Aluminum foil can help keep fruits and vegetables fresh, but it’s not the best choice for every piece of produce or for every storage need. Determining when foil is appropriate and using it correctly can cut down on plastic use in the kitchen while keeping your produce in top shape.
Foods to Avoid
Not all fruits and vegetables are suitable for foil. Foods with high acidity, including most citrus fruits and tomatoes, react with the foil. The acid in these foods eats into the foil, resulting in holes, while also giving the fruits and vegetables a metallic taste. The skin of the fruits may also develop white spots from the aluminum salts. Low-acid vegetables, including celery, carrots and onions, along with low-acid fruits, like melons, are best-suited to wrapping in foil.
Foil for Quality
Most fruits and vegetables produce ethylene gas as they ripen. This gas, when trapped within the confines of a plastic bag, is what causes vegetables like celery to over-ripen and become limp. Loosely wrapping in foil allows the excess gas to escape while still holding in sufficient moisture for the food to stay fresh. Other vegetables, like onions, have a strong odor that can affect the flavor and smell of other foods. Wrapping these tightly in foil helps trap in the odors so they don’t taint other items in the vegetable drawer. Light can also affect flavor, ripening and quality, especially for fruits stored at room temperature, and foil helps block light exposure.
Refrigerator storage times vary depending on the fruit or vegetable, but most will last at least one week, while some, like celery, for two weeks or more when properly wrapped in foil. Wrap unwashed produce and store it in the vegetable crisper drawer, which ensures the produce remains cold without freezing. You can also wrap cut fruits and vegetables, if they don’t have acidic juices, but you will need to use them within two or three days of cutting so they don’t spoil.
Foil in the Freezer
Heavy-duty aluminum foil made for freezer storage doesn’t tear as easily as thinner household foil. Some vegetables may require blanching before you freeze them so they don’t develop an off texture or flavor. Drop the vegetables into boiling water for one to three minutes, or just until their color brightens, and then quickly cool them in a bowl of ice water. Sliced fruits aren’t suitable for foil freezing, because they need an acid treatment to avoid discoloring in the freezer, which can ruin the foil. Wrap the produce tightly in the aluminum foil after draining and drying. Wrapping the foil-wrapped fruit or vegetable again in plastic wrap or butchers paper, or placing the foil packets in a plastic freezer bag, further keeps out air and prevents the foil from tearing inside the freezer. Although food will be safe indefinitely in a 0-degree Fahrenheit freezer, it’s best to use it as soon as possible for the best taste and texture. Store it for no longer than six to 12 months, depending on the type of fruit or vegetable.
References and ResourcesNational Center for Home Food Preservation: Frequently Asked Freezing Questions
Real Simple: Aluminum Foil Do's and Don'ts
Clemson Cooperative Extension: Freezing Fruits and Vegetables
Michigan State University Extension: Celery