Need some tips to get the most out of your overly-optomistic vegetable purchase from 2 weekends ago? Let us help!
At this time of year, we are inspired to buy many more fruits & veggies than usual. This is largely due to the wide variety of colours, flavours, and textures abundant in summer time farmer’s markets and community gardens. Something about summer weather just makes you want to dig into a juicy watermelon, y’know?
Unfortunately, many people over-buy their vegetables without a realistic way of using them up before they begin to go off, thus contributing to a major problem in the Western world – food waste. As food becomes more expensive, we simply cannot afford to throw it away simply because it’s not as pretty as it was when we bought it. How many times have you thrown out a limp head of lettuce, or wrinkly tomatoes? When your peppers are no longer crisp and shiny, do you find a way to consume them, or toss them while feeling guilty for forgetting they were even in the crisper?
Here are 10 ways to get the most out of your vegetables:
1. Portion and Freeze
You bought a huge bag of crisp, green beans at the farmer’s market. You even snacked on a few on the car ride home, thinking, “This is it. I’m eating veggies as a snack from now on. I am all over this health nut stuff. So easy.” A week later, you know perfectly well that you aren’t going to get to the rest of that bag before it turns brown – those beans have lost their snap and just look so… sad.
We have all had this experience with all different kinds of vegetables, and the fact is that they can still be saved for when you need them as long as you get to them soon enough. You can freeze limp beans for adding in to soup later on, and they’ll be awesome. You can chop up those not-so-shiny peppers and freeze them into portions for making salsa later on. Stick your neglected vegetables into the freezer before they are beyond all hope, and you can get some life out of them yet. This tip is especially helpful for anyone about to leave for vacation with no time to eat their way through their perishables before they go. Put a “hold” on those veggies until you can use them – don’t just toss them out because you can’t use them right now.
2. Make Soup
This should be a no-brainer. It doesn’t even matter what veggies they are – almost every vegetable in your fridge will probably taste amazing once cooked with some spices, splashed with some milk or water, and blended into a creamy, comforting bowl of healthy soup. All you’ll need is a single soup pot, your near-death vegetables, some water, some spices, and maybe a little milk or oil to blend in to it all when you’re done, just for some richness. Chop it all up, fry it for a bit, add some salt, pepper, and any spices you like, cover with water, simmer until all the veggies are cooked, and then blitz it all up with a hand blender until it’s smooth. Potatoes, squash, peppers, tomatoes, beans, onions, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms – they’re all great in soup, in almost any combination! This tip is perfect for parents who can’t get their kids to eat anything but baby carrots – ambush your kids with healthy vegetables in creamy, tasty soup *and* clean out your fridge without wasting food! They’ll never know that their “tomato” soup with goldfish crackers also has bell peppers, onion, and zucchini in it.
3. Keep a Veggie Plate in the Fridge
When you are looking for a quick snack, having to chop up or prepare something is likely one major reason why you rarely reach for those celery sticks and asparagus spears, and opt for something that comes in a package instead. Face it – sometimes when we are busy, or lazy, or both, we just want to reach for something and stuff it in our mouths, and have it be no more complicated than that. This is where your prepared veggie plate comes in handy.
When you do find yourself with a moment to prepare food, or maybe while you’re cooking another dish but have all your veggies out anyways, chop up some extra veg and stick it in a tupperware container or on to a plate covered in plastic wrap, and toss it in the fridge for those late-night snack cravings. You can even portion out some hummus or yogurt dip so that your veggie plate feels complete! This way you are not only making it easier for yourself and your family to eat more veggies, but you’ll be able to get through that 20lb bag of radishes that you bought for some reason. Don’t give yourself an excuse to eat junk or waste perishables – have some veggies ready!
4. Quiche or Fritatta
Sometimes those aging tomatoes are beyond the “presentation” stage, although they will still taste amazing. Occasionally we find ourselves with slightly squishy but not yet too old potatoes. When your chives go limp and your mushrooms begin to shrink, what’s a budding chef to do? Dump eggs all over them, of course!
A quiche or a fritatta (like a quiche but without the pie crust) is a great way to use up limp vegetables that can’t be served raw without revealing how close they are to being gone from this world. Again, we aren’t stating that rotten vegetables should be consumed – sometimes you just have to know when to let go – but limp green onions are perfectly edible, and their limpness is completely masked by fluffy egg and maybe even a little cheese in a fritatta or quiche-type dish. Trust us – an omelette won’t hide your wrinkly mushrooms as well as a quiche. Anything that looks that much like pie automatically wins in most picky eater’s books anyways.
