What To Do With Fruits & Veggies Past Their Prime

Past-its-prime produce can be all too common this time of year. After all, who can resist the abundance of beautiful, ripe, in-season fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets and grocery stores? But this means that many of us will find ourselves with more fruits and vegetables than we can eat before they ultimately get soft and squishy.

Instead of tossing those fruits and veggies when they become a bit too mushy, make the most of your groceries and give your leftover produce new life with these smart past-their-peak tips:

1. Herbs – Purchasing an entire bunch of herbs for one recipe can be a waste of money. Your leftover herbs usually end up with that that sad, floppy look waiting for their turn to be used. A better option: Puree them with just enough oil to get the blender going and freeze the mixture in a shallow container or ice-cube tray, or freeze the entire sprig in olive oil for up to six months. Scoop out spoonfuls of the mixture for a hit of fresh herbs in marinades, sauces and dressings.

2. Bananas – We all know that brown, mushy bananas are great for making perfect banana bread, but there are other ways to use them as well. Simply peel and mash the over-ripe fruit, then transfer the mixture to a freezer bag and freeze it to use later in smoothies (like this Banana Spinach Smoothie), pancakes, or even baby food! For a treat on a hot summer’s day, peel, wrap in foil or lay on a cookie sheet, and freeze for a ready-to-go banana popsicle.

3. Tomatoes – Chop up mushy tomatoes and use them to make a pasta sauce (try this delectable Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce), which you can eat right away, keep in the fridge for two to three days, or freeze for up to six months. You can also choose to roast them in the oven to use in place of sundried tomatoes, or chop to make a delightful salsa or bruschetta.

4. Citrus – Citrus fruits can last anywhere from one to two weeks in the fridge, but if you’re pushing that two-week mark, don’t fret. There are still plenty of ways to keep lemons and limes out of the compost. Grate the zest off of the outside (the parts that aren’t brown) and freeze it in a re-sealable bag for later. Squeeze the juice out of the fruit and into a small container. Add a few teaspoons to soups, sauces and iced drinks for a citrusy zing. The juice will last a few days in the fridge, but if you don’t use it before then, freeze in an ice cube tray in small portions. As a bonus, soak the peels in vinegar for a grease-busting homemade cleaner!

5. Berries – Don’t toss those strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries! Instead, freeze the fruit on a tray first (this will keep them from freezing into one giant blob) and then transfer to a re-sealable plastic bag. Smoothies are always a good way to use up fruit, or you can thaw it and serve on a variety of desserts. This is also the perfect starter for this Greek Yogurt and Fruit Puree Popsicles recipe, which is made all the more delicious using Dannon’s Oikos Greek Vanilla Yogurt. You can also chop the fruit for a salad topping (such as this Strawberry Chicken Salad with Warm Orange Vinaigrette), but if it isn’t pretty enough for that, put it in a blender with olive oil, vinegar, herbs and seasonings to make a fantastic, slightly sweet salad dressing.

6. Veggies – Vegetables such as cucumbers, peppers, radishes and carrots can last a while in the fridge, but when they start to turn, it’s pickling time (try this recipe)! Trim them, taking off any brown spots, and slice them about 1/4-inch thick. Use these pickles in salads or sandwiches, eat them as a snack, or serve them alongside burgers. They’ll keep in the fridge in the liquid for two weeks. Feel free to add a few whole garlic cloves, a teaspoon of pickling spices, or a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes to the pickling liquid when simmering for some extra zip.

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