International Produce Training

Storage- Best Practices

From the many training classes I have held over the years, I always seem to get a few questions related to the proper storage of fresh produce.  Because warehouses are unique, most having a 32o to 36oF (0o to 2oC) room, and most have a 55o to 65oF (13o to 18oC) room, or banana room, while only some have a 45o to 50oF (7o to 10oC) room, storage guidelines are not a one size fits all.  Other factors come into play; how long will the produce items be held in storage, what was the probe temperature of the product at arrival (will the produce sweat if moved to a warmer storage environment), and are the products being stored in the same room compatible to each other?

I’ll attempt to answer some of these questions.

A good site to visit, offering some references for storing fresh produce is at, UC Davis.  I recently surveyed some produce veterans through LinkedIn and through my contacts, and received some very good suggestions.  There were a few constants from all the experts; tomatoes and bananas are always stored in their 55oF rooms.

Some companies have the luxury of having a dedicated room for bananas, and a separate room where they have flexibility with their storage temperature, adjusting from 45 to 55oF.  Those companies can store some of their “chilling sensitive” items, such as cucumbers, eggplant, peppers and summer squash in this environment, to prevent pitting and shriveling from developing.

But for the most part, the following produce items are being kept in 55oF rooms:

  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Bananas
  • Pineapples
  • Plantains
  • Mangos
  • Papayas
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Watermelons
  • Honeydews
  • Winter Squash (Pumpkins)

There were a few qualifying statements, for example, if the oranges or honeydews were being stored for more than a few days then the 35oF room would be more appropriate.  If avocados were pre-conditioned then the 55oF room would be used.  During the summer months, when watermelons are in full swing, they are stored on their dry dock, at ambient temperature, because they are never in the warehouse for more than a day or two.

Feel free to comment and offer advice on the proper storage of fresh fruit and vegetables.  As I have found out, nothing is set in stone, as with everything produce related, there are always exceptions to every rule.  Looking forward to hearing your suggestions.


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