[ This article is part of our Save The Food series on how to make the most of your food ]
Can you still use your fruit?
- Berries are their own beast, so for berry specific information check out our guide on saving berries here
- Fruits can suffer from a variety of different types of deterioration and each carries different implications, so it's important to pay attention to what's going on with your fruit.
- Bruising and partial rot are some of the most common types of deterioration fruits can experience. Bruising usually occurs when fruit suffers from some sort of impact and is marked by one or more areas on the fruit that become discolored and mushy. You can often pierce a bruise or spot of rot simply by applying some pressure with your finger. You can easily cut away these spots and salvage the remainder of the fruit. Make sure to cut away the entire area that appears impacted, going deep enough into the flesh of the fruit to remove it all.
- Mold is another common ailment fruit experiences. If you spot moldy fruit you do not need to automatically throw away the entire batch. Discard any moldy items and carefully inspect and wash the remaining pieces of fruit. If the rest of the fruit is free from mold you can still use it.
- Mold on fruit generally follows the same rules as with many other food items. Firmer, lower moisture fruits, such as apples, with a spot of mold can still be salvaged. Softer, higher moisture items such as peaches should be discarded when they have a moldy spot. Mold on the softer, higher moisture items can spread more easily throughout the fruit, so it's best to discard the entire piece. If you spot mold on a firmer, lower moisture fruit such as an apple cut off at least 1 inch around and below the spot. Check out the handy USDA guide on mold on food by scrolling down this page for more guidance.
- If your fruit becomes substantially discolored, mushy, or develops a foul odor then it's likely time to toss it. Fruit with some discoloration, wrinkles, and softening is usually still fine to eat, it's just past it's prime.
How to save fruit
Freezing: Freezing fruit is a great way to preserve it if you won't be able to eat it before it goes bad. Wash and dry the fruit thoroughly, remove the peel (if applicable), and cut it into smaller pieces. Place the pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet and put them into the freezer. Placing them on the baking sheet keeps them from becoming a frozen clump, but if you're ok with a frozen chunk of fruit then you can skip this step. Once frozen, transfer them to a resealable bag or container for long-term storage. Frozen fruits can be used in smoothies, baking, or as toppings for yogurt, oatmeal, and other dishes.
Jams, Preserves, Compotes, and More: Cook down fruit that's past its prime with some form of sugar (granulated, honey, agave, etc.) to make jams, jellies, or compotes. You can make an easy compote to use within a few days, a simple fridge jam that will last a few weeks in the fridge, or go for the full process to make a shelf-stable jam. The longer you want to store it the more careful you need to be about following the proper preservation techniques.
Incorporate: Incorporating fruits into other foods is another great way to use them.
- Smoothies & Shakes: Blend overripe or slightly damaged pieces of fruit with your choice of other ingredients into delicious smoothies and shakes.
- Baking: Incorporate fruits that are past their peak into muffins, cakes, pies, tarts, or pancakes. Baked good are generally a great item to incorporate sub-optimal fruit into.
- Cocktails: If your fruits are still in good shape you can add them directly into a cocktail for a bit of flavor and a visual element. If you fruits are past their peak consider muddling them before adding them into a cocktail, you'll get more flavor this way too.
How to prevent fruit from going bad
- While in theory the crisper / bottom drawer is the appropriate place to store fruit that belongs in the fridge, it does you no good if you often forget about it because it's out of sight. This is the case for many people. Often something as simple as storing more perishable items such as fruit in the more visible places within the fridge can help you prevent food from going bad before you can save it.
- The main variables to consider when storing fruits are temperature, ethylene gas, and airflow. Ethylene gas is produced by certain fruits as they ripen, while others are sensitive to it. Keep ethylene producers away from ethylene sensitive fruit unless you are trying to ripen it faster (e.g. putting an avocado in a paper bag with an apple or banana).
- The below infographic from the American Heart Association shows the appropriate placement for fruits and veggies to maximize their shelf life. You can view the guide online here.
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