Tell Us: Do You Eat Browning Avocados?

August  2, 2016

A bit of evidence of our general fixation with "freshness":

  • The market research firm The Hartman Group called fresh "one of the most important cues in food culture today," with consumers coming to "rely on fresh as a broad marker of a high-quality food lifestyle"
  • Rubbermaid's new FreshWorks products, which promise to keep produce fresh up to 80% longer
  • Food52's recent email, subject line: "Tricks for produce that stays fresh waaayyyy longer"
  • Maybe even your thoughts right now, drifting towards what you need to use up tonight and what will live another day

But does this obsession with freshness come at a cost: Does it mean that perfectly fit food goes to waste if it's not at peak freshness?

On a recent post about food waste, M's asked, "What 'gross-looking' things on various vegetables don't matter, and which do? Which discolourations are safe, and which aren't? How we can properly clean and prepare an imperfect vegetable? Which foods can have mold or deterioration safely cut off, and which can't?"

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As part of our effort to think through our worship of freshness (and the cost at which that comes), we want to hear from you: When is your food so far from fresh that it goes in the compost bin (or the trash can)? What cues—smell, appearance—do you look for?

Some questions to consider:

  1. Do you eat browned-over avocados?
  2. If a piece of fruit or a vegetable gets a bruise or a bit of mold, would you cut that part off and proceed?
  3. What about the greening part of potatoes?
  4. Do you care about some fruit or vegetables more than others? Do you baby some characters in particular (we're looking at you, tomatoes, peaches, and berries)?

Tell us your freshness philosophy (and strategies) in the comments below!

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nancy
  • aleeda
  • MarieGlobetrotter
  • ktr
  • I use a Replicator!
    I use a Replicator!
Sarah Jampel

Written by: Sarah Jampel

A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.


Nancy October 23, 2017
My answers are yes to the first two (eat browning avocados - they're not quite as visually perfect, but usually quite edible; cut off a piece of damaged or moldy produce and eat the rest), but no to the last two (was taught greening in potatoes is harmful; don't baby certain produce over other).
Have become more tolerant/expermental with produce of various aesthetics as I became more aware of food waste.
aleeda August 25, 2016
Sometimes the food needs to be perfect, but since most of my avocados are for avocado toast, I just mash the brown stuff. When I make extra, I just cover the mixture with water. That will keep it fresh for a couple of days...usually doesn't last that long. I also put green veggies in smoothies, or process them for soup.
MarieGlobetrotter August 5, 2016
Ugly, even slightly brown vegetables (it depends which ones) are often the best tasting ones. Sometimes those that looked too perfect have lost all their taste because they been so engineered. I'd hate to throw out entire cauliflower for example just because it's a little brown at the top. I also buy avocados very soft.
ktr August 3, 2016
I tend to have the opposite problem - I run out of produce before I can get back to the store.
This past week though we knew we were not going to be able to use all our CSA veggies because we were going to be gone for several days, so we shared with my in-laws and coworkers. Anything else that may go bad, will be frozen for soup or fermented (we get lots of cabbage in our CSA due to our soil and short growing season) into sauerkraut or kimchi.
And no, I do not have an issue with cutting bad spots out of my produce and using the rest. I agree with kp, if you ever buy a box of canning tomatoes, you will soon get over having to have perfect produce.
I U. August 3, 2016
All these lengthy answers, jeez. Just cut the brown part off.
PHIL August 3, 2016
Hey Capt Kirk! the replicator takes the fun out of cooking. the avocado thing was only part of the story but thanks for beaming down to share
Lina R. August 3, 2016
If you are not going to eat the whole avocado save the other half with the seed, it helps to delay the browned process, if it is just a little browned you can make guacamole with olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon and if you like some tomato as well; and if it is too brown to eat you can always use it as a hair mascara, avocado oil is great for hair and skin. The rest of the vegetables you can always use them for soups or "cakes"
Risottogirl August 2, 2016
I have NOT bought produce in a store...
Risottogirl August 2, 2016
I regularly make veg stock, kimchi and a fermented green sauce from my excess herbs and veg trimmings. I shop 2-3 yes a week at the fm year round. I have bought produce in a store in 5 years. I try not to overburdened and getting to no waste does require a plan b for everything !
PHIL August 2, 2016
I don't like avocados ( I can't be the only one) If I have soft tomatoes I freeze them to use later for a sauce. soft veggies, I'll roast them. Carrots , re-hydrate them in water. berries and bananas go to smoothies or freeze. I bought a freshworks container but haven't tried it yet.
kp August 2, 2016
1. Sometimes, depends on how brown and what it's being used in. 2. Cut and move on. Too bruised/overripe gets cooked. Anything that's stinky goes in the compost. 3. Eat. 4. I'm pickier about berries that will be eaten fresh, but overripe make great sauces or jam.

If you've ever bought a box or two of canning tomatoes, you quickly get over any concerns.
702551 August 2, 2016
I'm with M. If a quick simple fix is all it needs, that's what I'll do. More extensive damage that requires a lot of work is definitely less appealing, but I rarely encounter produce in my house in really poor condition.

