Q: I received a gift of nuts for Christmas. How do you store them properly?
A: Nuts can quickly lose quality if not stored properly. Excessive water loss can lead to shriveled nut meats, and the fats and oils in nuts can quickly spoil, developing an off-flavor or rancid taste. Shelled (or unshelled nuts) can be stored in a refrigerator; however, better storage is achieved when they are stored in a freezer. Nuts quickly absorb flavors from other stored products; therefore, store them in a tightly sealed container so they won't lose water or absorb flavors from other fruits or vegetables. A solid plastic container with a tightly fitting, 'snap' lid is preferred. You can use a heavy-grade zipper-lock type plastic bag as well. If nut meats are tightly sealed, they can be stored in a freezer for up to one year; however, using them within six months is preferred.
Q: What's the best way to care for a fruit basket that's been wrapped in cellophane?
A: It is wise to disassemble the fruit basket as soon as possible after you receive it and place the fruit in refrigerated storage. If all the products in the basket are tree fruits (such as apples, pears, oranges or grapefruit), you can place the entire basket in a cool place, around 40 degrees, for best results. If the basket contains any bananas or other tropical fruits (with the exception of citrus), remove those fruits and store them separately. About three to four weeks is about as long as you can expect to store these fruits without some shriveling and loss of crispness.