Veggie Stress – 10 Tips to Win the Race Against the Rot Clock

Moldy carrots

Do you suffer from veggie stress?

You know, veggies you bought at the grocer’s with every good intention to prepare and eat, yet somehow haven’t gotten to before they started to rot?

Raise your hand if you’ve never had a vegetable or fruit rot on you before you could eat it or figure out how to incorporate it into a meal. Well, you are not alone… The New York Times came out with an interesting article on this very matter:

What should be a beautiful and inspiring sight — your kitchen, overflowing with seasonal produce — is sometimes an intimidating tableau of anxiety. The knobbly piles and dirt-caked bunches are overwhelming. Already the peak-ripe multicolored peppers are developing soft spots; the chard is wilting and the race is on.

“People often feel overwhelmed in the kitchen, and when all this produce suddenly arrives, they panic,” said Ronna Welsh, a chef in Brooklyn who teaches workshops on, among other topics, produce management. read more…

Here are some helpful suggestions to make the most of your produce.

1. Buy smaller amounts of produce more frequently.

2. Wash leafy greens before storing in the fridge.

3. Don’t wash herbs, berries, and mushrooms until usage – they will rot even faster.

4. Store fruit and vegetables separately. As fruit ripen, they release ethylene, which increases the rate of ripening/spoilage for nearby vegetables. (You can also use this to your advantage if you need to ripen an avocado overnight – place it in a brown paper bag with 2 apples on your counter top)

5. Some produce does not ripen any more once refrigerated – stone fruit (not cherries), melons, mangoes, apples, pears, avocados and tomatoes. Consider moving them to the fridge once they are ripe enough.

6. Knife skills. Buy an expensive chef’s knife that won’t dull after 2 weeks. Practice your cutting skills so that you won’t be intimidated by prep time required to make a salad or sauteed vegetables. A bit of practice and you can reduce your veggie preparation time by 50%-75%.

7. When in doubt – use sliced and diced veggies as a colorful addition to pizza topping.

8. Smoothies – many an overripe banana, strawberry, etc… are perfectly fine for consumption but for the yuck factor. Throw them into a blender with low fat yogurt, ice cubes, and as little honey as you can, for a yummy tasty treat.

9. Schedule the day/hour of your veggie purchase to when you have some free time to care for them. Weekend mornings, for example.

10. Pre-cook as many of your veggies as you can the day you get them – peel, place on a roasting pan and drizzle some olive oil plus salt, then roast until soft. Now your veggies are ready to be added to any dish during the week.

How do you make the best of your produce?

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  • Kelly Runs on Cake

    I think the page just ate my comment, so I’ll paraphrase – sorry if I’m accidentally commenting twice!

    My comment basically said:
    #1 I wash my berries in very warm water as soon as I get them home, and they last way longer now. It goes against everything I though I knew, but I read it on Lifehacker and gave it a shot and it really works.
    #2 Thanks for the tip about stopping stonefruit ripening in the fridge!
    #3 If you have something that’s definitely going to go bad before you can eat it, just wash/cut up and freeze. Frozen fruit is perfect for future smoothies and frozen veggies are perfect for future soups.

    • Lauren Smith

      Agreed. I use my freezer all the time. Currently, I have bags of sliced banana, diced onion, and roasted and diced sweet potato, and I will be adding strawberries and a green pepper later today! :P MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR FREEZER.

  • Michelle

    As soon as I get home from the grocery store, I wash and chop the carrots, celery, cabbage and peppers so they are “salad-ready”. I’ve also found that storing leafy greens and some herbs with a paper towel helps to prolong their life (b/c it’s soaking up extra moisture?).

  • chel

    the freezer is your friend. i freeze fruit, especially bananas, before they go bad and use them in smoothies later. i also cook veggie pastas and freeze them in single size portions as freezer meals to take to work.

    • chel

      also, make soups! they freeze well. i had a several pounds of garden fresh tomatoes that needed to be used…i’m eating tomato soup all week!

      • IPW, Inc.

        smart girl !

  • Mike

    Don’t buy a bunch of bananas, select bananas of varying ripeness so you can eat a ripe one each day for the week!

  • maurine

    Purchase Debbie Myer green bags…follow usage instructions…veggies & fruits last a long time.

    • Kate H

      Those things have saved me a ton of money! I try to be good about only buying what I need for the next several days, but when you can’t buy smaller amounts of something (celery or herbs, for instance) the bags help keep them usable a lot longer.

  • Haylee

    In reference to #6, I recommend Cutco. Holy crap those knives are great. And no I don’t work for them, nor do I get paid by mentioning them here, I’m just legitimately obsessed with their knives. I don’t have one of my hands and those knives have completely saved me in the kitchen.

  • mvmcd

    i got a great tip recently about berries — bring them home and dump in a medium size bowl with water to cover to which you have added a teaspoon of white vinegar — swish around and drain and rinse — the vinegar gets off the bacteria that makes that white fuzz thing happen — i haven’t tried it yet but the person who posted the tip said berries were lasting more than two weeks instead of a few days by doing that!

  • Roby Mitchell

    Get bulk dried rosemary and store produce in bed of it. It will keep much longer.

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  • Ludicrous Mama

    Puree and freeze greens – you can add them to tomato sauce (for spaghetti, pizza, etc) or smoothies (add some lemon or lime juice to help cut the green taste) or even some crockpot meals where they can mush up with rice or something. They’ll last at least 3 months in the freezer that way!

    When veggies start getting wilty, I chop them up and toss them in a crockpot with some beans or chicken, rice or noodles rice plus beans make a complete protein if you’re not using meat, so that’s my usual go-to,) and water. I have various different seasoning recipes, depending what we’re in the mood for. My favorite is coconut milk and curry powder to make a tasty curry. Another favorite is cilantro. You can freeze your crockpot meal after it has cooked (time depends on setting and what you’ve got. Meats take longer than beans, and frozen meats even longer.)You can also use wilty veggies in soups.
    My fruits either go into smoothies, or lately I make baby food! But either way, you can freeze them to give yourself a little breathing room before adding them to smoothies. Bananas are especially good for this. You don’t need to add ice when blending if your fruit is frozen! You can also make a large batch or smoothies and freeze them in individual-sized portions (my favorite are the Ball Freezer Jam Jars. My daughter prefers her smoothies frozen into Rocket Pops! She wants no-added-sugar yogurt-veggie-fruit puree for dessert instead? Heck yes!)

  • Ludicrous Mama

    And I often chop up to several days in advance (usually when Hubby is home to keep the kids busy) and store in resealable containers, so I can just toss the chopped foods together when ready to cook. There has been many a time where I had planned on making a crockpot meal that day but forgot to account for prep time. Pre-chopping has made it so much easier!