Those Wilted Veggies In Your Fridge Are Probably Still Good. Here’s How to Use Them.
Give past-their-prime greens a new purpose with these easy recipes.
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If there’s one thing that I learned from my time spent working in restaurant kitchens, it’s this: everything is useful. Got citrus peels? Those can be used to make a simple syrup for cocktails. The paper wrapper from a stick of butter? There’s enough fat on it to grease the inside of a small cake pan. And, herb stems? Give them a zip in the food processor and you’ve got pesto.
I will admit, it can be a challenge to think like that at home sometimes. In the restaurant you’re looking at a pile of stems leftover from 15 bunches of herbs, for example — enough scraps that you can see just how wasteful it would be to toss them. But, at home, it’s easy to get complacent when you’re looking at, say, one orange peel.
So, unless you’re stashing your scraps and peels in the freezer, waiting for the day that you have enough to make something out of them — or unless you’re really, really good about not letting any of your fresh produce wilt — I’m willing to bet that you have some perfectly good, usable produce that ends up in the compost bin from time to time.
Trust me, I’ve been there.
That’s why this recipe for Herby Green Jam (pictured above) caught my eye. It’s the perfect way to use up veggies and herbs that are past their prime. You know, the ones that aren’t crisp enough for salad but are still safe to eat. Hardy greens (like kale or Swiss chard), wilty herbs and fresh garlic are steamed until they’re really soft and tender. Then, they’re combined with flavorful ingredients like olives, capers and crushed red pepper flakes for a condiment that can be spread over toast, used as pizza sauce or spooned over fish.
Our senior editor Leah Brickley developed this problem-solving recipe: "I had the best of intentions during the first few months of pandemic lockdown — I swear," she says. "I was determined to cook all my family's meals and leave little to waste. I bought most of our fruit and vegetables from local restaurants, farms and start-ups. I was going to turn my three-year-old into a green-eating machine. But I — like many —began to feel the fatigue of so much cooking. The sad and wilted greens in my fridge reflected my state of mind. I couldn’t cook (or eat) those veggies and herbs fast enough (and my son was less than enthusiastic). Many were gifted to the worms in our compost bin. But this North African-inspired savory, green jam turnd out to be the perfect way to salvage sad greens."
And, the produce-saving recipes don’t stop there. You know that extra bunch of broccoli that’s kicking around your crisper drawer (and, ironically, pretty rubbery)? It turns out that it’s the perfect ingredient for a super-flavorful spread that can be folded into an omelet or spooned over your go-to, lunchtime grain bowl. Our Melted Broccoli Spread takes a bit of time — the broccoli is cooked for an hour and a half so that it’s really soft and delicious — but when it’s well worth the time.
The best part about both these recipes is that they’re so flexible. You can use just about any greens or herbs for the jam, which allows you to make the most of whatever is in your refrigerator each time you make it. And the broccoli spread is so simple that you can whip up a one-bunch batch to use as a spread — or just as easily make a double- or triple-batch and use it as a key ingredient in your family dinner. They’re the perfect recipes for using up whatever you have on hand, saving you money and a trip to the store. Win-win!