So there’s this friend whose relative is starting a job at a grocery where he’ll supposedly (not proven yet) have access to expired food.
Sadly, they live about an hour away from me, and my schedule is a leetle full these days. So I could probably not acquire produce as soon as it appeared.
Therefore, I am attempting to build a list of vegetables so that should they appear, I could ask for minimal processing in order to accept them in a stable form and process them further into tasty food at home.
I shall also accept suggestions from the audience.
(gleaned from Wikipedia’s list of culinary vegetables and a couple other wikipedia pages)
Leafy and salad vegetables – Once salad greens go bad, they turn into brown sludge fairly quickly and can not be saved. If you want to start a compost bin, however, this is a great place to start. I have plenty compost, though, so I don’t need these.
Fruiting and Flowering vegetables
– Avocado | avocados are usually on sale long past the overripe stage, so by the time they squish off the shelves, they are probably brown through. If, however, they are not completely squishy, it’s worth saving about a dozen for immediate consumption. They do not freeze! But out of the dozen expired avocados, you can probably salvage enough good bits to make guacamole for 3 people and a bowl of chips.
– Bell peppers | possibly too much work to ask of someone else, but the best way to extend the lifespan of dodgy bell peppers is to cut the flesh away from the stems (usually slicing off the big lobes works well), placing them face down on a baking sheet, and then broiling them until the skin blisters and blackens. Turn the oven off and go do other stuff for an hour or so. And then the skins should come right off. Pack the roasted peppers tightly in their own juices and/or a little vinegar or a little oil and either freeze in manageable packets or store tightly closed in sterilized jars. (or proper water bath canning, but again, a bit much to ask)
– Corn | (really, wikipedia? You’re putting corn here and not as a grain? I give you a skeptical look) Cut off the cob and freeze. Woo hoo!
– Chayote | I haven’t experimented with them fresh yet, but I keep meaning to. No idea about large quantities.
– Cucumbers | I’ve never tried freezing cucumber, but I bet that if it were peeled, shredded, and then left to dry in a colander and patted dry, then freezing it in muffin tins would produce a fully acceptable product for tzatziki and raita.
– Eggplant | One friend has had great success with cutting eggplant up, freezing it, and then adding it to dishes later. I am skeptical but willing to give it a try. I would want the first quantity to be no more than 5 lbs, peeled, and cut into reasonably saucy pieces (<1″?) – Mango | I am very interested in both damaged unripe and ripe ones, but if they are both very ripe and very damaged, there’s not usually much salvageable. Again, however, these can’t be frozen as is – otherwise they’ll be solid and crazy. And peeling and de-seeding them is a lot of work. But, if you are interested in peeling and de-seeding them, then I can take any size chunks and turn them into jam and/or chutney. – Summer Squash | remove bad spots, and then cut thinner, even sized pieces (more like julliene or half moons than thick chunks) and freeze. Or can be shredded and frozen, but clearly labeled as not cucumber (for use in quick breads and stuff). – Tomatillo or Green Tomatoes | slice in half (through the stem bit) and freeze as is. To use them, I usually end up roasting them, anyway, so it should be good. – Tomatoes | I’m willing to try one large batch with just the bad spot cut out and frozen whole, skins on and everything. And I’d then try making tomato sauce from scratch. I’m not 100% sold on this plan, but I’d give it a shot. – Winter squash | If there are no obvious bad spots, just age, then I can take them all. Bad spots meaning brown and squishy – it it’s just scrapes on the surface, then usually the squash underneath is okay. If there are no more than a couple minor but obvious bad spots, then I can take 2-3 squash for immediate conversion to roasted goodness and probably soup. But there’s a limit to how much squash soup I can make/eat (and that’s about 1 pot every 2 weeks) so I’m not interested in frozen quantities Flowers or flower buds of perennial or annual plants – Artichoke | no hope for the unloved artichoke – Broccoli / Cauliflower | cut into small chunks and freeze. Stems can also be cut up and frozen, but separately and they cook differently – thin thinner slices, like water chestnuts Bulb and stem vegetables – Asparagus | rinse, dry, trim of dry tip from the flowering end, and then line them all up and make one cut 2″ from the tips and another cut 2″ down from there. Discard (or compost) anything below. If the stems are shorter than that, just the first cut. And then freeze no more than 1lb together. And I don’t think I can go through more than 5lbs of asparagus soup a year. – Celeriac | you should try and see if you like these – because I don’t – Celery | Nope, I hate celery, too. – Garlic | I am rarely short of garlic, but I am willing to take any non-moldy, non-dried solid garlic and give it a good try as is – Kohlrabi | peel, slice, and freeze with the broccoli stems. Cooks exactly the same. – Leek | Get a big pot. Slice leeks in half the long way, and then in 1cm thick half moons the short way – all the way up into the dark green parts until it gets all dry and split. Dump them into the big pot. Cover with water. Swish them so well with your fingers that all the rings separate. Leave sit for 20 minutes so any dirt settles to the bottom. lift off the floating leek slices into a colander. In a big skillet, heat up some oil to frying temperature and fry the shit out of those leeks (they don’t have to go all the way to crispy, but definitely into limp land. Drain on kitchen paper. Salt some and eat them right there. Cool the rest and freeze them in muffin tins or baggies or 1/2 pint containers. – Onion | Can be peeled, diced, and then frozen. You probably want to just keep these they are that awesome – Scallions / Green Onions | A little bit more problematic. If they aren’t at all crispy and looking like they can keep until they are used fresh, then they probably aren’t going to be worth freezing. I do use their greens to make stock, but I usually have plenty. – Shallot | again, peel and then either slice or mince and it will freeze well. Root and tuberous vegetables – Beets | if they’ll keep fresh, then YAY! And they’re edible way into the stage where you can bend them. But processing them to freeze them is so messy that if you aren’t getting food out of it, it’s not worth staining your cutting board and clothes. – Carrot | If you have a bunch of fresh carrots that need to be turned into soup, I’m here for you. But if they won’t last until they see me and need to be processed and frozen, then I’m just not as interested. – Ginger | I hear that one of the best ways to store ginger is peeled and in the freezer. I haven’t tried it on my own, but I’m game. If there’s a lot, then I could even try candying it. – Parsnip | option 1) just trim of heads, tails, and dubious bits and freeze and I’ll turn it onto stock; option 2) bring a bunch fresh, and I’ll roast em or mash em or supthing; option 3) trim bits, peel, and cut into 1″ chunks and I’ll do any number of things with them – Potato | while there are many things to do with an abundance of potato, I have no need They are so cheap in perfect condition and I still have trouble getting through an entire bag. – Radish | good fresh and in spring, but I have no need of sketchy surplus – Sweet Potato | I haven’t tried freezing these, but I just that if you just cut out any rotten bits and froze them they’d keep well enough for roasting. Then again, probably if you didn’t freeze them, they’d still keep well enough for roasting. – other miscellaneous root vegetables | someday I shall be a poorer person and be grateful for them all, but right now I find they add too much bulk and not enough vitamins. Pome fruits – Apple and crabapple | Not interested in any with a waxy skin. If they can get to me fresh and whole, that’s awesome. If they are in danger of all rotting to death: cut into quarters, remove seeds, cut out bad spots, freeze with or without skin – can be turned into apple sauce or apple butter – Pear | fresh is good, same procedure for freezing. If you cut into slightly rougher pieces, could probably also make jam – Quince | wash off fuzz, quarter, seed, freeze The stone fruits – apricot/peach/plum/hybrids | If they won’t make it to me fresh, wash the surface, cut in half, remove the stone (if the stone doesn’t come out easily, then compost the whole batch as overripe stone fruit is not hard to come by and the extra work isn’t worth it – though I hear they often do taste better when in god enough quality to eat fresh), peel the fruit (I use a knife to peel, so that’s easier after they are halved. If you do the parboiling method to peel, that’s easier before – I don’t judge), and then cut out the bad spots. freeze them by type or all together and I shall make jam. – Cherry | don’t save. After they have been both frozen and cooked, they start to taste medicinal. Other fruits – Banana | there is no shortage of bananas in my world. If you want to make bread or smoothies, then they freeze well after peeling. – Berries | are going to be all moldy by the time they are expired :( – Citrus | might still be perfectly happy for weeks after pulled. If some of the batch start going bad and you don’t think the rest will keep fresh, and if you are willing to put in the effort, you could prep them for marmalade and then freeze. (and, yeah, that’s any citrus) – Melon | I do not need more melon in my life. – Tamarind | I find the pastes in the store much easier to process than the whole pods. Herbs I don’t really need any more herbs than I grow, but I hate to see them go to waste. For basil or cilantro, pick the leaves off the stems, mince finely, pack tightly into small containers, and freeze. For all other herbs, freeze as is – on the stems even – and I can chuck them into stock.