Food preservation and today’s kitchen

Written by Paula Kennedy, CMKBD CAPS, Timeless Kitchen Design in Seattle

Spoiler Alert – Kitchens waste food!


Today’s kitchens are not designed with food preservation in mind. That may sound strange to say, isn’t so much of what we do focused around food storage? Yes. But, food PRESERVATION, is different than merely storage.

I am beyond exasperated with throwing away food. It’s a waste of money and then the food isn’t there when I want it. I shop a couple times a week, and then to the farmer’s markets on the weekends. Inevitably I have to toss out the spinach or cilantro after only one use. I purchase them for a specific recipe that day, and then when I go to finish it later in the week it’s beyond my threshold.

The U.S. wastes 30-40% of food per year. The amount of food wasted that goes to the landfill is disturbing. Confusing date labels contribute to 90% of Americans throwing out perfectly good food. As the food spoils, it puts off methane gas that contributes to the Greenhouse effect. Please start composting or use a high quality garbage disposal.

It’s amazing how much produce is harvested that never makes it to market. We have been conditioned to prefer perfect looking produce. Does that sound familiar? Sort of like what the media and Hollywood have done to our perception of human beauty. An odd shaped tomato is just as healthy, and just as tasty, as a “perfectly” shaped tomato. How many of you grew up with a family garden or go to the farmer’s markets? I have been “brainwashed” and conditioned; I am very picky, are you?


Did you know some fruits and vegetables like it cold, some like it warm, and some need humidity? And then there are the fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas as they ripen that is detrimental to surrounding produce! Here are my top go-to fruits and veggies, and what I’ve learned about them:

  • Spinach
    • Store at or near 32 degrees without freezing and high humidity
    • Sensitive to ethylene
  • Avocado (unripe)
    • To speed the ripening process, place in a paper bag for 3-5 days, or can take up to 7 days to ripen.Or, place a banana in the bag too and speed up the ripening process to 2-3 days. Store between 65-75 degrees.
    • Ethylene-producing
  • Avocado (ripe)
    • Store in an airtight bag and refrigerate
    • Ethylene-producing
  • Tomatoes
    • Sensitive to chill injury. Store in high humidity
    • Ethylene-producing
  • Potatoes
    • Store in a dark, dry place, well ventilated, between 35-40 degrees
    • Sensitive to ethylene
  • Apples
    • Store at or near 32 degrees without freezing
    • Ethylene-producing
  • Bananas
    • Low humidity. Do not store in bags, keep at room temperature
    • Ethylene-producing
  • Green Grapes
    • Store at or near 32 degrees without freezing and low humidity
  • Strawberries
    • Store at or near 32 degrees without freezing and low humidity
  • Onions
    • Store in a dark, dry place, well ventilated, between 35-40 degrees

I remember in my Grandmother’s basement was a pantry, or rather a cellar. It was cool and dark, and a scary place as a kid. And, remember these “decorative” wicker pullout baskets that used to be designed into cabinets? They are considered too kitschy and unnecessary today. I used to think I didn’t want to start using those again till I saw the new ones on the market for traditional, transitional and contemporary design.


basket-1 basket2

Did you know that cilantro (and other herbs like basil and parsley) should be stored in this way? Trim the bottoms, place in a glass of water (hmm, like flowers), store in the refrigerator with a plastic bag over the top. I know Cilantro is inexpensive and easy to grow;  but for me it’s not about the cost, it’s about having it there when I want it.


Also, what about making sure there is a window sill in the kitchen with a stone top/ledge that is deep enough where we can place certain fruits or veggies that we need to ripen, like avocados and pears? The stone top will make it easy to clean and more durable than stained wood or painted millwork, and at least 4-5” deep.

Did you know?

  • You need to store opened cheese lightly wrapped in wax paper
  • Liquids should be sealed and not left open in the refrigerator so the moisture of that food does not affect the humidity level
  • There are plastic bags you can buy to store produce in that will help protect produce


fresh-bagsLet’s also learn about how existing technology works in the industry, especially in refrigeration. It’s up to us to learn and then teach our clients.

  • Safe thaw
  • Blast chill
  • Flash freeze

Many refrigerator drawers have controls for humidity and temperature  . . . USE THEM. In the luxury market those features actually work, they aren’t just for show. A couple even claim to help remove or combat ethylene.


My grand idea . . . we need to create a pantry like my grandmother’s cellar – dark, cool and dry. I also believe we need manufacturers to design us MORE refrigerator produce bins with control options, four to six separate bins would be fabulous!

  • Learn how to use the existing refrigerator bin controls
  • Refrigerator bins in the correct temperature zones. Maybe they shouldn’t all be in the bottom.
  • More refrigerator bins. Get creative with utilizing your own bins
  • Consider an undercounter refrigerator drawer to augment the refrigerator
  • Climate-controlled pantry (a girl can dream)
  • Understand vacuum sealing
  • Produce pull-out baskets in base cabinets
  • Deeper window ledge out of an easy to maintain material


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