5. Veggie Burgers
There are many different recipes online for making your own veggie burger patties, and everyone who wants to use up the very last of everything in their fridge should definitely make use of the veggie patty approach whenever possible! You could even just add your rubbery zucchini, depressed spinach, or flaccid kale into your ground beef burger patties if you like. The best veggies for making all-veggie patties are probably mushrooms and beans, but you can add greens by chopping them up really well and making sure you drain any excess moisture out of them first – you can shred your zucchini and then sprinkle a little salt on it, leaving it in a strainer over a bowl while it drops much of it’s water, and squeeze it out a bit before adding it to your patty mixture. Carrots work well too, but be aware of the sweetness that both carrots and certain squashes will add to your burger. For a heartier veggie patty, grind up all your shredded & drained veggies with some cooked lentils or kidney beans, and add some miso paste to help bind it. We also love adding hoisin or black bean sauce to our veggie patties to get the most “beefy” flavour!
6. Make Pesto
Another no-brainer! When you’ve bought too many of those big bags of basil and it’s starting to turn dark and wilt down, it’s maybe not at it’s most oily and fresh for the best pesto, so you have a few choices here – combine your old basil with some new basil, thereby “hiding” the old stuff in a mixed batch, or add other ingredients to your pesto, creating a fusion of your own. You could slow roast your wrinkly tomatoes or peppers and add them to your pesto mixture with olive oil and some toasted pine nuts. Serve that all up on some almost-stale bread and you’ve got yourself a fancy snack. Toss it with some spaghetti and some of your almost-dead spinach and the last nub of your parmesan cheese, and you have dinner. You probably also stopped yourself from throwing out a few good bucks worth of food. Good for you!
7. Make Salsa or Jam
If you’ve done the blended soup trick and your kids are starting to catch on, or if you just don’t feel like eating hot soup on a warm summer’s day but you still have desperate veggies in the fridge begging to be put to rest, it’s time to think “party snacks”. Salsa is obviously the best way to use up tomatoes, peppers, onions, herbs, and you can even sneak zucchini, cucumber, eggplant, or carrots in there if you’re clever. Serve your salvaged salsa with the last few rounds of pita bread that were going stale in the bag on your counter – when those pitas turn to frizbees, brush them lightly with olive oil and bake them until they turn golden and crispy – watch them closely so they don’t burn! Sprinkle with salt & oregano, and you have yourself a salsa conveyance. You even made chips from your leftovers, clever you! Want something sweeter? You don’t just have to make your jam out of your browning peaches or your dehydrated blackberries – check out recipes for sweet red pepper jelly, and get canning!
8. Make Hummus
Step 1: Open and rinse a can of chickpeas. Step 2: scrape out the last tablespoon of peanut butter or tahini from the jar that has been in the back of the fridge for a month. Step 3: Chop up every ready-to-quit vegetable in your fridge, including cucumbers, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, beets, asparagus, spinach, herbs – you name it, it will probably be fabulous in hummus. Step 4: Blend all of that up with some lemon juice, garlic, spices, and oil until it’s smooth. Step 5: Consume with pita chips made with method in #7. Step 6: Learn to live with the knowledge that you can deceive others by hiding vegetables in anything, anywhere, anytime, like a pro. *high five*
9. Save The Seeds
We don’t wait until our veggies are going off to save the seeds for growing next season. If you have any shade of green in your thumb, you should know that growing some veggies is possible even in a small apartment. If you have the blessing of actual land to grow your own veggies in, you’ll definitely want to save the seeds from certain vegetables and dry them out for storage. While you’re cutting up veggies of any kind, make sure you scrape off and set aside the seeds on a plate in a cool dry place, Make sure you label what it is you are saving so that you don’t forget what variety you have. After several days, when your seeds are light and completely dry, store them in a well-marked envelope and keep them either in a dark, cool place until you are ready to use them, or put them in the fridge for later. Saving seeds is an excellent way to enjoy those peppers or tomatoes you found at the farmer’s market, and growing your own vegetables is a wonderful, meditative hobby. Use it all up – don’t even waste the seeds!
10. Re-Grow Your Vegetables
Our last bit of advice – re-grow your vegetables when you can! Did you know that the root end of many vegetables can be saved, suspended in a glass of water, and sprouted for a “cut & come back” growing method? You can re-grow lettuce, green onions, regular onions, celery, and more, just by saving an intact root end and treating it nicely for a few days with a dip in the pool and some time in the sun. You have the power to grant semi-immortality to that spring onion, and to give that celery extra long life! Get the most out of your vegetables by never letting them die. *cue thunder & lightening*