Whether you’ve got an abundant pepper harvest in your garden or snagged a great deal on bell peppers at the grocery store, it’s crucial to know the best storage practices that keep them fresh and delicious for longer periods.
Read on to learn the ideal temperature and humidity conditions for storing peppers, the do’s and don’ts when it comes to refrigeration and various preservation techniques that allow you to enjoy peppers year-round.
Should peppers be refrigerated?
Storing peppers appropriately is crucial to maintain their freshness and quality. The recommended temperature for storing peppers lies around 45°F (7°C) with a humidity level of 90-95%. It’s important to note that temperatures below 45°F can lead to chilling injuries, negatively affecting the peppers’ texture and taste. Considering that most refrigerators typically operate at a temperature of 40°F or even lower, it’s essential to be cautious while storing peppers in the fridge.
To ensure optimal storage conditions, use a thermometer to identify the various temperature zones within your refrigerator. Once you clearly understand the temperature distribution, place your peppers in the warmest area or, preferably, the crisper drawer, where humidity levels tend to be higher.
What to store peppers in
When it comes to storing peppers, choosing a suitable container is essential to maintain their freshness and prevent moisture-related issues. It is best to avoid using plastic bags for storing peppers as they can trap excessive moisture, leading to spoilage. Instead, opt for more breathable options like reusable cloth bags, which allow for proper air circulation and help regulate moisture levels.
Alternatively, you can store peppers loosely in the refrigerator without any bags. This method can work effectively, especially if you have a designated drawer or compartment with appropriate humidity levels to keep the peppers fresh.
How to store peppers that are already cut
Once you’ve cut your peppers, storing them properly is essential to maintain their freshness and prevent them from spoiling. Store the cut peppers in a sealed container or a resealable bag. Including a paper towel in the container or bag can be helpful as it absorbs excess moisture, which could otherwise lead to the peppers becoming mushy.
Remember that cut peppers have a limited shelf life, so consuming them within 3-5 days is advisable for the best quality and taste. If you are unable to finish the cut peppers within this timeframe, an excellent alternative is to freeze the remaining portions. Freezing will help preserve their flavor and nutritional value, allowing you to enjoy them later in your favorite recipes.
Can you store peppers with other fruits and veggies?
You can store peppers with other fruits and vegetables without any significant concerns. Unlike some fruits and vegetables that are sensitive to ethylene gas, peppers are not particularly affected by it. This means it’s perfectly fine to store them alongside ethylene-producing produce, such as apples and strawberries.
Ethylene gas is a natural plant hormone influencing certain fruits and vegetables’ ripening and aging processes. For example, it can cause fruits like apples and bananas to ripen faster. However, peppers are relatively unaffected by ethylene, so there’s no need to worry about storing them alongside ethylene-producing items.
This flexibility allows you to optimize your refrigerator space and store a variety of fruits and vegetables together without the risk of accelerated spoilage or unwanted changes in flavor or texture.
How long do peppers last?
The shelf life of peppers can vary depending on how they are stored and their freshness at the time of purchase or harvest. When properly refrigerated at the ideal temperature of around 45°F (7°C) with a humidity level of 90-95%, fresh peppers that you pick yourself can last up to 2-3 weeks (Slama & Diffley, 2013). This duration provides ample time to enjoy and incorporate their vibrant flavor into various dishes.
However, it’s essential to note that peppers purchased from the store may already be several days old, and their shelf life will be shorter compared to freshly picked ones. Consuming store-bought peppers within a few days to a week is advisable to ensure their best quality.
To extend the life of your peppers beyond their fresh state, you can preserve them. By utilizing methods like freezing or pickling, you can effectively store peppers for an extended period, allowing you to enjoy their taste and nutritional benefits until your next harvest.
Should you wash peppers before storing them?
It is generally recommended not to wash peppers before storing them. Moisture can promote mold growth and spoilage, so storing peppers in their natural, unwashed state is best. If the peppers are visibly dirty, such as after exposure to rain or soil, you can gently clean them using a dry or slightly damp paper towel to brush off any dirt or debris.
When it’s time to prepare the peppers for consumption, that’s the appropriate moment to wash them. Rinse the peppers under cool running water just before cutting or cooking to remove any surface contaminants or residues. This approach ensures that the peppers remain fresh and free from excess moisture during storage while still being safe and clean for consumption when you’re ready to use them in your culinary endeavors.
How to preserve peppers to store them long-term
If you find that you won’t be using your peppers within the next two weeks, there are several effective preservation methods to extend their shelf life.
Freezing is one of the easiest ways to keep peppers year-round. For hot peppers, you can freeze them whole. For larger sweet peppers, slice or dice them, and then freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet before transferring them to a freezer bag. It’s essential to freeze peppers at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below to maintain their quality and flavor.
Canning provides various recipes to preserve peppers, ensuring you can enjoy them later in the year. You can pickle the peppers and water bath can or use a pressure canning method for preservation.
Drying peppers is another effective preservation technique. Peppers can be left whole or ground into a spice. You have multiple options for drying, such as air drying, sun drying, oven drying, or using a dehydrator.
Fermenting peppers involves allowing bacteria to break down the pepper, resulting in a more acidic environment. This fermentation process imparts a unique flavor profile, making the peppers taste zingier and brighter. You can create a fermented mash (roughly blended peppers) or use a brine to ferment whole peppers. Fermented peppers are commonly incorporated into homemade hot sauce recipes.
Making hot sauce is an excellent way to preserve peppers and add flavor and heat to your dishes year-round. You can create a pepper mash and blend it with other flavors and spices to craft your unique sauce. To ensure hot sauce remains shelf-stable, it must have a pH of 4.6 or below, which can often be achieved by incorporating vinegar and/or citrus juice into the recipe.
Understanding the art of proper pepper storage can make a world of difference in preserving their taste, texture, and nutritional value. Whether you prefer the mellow sweetness of bell peppers or the fiery kick of hot ones, following the correct storage methods is essential to extend their shelf life and minimize waste.
Slama, J., & Diffley, A. (2013). Wholesale success: A farmer’s Guide to Food Safety, selling, postharvest handling and packing produce. FamilyFarmed.org.