Save food from the fridge

May 9 |

Artist Jihyun Ryou has a body of work reacting to the loss of oral knowledge we used to pass down about storing food. Not that long ago, humans knew what to do to lengthen the shelf lives of our produce, but now? Everything kinda gets tossed in the fridge. (Admit it: you've refrigerated onions before. Uh-huh. I know it!) The fridge is just such a handy store-all that we've gotten in the habit of stashing anything that will fit in it, often to the detriment of taste and freshness. Jihyun Ryou has a vision for how to change that.

Exhibit A: The apple-potato symbiotic machine

Photos courtesy Jihyun Ryou
Apples emit a lot of ethylene gas. It has the effect of speeding up the ripening process of fruits and vegetables kept together with apples. When combined with potatoes, apples prevent them from sprouting.

Exhibit B: The egg tester

An egg has millions of holes in its shell. It absorbs the odour and substance around itself very easily. This creates a bad taste if it's kept in the fridge with other food ingredients. This shelf provides a place for eggs outside of the fridge. Also the freshness of eggs can be tested in the water. The fresher they are, the further they sink.

I love the egg appliance especially because it in particular highlights lost knowledge — many people in the US don't know that eggs really don't need to be refrigerated!

There are more projects: designs for storing root vegetables, keeping spices dry, and keeping zuchini nice and crispy. Check them all out at Saving Food from the Fridge.

  1. Ohh good article. We currently live without a fridge or freezer and I'm always looking for ways to make things last longer. That's good to know about apples and potatoes. We like to buy potatoes in bulk but there's always a few that sprout before we get to use them. Now if I can just find a way to make cheese last longer than a couple of days…

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  2. Eggs don't need to be kept in the fridge, here in Australia they're kept on ambient shelving in most supermarkets, but they do last longer in the fridge. If you store them in their cardboard carton they don't absorb icky flavours.

    Also, refridgerated onions produce less tears.

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  3. I loved this article, but I have one question: Where can I buy those shelves??? I would LOVE to have some of those. Particularly the apple/potato one and the one for root veggies (on the blog site). Thanks!

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  4. My Intended has had a pattern for a potato and onion box to be built for me for YEARS. Still no box! sadface. And as far as apples, I prefer my apples cold, so that screws everything up. I like my bananas cold too, but I just break one off in the morning, put it the fridge and eat it later the same day, cause otherwise it gets UGLY in there.

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    • Potatoes and onions together actually make each other spoil faster — better to keep them in different boxes, separated by distance.

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  5. A lot of people know this, but butter doesn't have to be refrigerated. Nor do tomatoes. In fact, the fridge makes tomatoes taste mealy. Those shelves are brilliant!

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    • The key is keeping salted butter in a covered, preferably close to air-tight dish (butter crocks work fine.) This also helps the butter from absorbing ambient smells and tastes. Light and air cause it to go rancid faster. Salt actually slows down the bacterial growth.
      I can taste rancid butter from a mile away, and I'm thusly a huge proponent of refrigerating or freezing it until it's NEEDED.

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      • For sure. I keep mine covered in a butter dish, and we go through it pretty quickly since I cook a lot. No rancid butter for us!

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    • my hubs thought i was a nut for leaving butter out. we have since bought a butter bell and he is on board with that, but i managed to drop the sugar jar on it and it broke :( the sugar jar was unharmed though!

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      • I used to use a beautiful (BEAUTIFUL) vintage candy jar made of milk glass that my cats destroyed. Why? Because it contained butter, which they desire. Damn cats. But now my butter dish is made of metal. Which they cannot break, even if they throw it on the floor like they did to my vintage milk glass candy/butter dish.

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  6. WHAT?! This is amazing!!!! I love it sooo much! What about herbs? What do I do? There's so much crap in my fridge and we have a giant pantry.

    Off to fall down the google rabbit hole.

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    • Danielle, with herbs I do two things, one I keep them growing..either in a vase of water or planted in a pot on the windowsill. This way I do not have to refrigerate, and I get MORE herbs! The other thing I do is to chop them up and place a Tbs in each well of a an ice cube tray. Then fill tray with water, and freeze. When frozen I pop the cubes into a labelled plastic bag. Then I just get out the ones I need and drop them into what I'm making!

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      • Thanks! Those are great options. I bet they are pretty in vases. Like fresh flowers, but handy! I like the ice cube bit too. I often freeze mint, lemon, orange or muddles strawberries in cubes and put them in my water. I can't believe I didn't think of that.
        Thanks again!

