili powder–infused marinade makes flavorful chicken for fajitas.
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Salad Greens

I buy salad greens (spring mix or baby sweet lettuce) every week to ensure that I’m eating vegetables every day with my dinner. If you’ve ever bought salad greens, you know it seems as if they start to go bad the minute you walk out of the grocery store regardless of the best-before date. To extend the life of these precious greens, I’ve found that adding a paper towel on top of the vegetables inside the container and then flipping the box upside down does wonders. The moisture is absorbed by the towel, keeping the greens from sitting in their own liquid to rot. For the best results, make sure to choose greens that have a best-before date farther out and look for fresh and vibrant greens. —Lawman Johnson, Senior Photo Test Cook


Celery doesn’t stand a chance in my refrigerator. Or at least that used to be the case. Even my frequent peanut butter–and-celery cravings can't get me through a whole head of celery before it becomes a floppy mess. Thankfully, I look to our test kitchen–approved method of wrapping heads of celery tightly in aluminum foil. The foil allows for ethylene to escape but prevents the moisture from leaving, keeping celery crisp and fresh for up to a month. To reduce waste, we wash our used foil with mild detergent, taking care not to tear the foil, for multiple uses. Ants on a log, anyone? —Mark Huxsoll, Test Cook

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While we are lovers of all things lactose, we rarely finish our impulse buy of buttermilk for pancakes. Since we hate food waste (and try not to eat Cook’s Country’s Best Buttermilk Pancakes too often), we take a note from the test kitchen and freeze the remaining buttermilk in ice cube trays. Once the cubes are frozen, we transfer them to a plastic zipper-lock bag and return them to the freezer. When we get our next craving (maybe Pat-in-the-Pan Buttermilk Biscuits or Extra-Spicy, Extra-Crunchy Fried Chicken), we simply thaw the cubes in the microwave or the refrigerator overnight. (Letting the frozen buttermilk defrost in the refrigerator overnight can cause the whey and milky solids to separate, but they are easily whisked back together with no ill effects.)

If you don’t have room in your freezer, one creative way to use up buttermilk is by substituting buttermilk for milk in a Strawberry Milkshake. Some of our other favorites are Buttermilk Pie and Creamy Buttermilk Coleslaw. — Amanda Luchtel, Test Cook

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Leafy Greens

We get loads of big, hearty, leafy greens in our farm share—such as kale, collards, mustard greens, and Swiss chard. The last time I pulled a limp, lifeless bunch out of my fridge, I swore it wouldn’t happen again. Now, no matter how rushed or tired I am when I get home with my veggies after a long day, I resist the urge to just toss them in the crisper drawer. Instead, I prep them then and there: removing the stems, breaking down the leaves into manageable pieces, washing them, and drying them in a salad spinner. Finally, I store them in reusable gallon-size zipper-lock bags with a paper towel, squeezing out excess air before sealing. They keep much longer, take up less space, and are ready to use the moment I need them. — Matthew Fairman, Senior Editor


My toxic trait is that I panic-buy more ginger without checking if I already have some. This results in half a dozen partial knobs perpetually rattling around the bottom of my crisper. To combat this, I’ve started using Mark Huxoll’s trick from a couple years ago: I blitz together chunks of ginger and peeled garlic cloves in the food processor to form a paste and then freeze the mixture in tablespoon-size portions. These blocks are then ready to use in stir-fries straight from the freezer, making the week’s easiest dinner even easier. — Jessica Rudolph, Senior Editor


Steak Salad with Carrot-Ginger Vinaigrette

Seared steak. Fresh salad. A bright, gingery dressing. What's not to love?
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Nothing beats some crisp cucumber as a snack after a long day of cooking (and tasting) hearty foods in the test kitchen. True heartbreak, however, comes in the form of eagerly diving into the fridge, only to find my cucumber limp, mushy, or wrinkly. I promised myself no cucumber (or zucchini or squash, for that matter) would fall prey to the fridge frontier again. Borrowing the technique of shrink-wrapped English cucumbers, I use the test kitchen’s method of wrapping whole American cucumbers, zucchini, or summer squash tightly in plastic wrap. The wrap essentially forms a second skin, which prevents moisture from escaping in the fridge. And since I rarely finish snacking on a whole cucumber in one sitting, this tip also works wonders for keeping cut halves fresh and snappy. — Kelly Song, Test Cook

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