There’s nothing quite like the beauty and color of fresh fruit. However, when you discover your beautiful juicy berries and melons have rotted, then humidity has made its presence felt. How does this happen, and what can you do about it?
Humidity affects fruit if it is not stored in an ideal environment, as it will ripen and decay faster than average. Additionally, different types of produce have different optimal humidity levels. Many fruits emit ethylene gas as they mature and will rot in a high-humidity atmosphere.
This article will examine the correct humidity levels for fruits, how your fridge plays a role in moisture control, and some helpful tips for storing different fruits.
Read on to discover how your precious berries and melons can stay ripe as long as possible.
How Humidity Affects Fruit
There are four main culprits that cause fruit to rot.
Fruit and veggies rely on a delicate balance of factors to maintain freshness after being harvested.
These culprits are time, temperature, light, and humidity. Maintaining these four variables can prove tricky, however, as every fruit has its own “setting.”
Related Article: How Does Humidity Affect Food Storage? Storage Tips
Let’s discuss this in more detail:
- Time: Fruits have a natural progression from ripening to rotting over time. Some fruits are only ripe and edible for a few days before spoiling.
- Temperature: Some fruits last longer when stored in cool environments. Other produce fairs better on the counter at room temperature.
- Light: Both natural and artificial light causes a process called photodegradation, in which foods lose their nutrients, color, and flavor. Refrigerators are designed to reduce photodegradation by cutting off the light when the door is closed.
- Humidity: Humidity is the moisture content in an environment. Moisture levels can either sap or saturate your produce and speed up the rotting process. Humidity causes already moist fruit to rot and low-humidity fruits and veggies to wilt.
Preferred Humidity Levels for Fruit
Most fruits stay fresher longer in a low-humidity environment.
The fruit most likely needs a low-humidity environment if it tends to decay and rot. The juicy fruits that already have a lot of moisture content will need low humidity settings.
Let’s look more closely at which fruits need low or high humidity.
Fruits That Prefer Low Humidity
- Berries, such as blueberries, cranberries
- Peaches, apples, pears, kiwis, grapes
- Melons like honeydew, cantaloupe, papaya, mangoes
These fruits all emit ethylene gas at higher levels and need a space where the moisture content is low. A low humidity setting allows airflow to release these gases and keeps the food fresher longer.
This handy chart from the Center for Community Health in San Diego, California, shows which fruits produce the most ethylene, those most sensitive to it, and those that aren’t sensitive to ethylene gas.
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Fruits That Prefer High Humidity
Apples, avocados, and kiwi are sensitive to the ethylene gas that they produce, as the gas promotes ripening and causes fruits to rot sooner than expected and should be stored separately.
Place foods that wilt into crisper drawers with high humidity settings.
Many of your vegetables also have high humidity preferences. Vegetables and leafy greens need a space where there is no airflow, and the moisture levels stay constant.
How Your Fridge Keeps Humidity Levels Optimal
Jeannie Nichols of Michigan State University says that crisper drawers are specifically created to ensure the correct humidity level of your fruits and veggies by giving you options to control the humidity inside each drawer.
Here are some other ways refrigerators pull their weight in humidity control:
- Opening and closing the refrigerator often increases the humidity inside. The longer the seal of the door is intact, the more stable the moisture. It also keeps the light inside your fridge off to reduce photodegradation.
- Newer refrigerators have crisper drawers and more efficient settings for maintaining proper humidity in the drawers. Older fridges may take longer to adjust and maintain the moisture levels inside, or they may not have crisper drawers.
- Crisper drawers have settings to adjust the airflow from the drawer into the rest of the fridge. Since there are two, one is for high-humidity fruits, and the other drawer is to maintain the low-humidity fruits.
- Keeping the crisper drawers two-thirds full but not overfull is essential. Your food needs to breathe in its container and will last longer if your crisper drawers are not overfilled.
- You can change the temperature in newer fridges to 40 °F (4.4 °C) to maintain proper humidity levels. Older fridges may have an optimal temperature dial that can be adjusted. Check your crisper drawers for a dial or slider that lets you open or close the airflow on the container.
How Long Properly-Stored Fruit Should Last
|Time from purchase||2-3 days||4-5 days||6-7 days||1-2 weeks||3-4 weeks|
Fruits Not To Store in the Fridge
Most of these fruits will ripen at their average rates on the counter. Once these fruits are sliced or portioned, they can be refrigerated.
- Citrus fruits
- Whole pineapples
- Whole melons
- Dragon fruit
- Avocados can ripen on the counter.
Tips for Storing Fruit
It is so frustrating to lose good produce to early rot, but there are some things you can do to slow the process down. In addition to understanding what humidity levels are best and where to store fruits and veggies, here are some helpful ideas to keep the freshness going:
- Keeping foods whole ensures the most prolonged freshness. Leave the skin and stems intact.
- Use the crisper drawers in your fridge. They provide the right amount of humidity for both low and high-humidity fruits and vegetables.
- Buy what you can eat in a couple of days. Fresh fruit will often ripen quickly, so think of how much you will eat in 2 or 3 days.
- Sealing your fruit in airtight bags makes the fruit rot faster. Unique storage bags and containers are available for produce in most chain stores such as Walmart or Target.
- Keep items in their original packaging in your fridge. The packaging fruit packing companies use to preserve freshness will help your fruits last longer.
- Separate your fruits and vegetables. Your veggies like leafy greens, lettuce, onions, and spinach go into the crisper with a low humidity setting as they are sensitive to the ethylene gas produced by fruits.
- You can freeze and can fruit for later use. Preserving your fruits by freezing and canning is an excellent way to create a reserve food stock and extend the life of your fruits.
- Give all your produce space in the fridge. Fruits and vegetables need room to “breathe.”
- Wrap your banana stalks with plastic wrap to keep them fresher longer. Bananas emit the most ethylene gas, so keep them away from other fruits.
Gadgets for Humid Environments
No matter your budget, there are gadgets and tools you can purchase to really improve the length of the freshness of your produce. From nifty moisture-sapping pads to a full kitchen dehumidifier, you can find what you need to keep your fruit fresher longer.
When in Doubt
Close your eyes and imagine your grocery store produce section in front of you.
Pay attention to the layout of the fruits. Those stored in cool places should be refrigerated at home. Fruits not stored in cooler areas like bananas and apples can all be placed on the counter at home to mature.
Always use your best judgment, and when in doubt, throw it out.
Though multiple factors affect the life and freshness of fruit, humidity may be the most significant factor in how long a fruit lasts. Often high humidity locations cause good fruit to rot faster.
If fruits are not stored according to their ideal humidity levels, all of the excellent produce you purchased will go bad prematurely.
A good refrigerator with humidity settings and crisper drawers can help ensure the best moisture levels for all your fruit. Adding some specialized containers or moisture-removing items can further improve the atmosphere of your produce.
Keeping fruits whole while storing them also prolongs freshness.
- UCSD Center for Community Health: Ethylene in Fruits and Vegetables
- Eva-Dry: Storing Food: How to Extend the Shelf Life of Your Food
- T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies: 5 Tips for Storing Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
- The Engineering Toolbox: Fruits and Vegetables Optimal Storage Conditions
- Smart Fog: How Humidity Affects Fruit and Vegetables
- Unlock Food: How to Store Fruit to Keep them Fresh
- Does Light Affect How Quickly Foods Spoil?
- Food Storage Tips Chart
About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those interested in the air quality in and around their homes. Trina writes content about things she’s passionate about, such as safe, in-home air, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.