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Don't Throw Them Away Just Because They're Old

by Leigh Shulman Feb 4, 2010
Here’s how to turn those soggy, old vegetables into something delicious.

It happens to all of us. You go shopping with the best of intentions. Then a week passes. Two. Maybe even three, and you find yourself with a drawer full of old vegetables. They’re still edible, technically, but no one really wants to dig into their soft wrinkly skin.

Some ideas of what you can do with instead of throwing them away.


From kimchi to kosher dills, pickling has been preserving food for centuries. You can read about the science of pickling and compare notes with other picklers at the Exploratorium: Museum of Science, Art and Human Perception.

Pickling works best as a preemptive strike. Say you went to the market, got all excited and ended up buying more than you need. It’s simple, quick to prepare and has a long shelf life.

A Simple Pickling Recipe

3 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
¼ cup salt

Then add whichever spices appeal: dill, whole allspice, whole raw garlic, celery seeds, mustard seeds, whole black peppercorns.

Use this liquid to preserve just about anything from tomatoes , cucumbers, carrots and peppers to fruits like mango and peaches. Store in the refridgerator.

Boil It Into A Jam Or Sauce

Chutneys, preserves and sauces provide ample opportunity to hide imperfections.
Sautee garlic, onions and spices before adding your old tomatoes. Cook them until saucy. You can also throw in any other vegetables or even fruit pureed or whole for additional flavor. Jams are also easy in that you simply heat your old fruit with water and sugar and cook until thick.

Chutney, a more savory type jam, works on a similar principle as pickling except where pickling is cold, chutney is heated. Throw in fruits like mango, apples and peaches with vinegar, sugar and spices and cook.

Spicy Apple Chutney

4 apples, peeled and quartered
2 tbs vegetable oil
Whole mustard seeds
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp fresh ginger
1-2 chillies of your choice, sliced. Include seeds for a spicier.
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup red wine or apple vinegar
1 cup water

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add mustard seeds until toasted. Then add onion, and salt and cook until onions are translucent. Add garlic, chile and ginger and cook another minute. This releases the flavor of these last ingredients.

Add remaining ingredients and cook over moderate heat until everything is soft. Takes between 30-45 minutes depending. Stir occasionally to keep from burning.

Roast Them

Salvage your root vegetables – potato, yam, carrot, turnip and the like – by roasting.

Batatas Bravas

Chop whatever you have into bite sized pieces, coat generously with olive oil, salt and powdered chile pepper. Bake for 30 minutes at about 375F/200C until soft. Then turn oven to broil and let cook until everything turns crispy. Add more oil if you see the pan drying out.

These are incredibly spicy and go perfectly with beer.

Hide It All In A Soup

Again, the boiling principle comes to the rescue. Just about any vegetable can be salvaged by a pot of water, vegetable stock cubes or tomato sauce and spices.

Vegetable Soup

3 tbs olive oil
4 cups of whatever vegetables you want to add, chopped into bite size pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp rosemary
1 16oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 16oz cans of water
4 tbs dark soy sauce (also called sweet soy sauce)
4 tbs regular soy sauce

Heat oil until it runs like water in the pan. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and rosemary and leave on heat for another minute. Add rest of vegetables and cook.

When the vegetables just begin to soften, add crushed tomatoes and water and cook covered for half an hour. Pour in both kinds of soy sauce and cook uncovered for another ten minutes. You may want to add additional soy sauce depending on your preference.


What are your favorite food preservation recipes, tips and tricks? Share them in comments below. Then check out Matador’s Food and Travel page where two favorite past times unite.

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