Case of the Curious Crisper Drawer

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Dear Home Ec 101:
Every refrigerator I have ever seen has a crisper drawer, yet I have never figured out what to put in mine. What is the slidy thing for?
~Vexed by the Vegetable Bin

refrigerator drawer


Heather says:

Refrigerators do two things simultaneously. First and most importantly they keep everything cool. Their second function is to moderate the humidity. If the air in your refrigerator became too humid everything would be covered with condensation, too dry and anything perishable would quickly mummify.

As soon as fruits, vegetables, and herbs are harvested they begin to lose water to the surrounding atmosphere. Some items such as citrus fruit lose moisture slowly due to their thick skins and smaller surface area. Others like spinach lose water rapidly. Generally the more surface area the faster the produce will wilt or spoil.  Remember spheres present the smallest surface area to volume ratio.

Cheap and Easy! Refrigerator Repair: Written Especially for Do-It-Yourselfers, Trade Schools, and Other “Green” Technicians!

The crisper drawer has adjustable vents, that are usually controlled by a slide or lever. To create a more humid environment more suitable for most vegetables the vents should be nearly closed. To keep leafy greens as long as possible, wash, then wrap with a slightly damp paper towel.

Fruits will generally spoil faster with increased moisture. Either store fruits on the shelves of the fridge or be sure the vents on the crisper drawer are wide open.

Enjoy your fruits and veggies.

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*EDIT* Home Eccer JayMonster raises a good point. Berries are the most delicate of fruits and need special care. They need to be wrapped in vented plastic bags or stored in the plastic boxes they are sold in. Do not wash them until just before consuming. Regardless of how gently you treat them, berries have a very short shelf life in the refrigerator, typically 3 or 4 days at most. (A little more if you picked them rather than purchasing from a store, as they didn’t spend time in transit)

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6 thoughts on “Case of the Curious Crisper Drawer”

  1. I could be wrong (my wife usually thinks I am), but when it comes to fruit, it isn’t (I don’t believe) as easy as stated. Different fruits react differently in the refrigerator.

    For example, my daughter is a strawberry fanatic. But leave Strawberries in the “dehumified” part of the machine (or leave the crisper vent “open” and I will have what looks like “Freeze dried” strawberries very very quickly.

    Now I will admit that I don’t have the complete answer, but if nothing else, on the fruit I would say that it “depends” on whether you leave that vent open or (at least partially) closed.

  2. Oh, I love this blog!! The slider on my fridge drawer has one end marked “veg” and the other marked “fruit” and I’ve always wondered what the HECK that is for! Thanks for the info.

    Also, regarding fresh berries: I came across this hint in our local newspaper and have been storing berries this way for 2 years with great success.

    Do not wash the berries and be sure to set aside any with soft or rotten spots. Layer the perfect berries between paper towels in single layers in a container with a tight lid. Refrigerate. Berries stored this way will keep well for a week, I swear. The goal is to keep them dry and tightly lidded.

  3. You are so right about the moisture thing. I’ve found that if I stick iceberg lettuce (yes, I know it has no flavor) into a gallon zipper bag with a cloth kitchen towel in there, leave it cracked open and put it in the veggie drawer it will last a couple of weeks. Pretty amazing since if you leave it sealed up it only seems to last a couple of days.

  4. Ha! I’m so pushy. Sorry Heather. I just had a party and made -way- too much salad. It was incredible and I kept wondering.. ‘will it keep?’. Desperate, I plugged again.

    Thank you for replying. Google’d and wiki’d, I was still in the dark. This explains everything. Well done.

  5. I used to sell tupperware and they actually make (or at least used to i haven’t perused their inventory in about 5 years) a produce container that’s faboo for berries. it comes with two vents that you can close or leave one or both open, the bottom is zig aggy so the produce doesnt sit in it’s liquid. great stuff. i’ve got a big one i like to keep cut up lettuce in.

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