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Produce items that taste best when stored at room temperature include fruits and vegetables like bananas, melons, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and winter squash. These items need to be stored in a clean, dry, well ventilated place out of direct sunlight.

Produce items like avocados, kiwifruit, nectarines, peaches, pears, and plums will continue to ripen at room temperature. After ripening to desired degree on the counter store these fruits in the refrigerator. You can hasten ripening of these foods by placing them in a brown paper bag. Sealed plastic bags do not work for ripening produce. In fact, storing fruits and vegetables in a sealed plastic bag and leaving them on the counter can actually slow ripening time, increase off-odors, and decay because of the accumulation of carbon dioxide and depletion of oxygen inside the sealed bag. It's a case of the plastic bag not breathing. Gases cannot pass through plastic as they can through the paper bag.

Most produce items should be stored in food grade plastic bags loosely closed so air can circulate or in perforated food-grade plastic bags, which can easily be made by making 20 small holes in a medium sized bag.

Wash your hands before working with fresh produce. Wash produce thoroughly when you are ready to use it. Fresh produce has a natural protective coating that helps keep it fresh and moist. Washing produce before storage causes produce to spoil more quickly. If you do wash produce before storing, make sure that the items are thoroughly dry. Berries are very fragile and should be washed just before eating.

Produce should be rinsed even if the peel is to be removed. Bacteria on the outside peel or rind of citrus fruits or melons can be transferred to the inside when the produce is cut or peeled. Once fruits have been cut they need to be refrigerated.

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