5 Ways to Improve Terrible Produce

The bananas have begun to leak an unidentified substance. And you have absolutely no interest in identifying that substance. Not with a ten foot pole or heavy-duty rubber gloves. No thank you.

The spinach is on its last legs, and “green mush” doesn’t really sound appealing for lunch. Actually, it doesn’t really sound appealing at all…like ever.

The terrible produce monster has indeed taken over your refrigerator, and you’re in a bit of a pickle. (Well hey, take that cucumber, and pickle it!).

It’s no secret that supermarkets don’t always have the best produce. And while picking up fresh produce from local farmers’ market and sustainable meat/dairy is ideal, it’s not always feasible. Regardless of whether your fruits and veggies are banged, bruised, smushed, or just plain sorrowful, there’s always a solution. In fact, there are at least five of them.


**5 Ways to Improve Terrible Produce**

1. Goodies, Sweets, and Treats…Oh My! Bananas sparkled with dots of chocolate brown and sad, wilting carrots can only mean one thing: it’s time to whip out the mixing bowl STAT. Banana bread, carrot cake, zucchini bread, blueberry muffins and the like are great quick remedies for produce past its prime. A sly solution for slipping in one’s daily dosage of fruit and veggies, the use of produce in baked goods also helps to amp up the nutritional profile, providing for an indulgent treat with a healthy twist. As a bonus, garnering a reputation as resident baker is guaranteed to make you quite the popular family member, roommate, friend, or coworker.

2. Freeze First, Smoothie-ify Later. At the peak of its freshness, fruit is called nature’s candy for a reason. It’s sweet and delicious, practically bursting with the sunshine from which it was born. Unfortunately, once fruit passes that point, it seems to become the type of candy that nobody wants to eat—the gross confections that always seems to be left at the bottom of the bowl on Halloween. Since starch converts to sugar in fruits and vegetables as time progresses though, overripe produce naturally makes for wonderfully sweet smoothies. Bananas, peaches, mangoes, and strawberries all work like a charm for this option. Even a handful of spinach that has seen better days can be frozen and later thrown into a smoothie without any change to the taste!

3. A Soup-er Idea: Make Stock. Whether you’re sick with the flu or sick of using canned broth filled with icky additives, homemade broth is the perfect solution for any day. Even the most unsightly vegetables (from obtuse onions and wimpy celery stalks) can make for a great consommé. Simply chop up vegetables in need of a little TLC, and add them to a large pot of boiling water. Simmer until the desired concentrate is reached, and add salt + pepper to taste. Remove the vegetables once you’re done or leave them in—it’s your call! Either way, you (and your veggies) will be on your way to feeling better in no time.

4. Honey, I Revamped the Vegetables. Not all veggies are created equal. There’s a world of difference between a crisp bowl of gourmet greens fresh from the embrace of the Earth and a lamentable plate of almost-deceased broccoli. Never fear though, perking up sorry veggies is deceptively easy and requires only three things: a paper towel, a Ziploc bag, and a few drops of water. After washing your desired vegetables, slightly moisten a paper towel. Wrap the lettuce (or other veggies) in the damp towel, and place them in the plastic bag. Seal the plastic bag, pressing out all the air. Then, stick the bag in the fridge. Voila—the next day your greens will be crisp and good as new—ready for salad-making, or whatever your heart desires!

5. Fruity Endeavors. Bruised apples, mushy peaches, and desolate-looking berries are my absolute nemesis. I can’t stand eating fresh fruit that is past its prime; however, cooked fruit is a whole different story. Even the most blemished fruits can be cooked into a masterpiece—fruit puree, fruit leather roll-ups, fruit compote, etc. Of all these options, applesauce is by far my favorite. The best part? It’s ridiculously easy to make using a microwave. To do so, finely dice 1-2 apples (peeled or unpeeled, your choice), and microwave for 3 minutes with a pinch of cinnamon, salt, and sugar to taste. After 3 minutes, mash with a fork or puree with an immersion blender.

Lexi Cotcamp is a sunny dreamer and a Georgetown freshman living life on the East Coast for the first time. Instead of eating fruit and vegetables like they’re going out of style, she prefers to simply make them stylish instead. Just call her the Coco Chanel of the produce department.

Originally posted on Monday, March 5th, 2012

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