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Produce Keepers

Published July 2010

How we tested

A new wave of “produce keepers” is cramming supermarket shelves, promising to extend the life of fresh produce. We tested five such products: two bags, two plastic containers, and one device designed to neutralize ethylene, a gas that accelerates ripening and spoilage. We filled the bags and containers with a pint of strawberries or 15 ounces of baby spinach, then placed them in the refrigerator (middle shelf for the berries, bottom shelf for the spinach) along with the same items left in their original packaging. We put the ethylene neutralizer in a drawer in a separate refrigerator with more strawberries and spinach in their original packaging. We checked the produce every other day for two weeks and recorded any signs of decay.

All the “protected” produce, it turned out, spoiled at relatively the same rate as that in the original packing (4 to 10 days)—and in some cases even faster. Why?

Fruits and vegetables are composed mostly of water and need a humid atmosphere to avoid drying out. But this presents a storage problem: While airtight containers keep that vital moisture in and limit oxygen exposure, thus slowing the plant’s metabolism and prolonging its life, they also create ideal conditions for mold and bacterial growth. (Moisture tends to condense on the surface of the produce, trapping ethylene gas, which causes the produce to deteriorate.) The products we tested either kept in moisture but also trapped ethylene (but didn’t “neutralize” its adverse effects), or let moisture escape along with the ethylene. Overall, the original packaging did a comparable (and occasionally better) job controlling the degree of moisture and oxygen exposure.

You’re better off controlling refrigerator temperature than buying any of these products. Green leafy vegetables should be stored in the lowest shelves of the fridge, where it’s the coldest, while berries should be kept in the middle shelves, where the temperature is slightly higher.

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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.