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        • These are all great ideas!! This is awesome!

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      • the ice cube tray herbs are genius! thanks for the idea.

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    • Herbs:
      -Basil keeps best in water, out of the fridge, covered by a plastic bag (to further keep it from drying out).
      -Thyme, oregano, sage, and mint dry well — just hang them up as a bunch, wait a few days, and crumble the dried leaves into a spice jar.
      -Cilantro and parsley both keep well in water in the fridge, covered with a plastic bag.

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  7. This post is amazing! So much I didn't know! I tend to put everything in the fridge just because that's how my mom did it (well, that and we don't have a real pantry and our animals will eat things left out, but still…), and I had no idea of some of these things. Favorite OBH post ever!

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  8. I knew the eggs thing — my mother-in-law has a bazillion chickens on her farm, and when they're all laying she barely has the counterspace to keep the eggs.

    These are amazing! I would love to have some of these.

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  9. I was under the impression that because of the way eggs are processed in the US (specifically that the bloom is washed off of them before being sold) they DO have to be fridged here unless they're farm-fresh, non-grocery-store eggs. Other countries process them differently which is why in Australia (and the UK I think?) you'll see them on a regular shelf. I might be wrong but I'd be cautious about leaving eggs out if they're grocery store eggs in the US.

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    • Yep eggs are on regular un fridge shelves for us in UK supermarkets which always makes me smile when UK peeps then put them in the fridge. I get a good month or more out of my far bought eggs and the older they are the better they are for poaching. :)

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    • This is correct! Washed eggs must be refrigerated or eaten within a couple days of being washed–you can't even buy them that fast after washing.

      Darnit, I want my chickens!

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  10. I recently stayed with some vegan friends who haven't got a fridge, instead they store everything in their old, slate shelved pantry or in the freezer. They do live in a 200 year old cottage in the Scottish highlands, so extreme high temperatures are not a problem!
    The idea of no fridge is totally alien to an omnivore like me,but once you remove the easily spoiled stuff like meat and dairy from the equation it makes perfect sense.

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    • I eat meat and dairy and don't own a fridge and its a total pain in the ass. We go to the market on a Saturday and buy two days worth of meat then that's it for the week. It does help with my wish to eat less meat though. Suprisingly milk lasts quite well out of the fridge. About as long as it takes for two of us to drink to pints. I'm not looking forward to summer though. :-/

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    • OHMIGOD. If ever you visit this house again, please take a picture and write us a little post. That's exactly the kind of stuff I love to learn about different houses.

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      • You could also make a "swamp cooler" – put a container of whatever you need to keep cool in a larger container with a few inches of water in the bottom and some plastic bottles filled with water and frozen. Cover it with a t-shirt or something and put it in a dim corner. Change the bottles every other day or so as they melt. We use this method sometimes when we brew in the summer and need to ferment at cooler temperatures.

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      • We have looked at things like this but the one issue is space and the other is that as most of the surfaces on the boat are metal they warm up and warm whatevers sat on them.

        We are looking at getting a couple of solar panels to run the fridge but I think we might move off the boat before we get them.

        We have a pantry in the new house, it already feels cool but i'll look at getting slate shelves. That sounds like a great idea.

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  11. I'm currently living without a fridge or freezer (or a microwave… or a cooker… sigh), and I've got so used to it now. You might have to shop every 2-3 days for things like cheese and milk, but everything else (fruit, stuff in opened jars) seems to last a week or more just on a shelf in my room at ambient temperature. I don't eat meat, so maybe that helps, but I haven't had anything go bad on me yet. Oh, I tell a lie – one moldy orange. But still.

    I've also decided that blue cheese tastes *way* better kept at room temperature. Nom nom.

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    • Cheese is meant to be served at room temprature, lots of pre-packaged fancy cheeses say it on the packet :-)

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  12. It drives my husband CRAZY that I don't refrigerate eggs! A lot of recipes call for room temperature eggs and it takes quite a long time for them to warm up if they've been in the fridge.

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  13. My hubby has major food phobias… he won't allow me to keep butter in a dish on the counter despite the fact that we use it up quickly. Alas, no soft spreadable butter at my house! :(

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    • Don't despair! You can make spreadable butter: dissolve 1/2t salt in 2T water, then blender w/ 1c butter, 1c oil, 2T dry milk, and 1/4t lecithin. It gets melty at room temp b/c of the oil, but stays spreadable in the fridge.

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      • And thusly you have made margarine. Still, home-made margerine has got to be better than store-bought.

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