It happens all the time. You find yourself in the store facing a magnificent display of fruit: fuzzy multi-hued peaches, shiny green apples and strawberries so ripe they look like they are about to burst. Confident that your family is going to be delighted snacking on a veritable potpourri of fruity goodness, you bring them home and fill your fruit bowl. Yet a day or two or ten later, depending on the fruit and the ambient temperature in your humble abode, you somehow find yourself facing an assortment of fruit that looks more than a little sorry.
What do you do with fruit that has turned just a little soft and squishy and that no one in your household wants to eat?
Please don’t tell me you throw it out. Because while the texture of the fruit may be a little less firm than usual, your produce is likely to be far more flavorful than it was just a day or two before and, with a little creativity, you can mask the texture and maximize the intensely delicious flavor that is yours for the asking.
But let’s take a step backwards and discuss the best ways to store fruit so that you don’t have to worry about mushy produce in the first place. For starters, don’t wash fruit until you are ready to eat it. And those plastic bags you put your fruit in at the grocery store? Take the fruit out of there immediately. Keeping produce in unventilated plastic will lead to moisture buildup and moisture buildup will lead to…you guessed it: squishy fruit, or worse yet, moldy fruit.
While stone fruits, such as peaches, plums, nectarines, mangos and apricots, will ripen nicely on the counter, refrigerate them once they are ready to eat so that they don’t get overripe. Store berries, which are pretty perishable, in paper bags or those little ventilated baskets they come in, and check them daily, removing any that are beginning to go soft. Apples and citrus fruits keep for weeks in the refrigerator and while the outside of a banana will turn brown if you stick it in the fridge, it is fine once you peel it.
Obviously you aren’t going to try to resurrect fruit that has gone bad and I am not suggesting you feed your family fruit that is moldy, spoiled or otherwise just nasty. The USDA’s Food and Inspection Service warns that if you find mold on soft fruits or vegetables they should be discarded entirely since mold can contaminate foods with a high moisture content, even below the surface.
While some fruits, including melons and citrus fruits, don’t lend themselves to cooking and baking, many of these squishy fruitbin residents can be reincarnated into something spectacular once you cut away any brown, icky or otherwise unappealing parts. There are more than a few uses for fruit that is a little past its prime and with Pesach just around the corner, you might find some interesting ideas to round out your dessert and snack menus.
Smoothies: You can go into a local cafe and spend upwards of four dollars on a smoothie or you can raid your own fridge and transform slightly softened produce into a glassful of drinkable deliciousness. What to put in your smoothie? Well, fruit, obviously, and if you want a thicker smoothie, freeze chunks of fruit several hours in advance. Add in milk, yogurt or the liquid of your choice, and if you like your smoothies a little sweeter, throw in some sugar or sweetener. Stick it all in your blender and give it a whirl. Great with peaches, strawberries, mangos, bananas, blueberries and kiwis.