Many fruits and vegetables are perishable and require refrigeration to guard against bacterial and foodborne illnesses such as E. coli or listeria, but not all produce needs to be chilled before you cook or eat them. In fact, some foods can deteriorate if kept in cold conditions or are fresher or taste better at room temperature. Here are six foods that are best stored on your countertop or in your cool, dark pantry instead.
Part of the allium family, fresh garlic can be stored unpeeled and intact in a dry, low-humidity area with good air circulation for up to six months depending on your regional climate. It’s a good idea to keep them in the net bags they’re sold in and wait to unwrap the leaves on the bulbs until you’re ready to use them. When chilled or stored below 40°F, garlic bulbs may start to sprout or dehydrate and lose their flavor.
The salt, sugar, and vinegar in ketchup act as natural preservatives, which make this popular condiment safe to store on your kitchen counter or table. Homemade ketchup can be kept for up to six months in a cool, dark area like the pantry, depending on your recipe.
Whole, uncut cantaloupes, honeydews, or watermelons are all best when stored at room temperature. They’re best enjoyed within a few days and up to two weeks after harvesting. Before you dig in, make sure to rinse or scrub the outer skin and rinds to wash away any dirt and once cut, any leftover melon slices should be stored in a plastic container or bag and refrigerated to prevent spoilage.
Like garlic, onions are also part of the allium family. Red, yellow, or white onions should be kept loose and unpeeled in a cool, dry area. When bulbs get crushed or wet, it can trigger the respiration process, which can lead to rot.
Keep spuds out of the refrigerator to prevent starch breakdown into sugar, which changes the color and taste of potatoes. Potatoes are similar to onions in that respiration can occur, so it’s important to keep them dry in a well-ventilated area, and to wash them only when you’re ready to cook with them.
Cold temperatures change the texture by expanding the water inside tomatoes (think of an exploded frozen soda bottle), leaving them mealy and grainy. Preserve your uncut, vine-ripe tomatoes and keep them plump and juicy by storing them at room temperature and away from direct sunlight.