Cold storage and vegetables: Top tips for food service providers
Tuesday, Oct 16th 2012

In order to make the most from their inventory of fresh vegetables, here are the tips food service providers must know for keeping produce in cold storage or restaurant freezers:

Cabbage: This family of vegetables also includes Brussels sprouts, kale, Collard greens and spinach. According to Carol O'Neal, former president of the Oregon State University's Jackson County Master Gardeners Association, vegetables in the cabbage family need some atmospheric humidity and are best stored at 32 degrees Fahrenheit in perforated plastic bags. These vegetables should also only be washed right before serving.

Bell peppers: According to Meals Matter, bell peppers should stay wrapped in cold storage, and will stay good for about one to two weeks. However, according to Organic Authority, red bell peppers are more mature than other varieties and should stay in a refrigerator for only one to two days.

Carrots: The top of the carrots should be removed and the carrots should be washed prior to placing in cold storage for between one to two weeks. Place carrots in a closed plastic bag and be sure to keep them away from apples, as the fruit emits ethylene gas that makes the vegetable bitter, according to Meals Matter.

Mushrooms: Avoid storing mushrooms in plastic, and instead opt for paper storage containers. According to Meals Matter, mushrooms can stay for about five days in a cold storage facility. The Ohio State University's Department of Human Nutrition recommends storing mushrooms in a partially opened bag to allow for air circulation. According to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, mushrooms are prone to spoilage if condensation accumulates on them, making it important to monitor humidity levels in storage facilities.

Bok Choy: Also known as Chinese cabbage, according to Meals Matter, this variety should be refrigerated at between 32 degrees and 36 degrees F and cut only before use.

Celery: Wash first, and then store in a closed plastic bag in a cooled location for between one to two weeks. Meals Matter said it is important to monitor temperature, since celery is prone to freezing.

Beets: Although it is a root vegetable and therefore traditionally known to store well in cool and dry unrefrigerated areas, Meals Matter recommended placing them in cold storage. The greens should be cut off about two inches above the top of the beet, and then the loose unwashed beets can stay in an airtight container or a tightly closed plastic bag for up to three weeks.

Frozen vegetables: Often, food service providers rely on frozen vegetables, especially when fresh produce is not readily available. Bags of frozen vegetables, when first placing in a storage facility, should contain easily discernable pieces of frozen produce as one large frozen block can indicate that the bag defrosted and then was frozen again. Freezers should be kept at sub-zero temperatures to minimize the creation of ice crystals. It is important to monitor temperature with early detection when it comes to storing frozen vegetables, as fluctuating temperature can affect the product's quality, according to The Frozen Food Foundation. The vegetables, unless being removed for a dish, should stay in the freezer for as long as possible.

Vegetables not fit for cold storage: According to O'Neal, many vegetables should not be kept in cold storage facilities. For example, tomatoes lose their taste and texture when improperly stored and the starch content of potatoes is reduced when placed in a refrigerator. Vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and hard winter squashes like pumpkin should be kept in cool and dry areas away from sunlight. Once cut, these vegetables should be tightly wrapped and placed in a facility that is 40 degrees or slightly cooler.