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What types of produce and ingredients do you have the most trouble using up?

(Or, if you're a master of using everything up, fill us in on your best tricks and tips!)

Lindsay-Jean is a Community Editor at Food52.

asked 5 days ago

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26 answers 627 views
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cv
added 4 days ago

Fresh herbs, nothing else comes close.

There are strategies for long term storage of fresh herbs (freezing, drying, etc.) but the resultant product is never quite the same as the fresh stuff. Dried parsley is almost completely flavorless. The frozen stuff works for some preparations, but you're not going to chop up defrosted parsley to garnish a dish.

Luckily, my garden is generating a fair quantity of certain herbs, so I don't feel so guilty when I toss the unused portion away (composting at my location is problematic).

The freshly picked stuff blows doors on anything you can buy at a market, including the farmers market.

Luckily, here in the SF Bay Area, a wide range of herbs can be grown outdoors for most of the year.

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HalfPint

HalfPint is a trusted home cook.

added 4 days ago

Parsley. I always have parsley wilting/dying in the fridge. And I've tried just about every tip to extend. I even have hard time using up the parsley in the garden. Unlike coriander seeds, them parsley seeds sow very easily and they thrive no matter how much you ignore them :)

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added 4 days ago

I'm going to list some ingredients I have trouble using up, and some ways I try to use them up. Excited to hear other suggestions as well!

Cilantro! I love it, but usually the bundles are so big, and it gets mushy so fast. Lately we've taken to making chimichurri type stuff and freezing it.

Fresh ginger. Maybe I just buy too much? The number of dried, withered ginger nubs I've found in the back of my fridge...those I simmer for about 10-20 min and use for green-ginger tea with honey. Delicious hot or iced.

Carrots and celery (and lots of other random veggie scraps) Yes, I know they're very common with lots of uses, but they are not anywhere near my favorite vegetables. In my dream world I would only buy 1-2 each when needed for soups, but the world doesn't work that way. Even when looking for the smallest bundle of each, I still usually have too much leftover. So I chop and freeze them them for a future soup - personally there's not much else I want to do with them.

Kumquats (when they're in season in CA). Ok, definitely my fault because I 100% overbuy them. Typically I end up subbing them in for recipes that call for preserved lemons, slice them and add to salads, and when I really need to use up a bunch, make marmalade.

Flax meal. I buy it because it's supposed to be healthy, and add it here and there to batters and doughs, but it takes me forever to get through. What other uses are there for flax meal? At what point should I get concerned about the age of that bag of flax meal in my fridge?

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MMH
added 4 days ago

Peel your ginger. Wrap it in plastic. Put it in a zip loc freezer bag and store it in the freezer. When you need some grate it frozen. It's so much easier to grate it frozen.

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added 4 days ago

Great tip, thanks MMH!

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ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added 3 days ago

Chop up that extra celery, likewise the carrots and freeze them in small baggies to have at the ready. Most recipes start with a mirepoix, so if I were you, I'd be using lots of carrots and celery!

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added 1 day ago

My solution for the cilantro is blending it with lime juice and freezing in ice cube trays. Then you can add some to rice or quinoa to liven it up. I'm sure you could do this with other herbs too and just substitute another citrus juice or water.

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Em
added 4 days ago

We have a CSA, and sometimes we just get too many damn cabbages. I like cabbage, but a head (or three!) every week for a month is just too much. Luckily, they last forever in the fridge, so it's easy to just toss them in the produce drawer and come back in a couple of weeks when more inspired.

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ktr
added 4 days ago

I used to love when that time of year rolled along. I made a big batch of sauerkraut, a batch of kimchi, roasted it, sauteed it in a pan to either eat as a side dish or as a noodle substitute, or cut it in wedges and cooked it in a pressure cooker in the juices left over after cooking a pork roast.

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creamtea

Lisanne is a trusted home cook.

added 4 days ago

I love cabbage (although I agree, it's hard to use up a big head). I often use shredded cabbage in a simple salad: salt it, either wait (or not), add lemon juice, oil, and mashed garlic and if you have it, minced dill. I admit I often buy packets of pre-sliced cabbage. Another great dish (which we just had last night):, sauté sliced fresh shiitakes, shredded cabbage till wilted, add diced tofu, tamari, salt, mirin and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Dinner in less than 10 minutes (this is a Madhur Jaffrey recipe from her book, World of the East Vegetarian Cooking). This is a comforting dish for a chilly spring (or winter) night!

