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7 Ways to Use Overripe Vegetables

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We’ve all gotten carried away at the supermarket and bought more vegetables and produce than we ended up needing before. We get it! Maybe you made a recipe that called for a single carrot but had to buy an entire bag of them, or had ambitious plans to make a huge batch of stew but ended up ordering in instead. Now you have veggies sitting in the fridge, aging away.

Luckily, there are ways to salvage your veggies that are too ripe to be eaten raw, but not quite bad yet. Below, we’ve pulled some ideas from the Food Monster app for recipes and preparations that incorporate leftovers and transform them into something new and delicious. Find out all seven ways you can cut down on your food waste.

1. Pickling

Vegetables that are bordering on becoming too old make perfect candidates for pickling. At its core, pickling is a process of soaking something in vinegar, and no, it doesn’t just need to be cucumbers. See some basic suggestions for vegetables that you can pickle, but know that when it comes to pickling, you are only limited by your imagination.

Typical recipes and guides for pickling call for your veggies of choice to be soaked in a mix of vinegar and select herbs and spices, such as salt, sugar, garlic, or peppercorns. Put your vegetables and this mixture together in a jar, and then leave it in the fridge for a few days. You can use pickled vegetables as garnish on any number of dishes, like these Jackfruit Carnitas with Pickled Red Onions. But no one will fault you for eating pickled veggies straight out of the jar, especially since the health benefits of pickled foods include improving our digestive, immune, and nervous systems.

Try your hand at pickling vegetables with these Vietnamese Quick Pickles. Spruce up your salads and sandwiches with Spicy Pickled Radishes, pictured above, or Homemade Pickled Jalapenos. For a homemade take on a classic, try Quick Bread and Butter Pickles.

2. Roasting

Roasting is one of the easiest ways to quickly cook up vegetables that have been sitting in your fridge or counter. The most basic roasting process involves just sticking your veggies in the oven with a little bit of olive oil, but you can quickly enhance this process by playing around with herbs, spices, and condiments.

Once you’ve roasted your vegetables, there is a whole host of possibilities for what to do next. You can eat them straight from the baking pan, or you can incorporate them into other recipes. Use up potatoes, eggplants, and other vegetables in this hearty Briam, or Greek oven-baked vegetables, pictured above. Try out a flavorful Roasted Veggie Moroccan Tagine. This Roasted Vegetable Rainbow Hummus is sure to impress for its beautiful colors, flavors, and nutrition. Or make a Whole Wheat Roasted Vegetable and Pesto Galette for a healthy and filling use of old vegetables.

3. Make Veggie Chips

Similar to roasting, making vegetable chips is as easy as putting veggies in an oven, though it has the added step of slicing them thinly into, well, chip-shape. The classic vegetable for making chips is potatoes, as in these Homemade Baked Potato Chips. But why stop there? These Crispy Baked Zucchini Chips are just as easy. If you have a bag or bunch of kale that needs to be used, give these Everything Bagel Kale Chips, above, a shot.

And of course, don’t forget about your beloved pet! If you have some vegetables you need to use, consider making dehydrated treats for your dog.

4. Make Soup and Stews

Soups or stews are perfect and often easy ways to use multiple types of vegetables. After all, what’s simpler than tossing a bunch of old veggies in a pot with some broth?

Before you get started, read our tips for making the perfect vegetable soup. Then, grab your leftover vegetables and get creative. For inspiration, check out this healthful and tasty Celery, Mushroom, and White Bean Stew, or a simple 15-Minute Zucchini, Pea, and Watercress Minestrone. Everyone needs a go-to tomato soup recipe, so how about this Creamy Cherry Tomato Basil Soup, pictured above? Meanwhile, a Chunky Garden Gazpacho can help you use up a whole variety of vegetables.

Lastly, you can also use vegetables to make a homemade broth that can become the base of any soups that call for it. See our guide to making Oil-Free Vegan Vegetable Broth. Alternately, save leftover veggie scraps from cooking and make this Healing Mineral Broth. Your old vegetables can also become a delicious substitute for bone broth.

5. Blend Into Smoothies

If you’ve got a good blender or food processor, you can also turn those old vegetables into smoothies. Many of your greens will work nicely for this, so check out these 11 Awesome Green Monster Smoothies. Though spinach and kale are classic add-ins, you can also get creative with recipes like this Orange Sweet Potato Smoothie, above. If you have carrots and pumpkins, blend them up into a Beta Carotene Sipper. Overripe avocados are perfect for adding a creamy touch to smoothies, like in this Raw Avocado and Cacao Smoothie Shake.

Of course, feel free to ditch the recipes and get creative with smoothies – all you really need is the vegetables and fruits you want to blend plus some liquid as the base. Mix in some homemade vegan protein powder for an extra protein boost.

6. Baking

Many people use overripe bananas sitting around by mashing them and making delicious banana bread. Similarly, you can use overripe vegetables by baking them into breads and dessert pastries.

Vegetables make a good base, even for a sweet pastry like in this Pumpkin Chocolate Zucchini Bread. Sneak veggies into dessert in this Chocolate Orange Cake, which uses sweet potato in the icing. Again, slightly ripe avocados are super versatile when it comes to desserts, giving a fudgy quality to recipes like these Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies.

If you’re in the mood for savory, all sorts of vegetables can be used in baked goods: make some Cauliflower Rolls or a fluffy Tomato and Potato Focaccia, pictured above. These Flourless Lentil Carrot Tortillas can serve as a wrap or be used for dipping, but they’re good enough to be eaten as is. 

7. Composting

If your vegetables have really gone bad – that is to say, they smell or taste rotten, or you can visibly see them molding – it’s best not to push it. Fortunately, there’s an eco-friendly alternative to throwing out vegetables: composting! To set this up, check out our guide to getting started with home composting. Then read about what to do with the compost you’ve just made. Lastly, after you’ve gotten into the swing of things, check out some secrets for better composting results.

Of course, this is just the beginning. If you find yourself with an excess of vegetables that you need ideas for, check out the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Happy cooking!

Lead image source: Vietnamese Quick Pickles

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