It doesn't address the real issue: you are buying too much. We've gone over this topic at length many times before. Nothing new to be learned here.
M August 2, 2016
I'd definitely say buying too much is a big part of the problem, as is not being knowledgeable on best-before dates, what can be cut off, etc. (Reminds me of this JJHO:

I also wonder how much store portioning increases the problem. For example, dill bunches are almost always too big for me to use all of before it goes bad (or using it all will result in so much food that I never finish it). I've been to stores where the only lettuce available (and not portioned in salad boxes) is a huge bag of 6-8 romaine hearts. Or shallots that only come bagged (and are already too soft to store for very long).

Wish produce was sold bulk-style.
702551 August 2, 2016
Try a farmers market some day. At most stands, the produce is loose.

If you live near a metropolitan area, there should be grocery stores and markets that also sell loose produce. The little mom-and-pop grocery at the end of my street does this.
M August 2, 2016
Perhaps I should say all, or more, produce.

I live in a metropolitan area, and I visit farmers' markets when I can. Both offer a mix of pre-portioned and loose produce in roughly the same ratio. There are vendors or types of produce that are generally sold loose, but most is sold in baskets, bundles, etc. I imagine that much like a grocery store, the local farmers do it this way for ease and speed.

I cannot think of one time that I have seen herbs sold loose, though it's the ingredient dishes usually need the least of.
702551 August 2, 2016
You're right, herbs are never sold loose. I attend my town's farmers market with a family member, so we are often sharing things (like cilantro or parsley bunches).

Some vendors will discount larger quantities, like a basket of berries for $4 or two baskets for $7, so often we end up doing the latter.

At least in the SF Bay Area, most of the farmers market produce is sold loose. There are a few bundled/packaged items like chard or kale, but largely a shopper can buy only what he/she needs. If you want ten cherry tomatoes, twenty green beans, one peach, two Yukon Gold potatoes, and a half-cup of arugula, you are free to just buy those.
702551 August 2, 2016
Another great thing with my farmers market is that a handful of stands sell cosmetically challenged sort-outs at a discounted price. These are almost always loose items, so one can pick and choose which uglies to take home.
M August 2, 2016
Depends on the spread of the spoilage for me. If it is easy to cut away or pick apart, I'll use whatever is good. If it's so far spoiled that it will take me 20+ minutes to deal with (mixed greens where all of one type of green has gone brown and gooey, for example), I'll toss it.

As for avocados -- cutting away some brown is no big deal. The big issue is when it has also developed strings, which are not pleasant to eat.

Emily August 2, 2016
As a cook, I plan well to avoid food waste but will defer to the compost bin if I fear getting sick. If there's more than just a tiny bit of mold, toss it! I once tried to make green bean soup by picking out the moldy beans from the good ones. Just a spoonful made both me and my friend sick within 5 minutes. Never again!
I don't mind browning of avocados, but at a certain point they are mealy and too ripe to enjoy, even in a puree. Bruises on fruit I usually eat or cut off.
If lettuces get super slimy, I compost them, but if there are just a few slimers I pick them out.

Sarah C. August 2, 2016
One should never eat the green potatoes - they actually contain a poison that could be harmful in high enough quantities.
Juliann D. August 2, 2016
Browning avocados are okay, but not completely brown. I do cut off mold from produce. Potatoes can always be saved ( I'm Irish). Berries need to be eaten ASAP. I find the berries in the grocery store to be old. Have you ever picked your own berries? It's a satisfying, gratifying experience and the berries straight from the bush last much longer than store bought.
Coco E. August 2, 2016
For where I draw the line between edible and not, I trust my nose. If it smells bad to me, I'll try to cut off the bits that do until what's left smells fine. Remember: how it smells will be how it tastes. Mother nature has blessed us with this defense that generally works...well, at least this method's never failed me. As for avocados, brown ones are for chocolate-y smoothies. For vegetables, after I cut away any smelly bits they go into bold and hearty soups and stews. As for fruit that are sub-par, they go into chutneys, compotes, and too many pies than I'd care to admit.
Melanie C. August 2, 2016
We have very little food waste on the whole. I rarely have green potatoes and cut that part away if i do. Sometimes my grocery store gives me free avacados if theyre on their best before date. Usually theyre fine, but ive out a couple in the organic bin. We eat a whole avacado at a time. Our dinners are based on what needs to be eaten first each week. So we start out with salads and move to pasta towards the end of the week.
catherine M. August 2, 2016
Yes! But only the first day they are brown -- after that, nope!
Hope D. August 2, 2016
I try to eat fruit and vegetables even if they are starting to discolor etc. I will cut off the moldy or bruised part and eat the rest. Avocados though, well, those tend to start tasting bad when they are all brown. If they are a little brown, I will work around it, but if the whole thing is brown, I put it in compost. And then remember not to buy too many avocados.