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Nancy

Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added 1 day ago

Fry cabbage, onion and (at the end) cooked buckwheat in a large frying pan.
Obviously Eastern European/Russian.
Jews made it with schmaltz; others with bacon.
Can be used as a breakfast or a side dish, or a base for protein...top with roasted meat, poached eggs, your choice.

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added 4 days ago

Mine tends to be lettuce. I'm single, I live alone, and don't host many dinner parties. Despite the many salad recipes here, I remain a "meat and potatoes" type- and salads aren't high on my list. I buy it for taco topping or to round out an Italian sub- and try to use the rest in a salad on my "health kick" days.

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added 2 days ago

i buy it and wash the individual outer leaves, wrap in wet paper towel. run water over top and into middle of intact inner head of lettuce, wrap in wet paper towel, bag leaves packet and inner intact head in plastic bag and put in crisper. take out as much as needed and chop roughly. lettuce keeps for more than a week this way and making a salad is a snap...less than a minute or two. two of us now go through about 8 average sized heads of romaine per week by cleaning and storing this way.

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added 4 days ago

Green bell peppers. I hardly ever buy them, but whenever they do end up in my fridge, they dither around for weeks before I work up the motivation to use them. I feel like I don't know any dishes that aren't Mexican-inspired to use them in.

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added 4 days ago

I can always enjoy a basic stuffed pepper. A bit of ground beef, a little bit of rice, with a tomato based sauce to braise them. Yummers!

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Nancy

Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added 1 day ago

Taste the colored peppers (red, yellow, orange) and see if you like them more, so eat them more. They are riper than the green, and a little sweeter.
Or, roast the peppers (any color) and put in a jar of olive oil. Or in a bag in the freezer.

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creamtea

Lisanne is a trusted home cook.

added 4 days ago

Avocados. I can't seem to judge ripeness. I must throw half of the ones I buy away.

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MMH
added 4 days ago

Judging ripeness takes a little practice. When they have just that right "give" I put them in the fridge.

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added 4 days ago

When the "button" on the top/narrow end will push in with a little pressure it's good to go! If it pops in super easily it is probably over ripe. I love this tip that I only discovered about a year ago.

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added 4 days ago

Guilty on so many counts but I have learnt to either wash and freeze the vegetables and herbs. Once in the freezer when I have amassed enough they go into the stock pot with the chicken bones that I also keep and they become soup. Or they head to the compost and eventually go into the garden soil. To grow more vegetables.....

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added 3 days ago

Some fresh herbs although I try to make green sauce (Amanda's recipe), mint chutney (Meera Sodha has a great recipe in Made in India) or salsa verde before they get too wilty.

We never seem to be able to use a whole tub of sour cream before it turns.

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ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added 3 days ago

Store-bought fresh herbs are the bane of my existence. Those teensy packets are so expensive, and though they're small, I can never seem to use them up before they dry out or go moldy. I wish someone would sell them by the sprig!

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BerryBaby

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added 2 days ago

Not really. If I have green peppers I make stuffed peppers. If I decide not to make them and peppers are starting to wither, slice the peppers, an onion, olive oil and pan roast. I use them on sandwiches, in salads or add them to tomato sauce. Every item can be turned into multiple dishes. You paid good money for it, don’t make your trash rich, you should enjoy it!

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added 1 day ago

Produce of all sorts, at times- if I go to a good produce store or farmer's market, everything looks too good to leave behind. If I go to the supermarket most of the produce is now prepackaged in quantities practically guaranteed not to be what I need. Fortunately I run a very active compost pile. Cilantro is the worst- it's SO nasty when it goes.

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pierino

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added 1 day ago

Leafy herbs that have long stems such as parsley, cilantro or basil, you can treat as cut flowers. Fill a glass half way with water and put the stem ends in. They will usually keep for days this way, even up to a week. Much better than the fridge.

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added about 21 hours ago

For me it's probably heavy/double cream. It's very hard to find a size at the store that is just enough for your recipe, especially if you're cooking for yourself or for two. It does last a while but it often takes me longer to find something else to use it for again.

As for fresh herbs, I often use the cut flower method - I've even put cilantro/parsley with the stems in a glass of water in the fridge, and put a plastic produce bag over the top with some holes poked in, fastened to the glass with a rubber band. This often keeps those herbs fresh for a week or so. Don't do this, however, if your fridge is very cold or is notorious for having cold spots.

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