“Nutrition Newbie” is a series focused on basic nutrition information and tips.

Special Blog Post By: Elena Hollander, Second Harvest Food Bank Community Nutrition Manager

At Second Harvest, we are so lucky to be able to distribute more fresh fruits and vegetables than any other food bank in the country! One reason we’re able to accomplish this is because farmers and grocery stores give us produce items that might be “cosmetically challenged.” Our produce could be a bit bruised, overripe, oddly shaped, or too big or small to sell in retail grocery markets.

We LOVE these “ugly” fruits and veggies not only because they generally have the same nutrients and taste as their picture perfect counterparts, but also because they help cut down on food waste (40% of food in the United States today goes uneaten), are more affordable, and make meals much more interesting.

That being said, sometimes it’s tough to convince people to munch on produce items like blackened bananas or apples with brown spots. That’s why we created this guide to giving ugly produce, particularly fruit, a makeover! Hopefully this will help you feel confident in enjoying ugly fruit, whether it’s from the Food Bank, a farmers market, your backyard, or it has simply aged a bit past its prime in your home.

Overripe/Bruised Fruit

Fruit becomes overripe when the starch starts converting to sugar. The good news is that this means that overripe fruit tends to be sweet and thus perfect for making healthy sweet treats. Another fun fact is that sometimes overripe fruit can have even more antioxidants.

Here are a few types of recipes to use overripe/bruised fruit:

  • Jams– Jams can really be done with any overripe fruit, but are particularly good with berries and stone fruits like peaches and apricots, which are in season right now! Here’s a great website for some easy jam recipes that use these fruits.
  • Breads– Blueberry and banana bread are classic recipes and make a wonderful breakfast on the go or dessert.
  • Smoothies– Practically any overripe fruit can make a delicious smoothie. Just toss whatever you have in the blender with ice and water. You can even throw in some veggies, like a handful of spinach, if you want an extra shot of nutrients.
  • Sauces– Applesauce and pear sauce are great ways to use ripe apples and pears. Simply boil them with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and then blend them until you get the desired consistency.
  • Popsicles/Ice Cubes– During these hot summer months, there’s nothing more refreshing than a cool fruit popsicle. Simply blend the fruit in the blender to the desired consistency, pour it into popsicle trays, and stick in a popsicle stick to let it freeze. You can save some of the blended mixture and put it into ice cube trays to make ice that adds a splash of color and fresh flavor to water.

Oddly Shaped/Sized Fruit

Don’t be afraid of fruit that is weirdly shaped or bigger or smaller than you see in the grocery store. It’s natural and healthy to have variation in sizes and shapes- just like with people! For fruit, unless it’s small because it was picked before ripening, the size and shape does not generally impact taste or nutrients.

If you find oddly shaped/sized fruit unappealing, there are some easy ways to make that fruit look fabulous. Many of the same techniques we described for overripe/bruised fruit can be used, but you can also simply cut the fruit into nice shapes like circles or wedges. If you blend cut fruits into a colorful fruit salad, it makes it more enticing and you get a variety of vitamins in one plate!

We hope this article has inspired you to see the beauty in ugly fruit! If you want an easy place to look up particular recipes for the ideas we mentioned, one website we like is EatFresh. We’d also love to hear from you- what are your ideas for using ugly fruit? Let us know!

***Read our past Nutrition Newbie posts.