I hate waste of any kind, and I especially hate wasting food. I find that I usually over shop at the grocery store, or most often, at one of the warehouse giants or farmers markets. I’m attracted to the beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables so much that I want to buy them all. I usually cave and buy as many as I can. The thing is, I know we can’t use all of it. For many reasons, too. It’s difficult to stick to a meal plan when you work late, or when you attend kids sporting events two or three times a week, show up for community events, or just visit relatives for a day. By the end of the week fruit flies start appearing. I start feeling guilty. Then I just feel bad that I was so wasteful.
Here are 10 things to do with over ripe fruits and veggies before they grow fuzz and turn into mush. Some of these tips can help you make some fruits and veggies last longer, too.
1. Make sweet breads and muffins. Fruit breads and muffins turn out best when the fruit is ripe and soft. Two of my favorite sweet breads are Whole Wheat Banana Muffins and Banana Tea Bread. I wait until the bananas start to turn black before I puree them. Once the bread is baked, you can keep it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Bananas, pumpkin, squash, zucchini, apricots, apples, raisins, dates, and figs are among my favorites for making sweet breads and muffins.
2. Make fruit leather. Fruit leather is a perfect use for over ripe fruit. It can be made with just about any fruit. Sweeten it with a little honey and a bit of lemon or lime juice to retain the color of the fruit. Let it slowly bake on parchment paper, then roll it up, slice it, and store in an air tight container. Fruit leather can be stored for up to one month in an air tight container, or up to one year if stored in the freezer. See my recipe for Raspberry Fruit Leather for a quick healthy treat.
3. Make smoothies. Over ripe fruit and some veggies can be pulsed in a blender with a little ice, yogurt, and honey to make delicious smoothies. Toss the fruit in the freezer for about an hour until it’s mostly frozen before blending. You can also freeze the fruit and veggies a couple of days before making smoothies to keep it from ripening. It will blend well and create thick smoothies. Check out our Fruit-Yogurt Smoothie recipe.
4. Make flavored teas and lemonades. Make a pulp using over ripe fruits like mango, berries, peaches, and plums and mix with tea or lemonade. Ripe fruit is usually sweet but sweeten it more by adding a small amount of honey. If you’re not big on pulp, you can simmer the fruit in about a tablespoon of water until the fruit turns into liquid (works great with pomegranate seeds, too). Strain to remove any fruit pieces that did not dissolve. Make lemonade or limeade by squeezing over ripe lemons or limes then mixing with a simple syrup. Home made fresh lemonade is always a big hit. Plus, you can use the peels to make limoncello.
5. Make sauces and syrups. Slice soft apples or pears and simmer with a little sugar or honey to make a thick sauce. You can also add other fruits to the mix like berries, apricots, and peaches. Cook apples, pears, peaches, or apricots in a slow cooker and make a home-made butter like apple butter or peach butter. You can water bath can both sauces and butters and store for up to one year. Sauces also freeze well. Simmer over ripe fruit in a little water and sugar and make syrups. This is a great way to keep the fresh flavor of berries. You can also can syrups and store for up to one year.
6. Sprout the seeds and grow new plants. Many fruits and veggies are filled with seeds, or have shoots that can be planted. Scrape the seeds out of veggies like bell peppers, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins, okra, and squash. I usually wash them off then set them aside to dry completely. Plant a couple of seeds in small starter pots and grow new plants. You can also dry peas and beans, too. Some veggies sprout shoots like potatoes, onions, garlic, and pineapples. Plant potatoes, onions, and garlic in the ground or in small beds. Slice the top off a pineapple and plant directly in the ground or gardening container and start your own pineapple garden.
7. Make fragrant aromatics. Make your own natural air freshener by heating up orange peels and ginger slices or apple peels and cinnamon sticks. There are endless combinations of fruit slices, rinds, or peels that can be simmered alone or with herbs, ginger, anise, cinnamon and fragrant dried or fresh flowers.
8. Make fruit and yogurt pops. Slice, chop, pulse, or liquefy fruits and make fruit pops and yogurt pops. Add a bit of honey for sweeter pops. Berries and melons work best. Pops can be stored in the freezer for several months.
9. Make cleaning products. Use the peels of oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit to freshen up your garbage disposal. Drop two or three peels down the disposal and let the fragrant citrus flavors get rid of any unwanted odors. Add the juice of lemons, oranges, or limes to your favorite cleaning products to tone down the chemical smell of product.0
10. Make liqueurs. The “cellos” are very easy to make and require only the peel or rind of citrus. I usually make Limoncello, but I’ve also made other liqueurs with lime, grapefruit, or oranges. You can also soak berries like strawberries overnight in grain alcohol, too. The berries will turn pale, but the alcohol will be filled with flavor. Home made liqueurs make great gifts and they can be stored forever.
What do you do with your over ripe fruits and veggies? Do you follow any of these tips?