It's a common problem this time of year — the abundance of beautiful, ripe fruit leads us to pick up more than we can possibly eat before those fruits get soft and squishy. There is a certain kind of beauty in a few overly ripe fruits on the counter, but the more pressing question is how can we use them up — and fast?! Here are ten tasty ideas for using up fruits that are past their prime.
1. Make Quick Bread: Of course, we all know brown bananas are great for banana bread. But peaches, nectarines, and strawberries are also great in breads, muffins, and scones, where the chopped or mashed fruit bakes into jammy little pockets.
2. Make Jam: Dana gave us a great strawberry refrigerator jam a while back. This quick jam is a great way to use overripe strawberries — or any other fruits that need using up!
3. Make a Crumble, Cobbler, or Pie: The best solution for fruits that are no longer quite so plump and pretty is to wrap them in some pastry! Use our templates for making Fruit Crumble or Fruit Pie, and sub in whatever fruit needs using up.
4. Make Smoothies: Smoothies are always a good standby for using up fruit! It doesn't matter how pretty they are as long as they still taste good. I even find that the concentrated flavor of over-ripe fruit makes especially tasty smoothies.
5. Make a Chunky Sauce for Pancakes or Sundaes: Give those syrupy, ripe fruits a rough chop — or even a smash with a potato masher — and you have an instant topping for pancakes or sundaes. Even better, fold the fruit right into the batter for fruit-filled pancakes.
6. Make a Sauce for Meat. Overripe fruit, if it hasn't lost all of its juice, can still impart some good flavor to a sauce. Chop it into small bits (or whiz it in a blender) and add it to some chicken stock and balsamic vinegar to make a glaze or sauce for meat. You could even substituted it for the jam in our Chicken with Shallot-Apricot Sauce.
7. Make a Salad Dressing: If your fruit isn't pretty enough to chop on top of your salad, put it in a blender with some olive oil, vinegar, herbs, and seasonings. It can make a fantastic, slightly sweet dressing for a salad, especially when you add some salty nuts or cheese.
8. Make Juice: If you have a juicer, your fruits can go right on in. If you don't, try pureeing the fruit in a blender or food processor and straining it. The solids are great on top of yogurt and the juice can be drunk on its own or added to glasses of sparkling water.
9. Make Fruit Leather: This is especially good for fruits that have passed the squishy stage and gone to the wizened stage. Blend up the fruit and spread it in a thin layer on a Silpat or dehydrator rack — you can bake it at very low temperature in the oven until it's leather-like or dehydrate it in a dehydrator.
10. Make Popsicles: Last but not least, we can make popsicles — one of my favorite afternoon snacks on a hot summer day. You can juice the fruit first and strain out the solids, but I love leaving some of the fruit a little chunky so that there are pieces to nibble.
What else do you do with overripe fruit?
This post has been updated. Originally published 7/31/08.
(Image: Dana Velden)