Just as is the case with storing veggies without refrigeration, the first step is selecting the right fruit.
And the same “rules” apply:
- Buy never-refrigerated fruit. Luckily, it’s generally easier to find fruit that has never been refrigerated than veggies, particularly outside the US. Even in supermarkets in Mexico, fruit often was not refrigerated. And even better were the local fruit shops and farmer’s markets — almost none of their goods were refrigerated.
- Be very picky. Pick over individual items and don’t accept any that are bruised, rotten, overripe, soft, or moldy. Any swarms of fruit flies are a big no-no, as they’re a sign that the fruit is beginning to spoil.
- Don’t buy too much. If you buy more than can comfortably fit in your storage areas, your fruit will get bruised as you try to fit the extra in. Be sure to allow room for padding and air circulation.
- Transport the fruit gently. If you’re carrying them in a backpack, bring along some towels to pad the fruit and don’t cram it in. If you’re going by cab, make sure nothing will fall on it and they won’t roll around. Squashed or bruised fruit won’t last long!
Washing the Fruit
As with veggies, some cruisers prefer not to wash the fruit until they are ready to use it. I like to rinse it in a mild bleach solution, to make sure that any bugs are removed — fruit seems to harbor more bugs than veggies do.
As I rinse the fruit, I really go over it, particularly with small fruit like grapes and strawberries. Any that are bad get thrown away immediately, and ones that are “fully ripe” but still edible are set aside for the next meal.
After washing, lay fruit out to dry, preferably out of direct sunlight, and don’t store them until they are totally dry.
Storage areas need to be well-ventilated and dry. Unlike veggies, fruits don’t really need to be kept in the dark. Bins need to be something that can be easily washed — plastic works the best as you can use bleach on it and it dries quickly. Wire baskets and gear hammocks cause “pressure points” that will bruise, so these need to be well padded. That said, gear hammocks are my favorite place for storing fruit if they can be hung in locations where they won’t bump into anything in rough seas, but will just swing unencumbered.
Additionally, the bins and other storage containers need to be located where you can see into them to check on the fruit daily. If you see something that’s bruised, put it on the dinner menu. Anything that you missed and is now rotting or molding needs to be thrown out immediately — and the container wiped out with bleach. Should you ever see fruit flies, they mean that something has gone bad — keep searching until you find it!
I don’t store non-refrigerated produce of any sort in plastic bags — they simply trap any moisture (whether from humidity, condensation or left over from washing) and the food rots. I’ve had equally bad luck with the “green bags.”
Citrus fruits: Wrap individually in aluminum foil and do not store near apples (will cause the apples to rot). It’s very important to make sure that fruit is 100% dry before wrapping in foil. Will last several weeks to one month. If left unwrapped, will last one week to 10 days on average. Minor mold on the skin can be wiped off with a mild bleach solution.
Bananas: We were never able to keep bananas longer than 2 days — they are just way to susceptible to bruising. We’ve been told that if you can find green bananas (we never could), they will last about a week — and they’ll all ripen at once.
Buying a stalk of 100 or so green bananas and tying a bag around it to allow just one round to be exposed – and ripen – at a time sounds like a wonderful idea for a Pacific passage. However, the boats that I’ve known to try this have ended up with them all ripening at once — not to mention the bugs that came out of the stalk. I don’t recommend trying this.
Avocados: These are hard to keep from bruising. The best way that I found to store them was to put them in a sock, then in a gear hammock – otherwise the strings on the gear hammock will bruise them. Even if purchased rock-hard, avocados won’t last much longer than a week to 10 days in tropical heat; if you buy them ripe, they’ll only last a couple of days.
Mangoes: Buy them in varying stages of ripeness from ripe (to eat right now) to rock hard (to eat in 10 days to 2 weeks). As the rock hard ones ripen, they’ll ooze a bit of sugary juice, so store them in their own bin with towels that can be easily washed.
Apples: We never found good apples while we were cruising, unfortunately. However, apples will last up to a month if you can protect them from bruising. Don’t store with citrus (will cause the apples to over-ripen) or bananas (will cause the bananas to over-ripen). If they are not chilled, apples won’t have as much “crunch.”
Pineapple: Will last up to 2 weeks if purchased green. Pad well against bruising and keep upright.
Strawberries: Will only last 2 days at most — only one if fully ripe when purchased. My suggestion: buy and eat the same day!
Grapes: Will usually last at least 2, often as many as 4 days or sometimes more. After that, they may start to dry out (on their way to becoming raisins), but still won’t mold for several more days — sometimes never. I continue to eat them as long as they don’t rot or mold — but I try not to buy more than I think we’ll eat in 4 days. The older, drier ones are great used in coleslaw or tuna salad!
If you’ve learned other “tricks” for storing fruits — ways to keep it longer OR things not to do — please share your insights with the rest of us in the comments!