Dear Home Ec 101:
Every refrigerator I have ever seen has a crisper drawer, yet I have never figured out what to put in mine. What is the slidy thing for?
~Vexed by the Vegetable Bin
Refrigerators do two things simultaneously. First and most importantly they keep everything cool. Their second function is to moderate the humidity. If the air in your refrigerator became too humid everything would be covered with condensation, too dry and anything perishable would quickly mummify.
As soon as fruits, vegetables, and herbs are harvested they begin to lose water to the surrounding atmosphere. Some items such as citrus fruit lose moisture slowly due to their thick skins and smaller surface area. Others like spinach lose water rapidly. Generally the more surface area the faster the produce will wilt or spoil. Remember spheres present the smallest surface area to volume ratio.
The crisper drawer has adjustable vents, that are usually controlled by a slide or lever. To create a more humid environment more suitable for most vegetables the vents should be nearly closed. To keep leafy greens as long as possible, wash, then wrap with a slightly damp paper towel.
Fruits will generally spoil faster with increased moisture. Either store fruits on the shelves of the fridge or be sure the vents on the crisper drawer are wide open.
Enjoy your fruits and veggies.
*EDIT* Home Eccer JayMonster raises a good point. Berries are the most delicate of fruits and need special care. They need to be wrapped in vented plastic bags or stored in the plastic boxes they are sold in. Do not wash them until just before consuming. Regardless of how gently you treat them, berries have a very short shelf life in the refrigerator, typically 3 or 4 days at most. (A little more if you picked them rather than purchasing from a store, as they didn’t spend time in transit)
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