Fuel Yourself During The Pandemic: Fresh or not so Fresh Fruits or Veggies

During this time of Pandemic fruits and veggies are getting hard to find. Maybe you stocked up and forgot about that bunch of broccoli in the back of your refrigerator, or those tomatoes are looking a little wrinkly.

How do you know what to eat and what to toss?

I am going to tell you some of the ways I look at our fruits and veggies. How I assess what I have and what we can use, and some ways to use them in your cooking. As a chef a lot of these would just be thrown away during times of plenty. The idea being you want to serve the best of the best to your clientele. However, we are also taught what is healthy, how to use all of the product you have, and what you can get away with trimming. We cover how to avoid food waste a great deal as well.

Grab a cup of coffee, tea, or what ever you are drinking its going to be a bit of a long blog.

As always use your best judgment, and stay safe.

These are some of the most common grocery, and produce items you can get here. If I missed something that is common where you live please feel free to ask, I will answer, and let you know if I have any familiarity with that product.

Cheese –

This is not produce but it is important. Hard cheese you can keep if it has mold on it. Rule of thumb is cut about an inch around and under the mold to remove the mold spot, then wrap in a new piece of plastic.

Dairy (like sour cream and yogurt), and Jam/jellies/preserves –

Throw these out. They may contain poisons, and toxins that are very dangerous. Never take chances with these.

Bread –

If it is moldy throw it out. The mold can be very dangerous on bread.

Hint: If you have the freezer space you can freeze your extra bread. Place it on the counter to come to room temp after freezing. It is better to buy fresh, but this can help stock up to stay at home.

Hard vegetables and Fruits you can generally cut away the mold and use.

(Example: Carrots, Bell Pepper, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli, root veggies, etc.)

Produce and what to do with them:

Tomatoes –

  1. If your tomatoes are wrinkly and not firm they are good for cooking, sauces and soups.
  2. If they are moldy throw them away. Remember mold on soft fruits, berries, etc you should throw away.

Carrots –

  1. If your carrot is looking limp, feeling flimsy, and the tops/greens looking yellowish, and limp. They are good for roasting, cooking in soup, making a sauce, sauteing up.
  2. If your carrot is moldy, cut about inch around the mold off. If for instance at the tip, I just cut the tip off.

Onions –

  1. If your onion has a black sooty mold on outer skin, peel till you see new flesh/skin. If you don’t need that onion right away a new papery brown skin will form from the new skin you exposed.
    • That black, sooty-looking substance on the skins of onions is a mold. Aspergillus niger is its name. It is a common fungus found on onions in the field in and stored in bags at the grocery store. It is found on the outside of the onion and is typically harmless.
    • What to do if a bunch is touching an onion that has some mold. I remove both. Peel them down, and rinse them with water. Then dry them thoroughly.
  2. You can cook them right away but they are still shelf stable.
  3. If it is at all looking wet or slimy throw it away.

Broccoli –

  1. If your broccoli is browning on the crown in spots, and or the stalks looking warn and old. Trim the brown spots off and remove the stems.
  2. If it is at all looking wet or slimy throw it away.

Cabbage –

  1. If your cabbage is looking old and limp. You can use it in stir fry, soup, even roasted. Hard veggies and fruits you can cut off around and under any moldy spots about 1 inch in.
  2. If it is wet and slimy throw it away.

Greens –

  1. Lettuces and greens, tend to get wet and break down fast. So throw them away if they start looking moldy, wet, slimy.
  2. Should you throw away if it looks limp? If it has just lost its vigor but does not smell bad feel slimy you can try soaking it in cold water, to see if it crisps up and then use it.

Bananas –

  1. If the banana is moldy throw it away.
  2. If the banana is brown, bruised, almost black, you can still use it in baking, smoothies, fruit soups, etc.

Berries –

  1. If your berries, or other soft fruits and veggies are moldy throw them away.
  2. If your berries are just looking a little sad, but not moldy, that is a great time to puree them into a smoothie, or bake them into baked goods.

Mushrooms –

  1. If they are moldy throw them away.
  2. If they have dark spots use them now, in roasting, soup, sauces, baking etc. Use them in anything that they don’t have to be pretty.
  3. If they get wrinkly, they are drying out, and better to just throw away.
  4. If the are odorous or stinky throw them out.

Apples –

  1. If your apple bruised and ugly it is still ok to eat. Just cut off the bruised spot. Eat raw, or you can cook them down into apple sauce. You can grate them and use them in baking.
  2. If your apple has mold throw it away.
  3. If it is in a bag with others that have mold, throw away the offending apple, and take all others out wash them and dry them really well.

Oranges –

  1. If your orange has mold on it throw it out.
  2. If one goes bad in the bag what should you do? Throw out the moldy orange. Then wash the other oranges and dry thoroughly. Those should be safe to eat.

Peppers –

  1. If your peppers are wrinkly, you can still eat them. They would be great for roasting, in casseroles, sauces, or soups.
  2. If your pepper is a little moldy cut off an inch around. However, I tend to throw it out if the mold is found inside of the pepper.

Avocado –

  1. After you cut it the avocado and it gets brown/oxydized, you cut it a day ago and it looks terrible. It is still ok to eat generally. You can cut off the ugly oxydized parts.
  2. If it is moldy throw it out.

Here is an example of the dinner I made for my family with produce that was not the freshest. I used the broccoli, and carrots pictured above.

Tilapia, mushroom medley, carrots broccoli onion saute, and rice.

The list goes on, and on, and on, but I don’t have the time to go through every fruit and vegetable here. I hope this helps.

Be careful what you eat and use your best judgment. Stopping food waste is a great thing to learn. Consequently during this time of pandemic it may just help your food budget go further.

So when you venture out to get your supplies. Don’t fear the ugly produce. Eat the ugly produce. If it is a sad looking and all you can get, you can still use it. If nothing else throw it all in a stock pot with some water, and boil it down. Make a veggie stock to use in your other cooking.

Thank you for reading. Stay safe, and lets all flatten the curve by keeping our social distance. At least we can talk online right? Subscribe and comment if you want.

Note: Sorry for so many posts. I just wanted to get these out because I thought they could be helpful for so many people.

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