Thursday, October 1, 2015

How to Give New Life to (Slightly) Old Produce

Have you ever opened the crisper drawer and found something that was fresh and lovely has become a bit shriveled and far less appetizing?

Me too.

I'm talking about produce that is still apple that could go into a salad, celery that could be chopped into soup, but sometimes, I need these as a side with lunch or for an afternoon snack.  I found an easy way to help some of these slightly shriveled fruits and veggies re-hydrate!

This is so cool.

Here's my story:  We live in a really dry climate.  Sometimes, my potatoes in the bin in the basement get a little soft...a little wrinkly...a little dried out.  When this happens, I peel them and make mashed potatoes.

A while back, I was working on dinner a little early in the day, and I peeled the potatoes some time after breakfast.  I didn't want to cook them until about 5, so put them in a bowl and covered them completely with water (that keeps them from browning).  When I went to put them into the saucepan, they were sticking out quite a bit from the top of the water (and the tips were browning just a bit, argh).

Water wouldn't evaporate that quickly, especially in the fridge.  It took me a while to realize that my slightly shriveled potatoes had absorbed water from the bowl and rehydrated.  Sure enough, they were no longer soft, but firm and 'crisp', in the way that raw potatoes are crisp.

Last Sunday, I was preparing sides for Daughter's lunches and came upon some grapes that were a bit shriveled.  I decided to see if they would rehydrate, so I washed them and put them in some water (still on the stem) for about an hour.  They plumped back up, and when I tasted them, they did not taste watery at all.

That got me excited.  What else will refresh and rehydrate in water?  I've been experimenting a little.  In every case, I wash the item first, then put it in water.  When it has rehydrated (or when I realized nothing was happening), I removed them from the water.  Keeping fresh produce submerged in water long-term seems like a bad idea that could promote spoilage and leaching of nutrients.  I do not recommend it. 

But...a bit of a soak?  Sometimes, yes.

Apples.  That apple in the photo up above was my test apple.  It had a bit of a wrinkly appearance all over.  After some time in clean, cool water, the lower half was not wrinkled, but the upper shoulder remained about the same.  I sliced it up, Daughter and I shared it.  It was tasty and crispy inside.

Carrots.  If they are 'bendy', I put them in a glass of water with the root end (pointy tip) down.  I check after an hour, though they may need more time.  Once they are rehydrated, I remove them, dry gently and use soon.

Celery.  I decided to trim the base so the cut was new and fresh, and put that end in water (return to the fridge).  This seems to work sometimes, but not always.  It may depend on how wilted they have gotten.

Asian Pears.  We have two trees, so we had more than we managed to eat quickly, and - silly me - they were out on the counter and got a bit shriveled.  I washed them, then I soaked (and soaked, and soaked some more).  No change.  It might work if I sliced them and returned them to the water, but I have not tried that yet.

Grapes.  I just wash them like I plan to eat them, but put them in some water and return them to the fridge for about half an hour or so.  Mine lost their shriveled appearance and tasted great!

These are the fruits and vegetables I have tried.  I am only using this on small amounts of produce that were misplaced or forgotten in the crisper drawer (it happens to everyone sometimes!), and not as a regular, everyday practice.  Once I have soaked something, I use it soon - for the next meal, generally.  So far, it has been a great way to salvage a few items and make them more appetizing.  If you find something that was forgotten, you can always give it a soak and see if it helps.  If you discover additional produce items that rehydrate successfully, please leave a comment.  Thanks!


  1. Wow! That is an exciting discovery! I have read that if you are storing apples that you should mist or spray them with water every few days to keep them from drying out. But, I have not been motivated to fill a spray bottle and go out to the garage and spray the apples. I love it that grapes can be saved this way as we never get through the big bag from Aldi fast enough. Thanks!

  2. Hmm, that's good to know for the apples and the grapes, I'll have to try that. I have the opposite problem where it's too humid so things rot or get moldy very easily :(

    Wilted lettuce (or any wilted greens for that matter) is another thing that can be easily revived in iced water.

    I'm glad you're back to blogging, btw. I enjoy reading about your frugal efforts :)

  3. Oh girl! You have just given me a new frugal trick to employ. Thank you so much! I did know I could crisp lettuce and carrots in cold water but had no clue I could replump apples and grapes...and I'll bet it will work for plums as well. I think my husband is about to be reintroduced to those slightly wrinkled items he thougt were too old to eat and I was too busy to utilize. Ha! Thank you!!

    1. Let us know, won't you please? I just tried it with some things I had, over the course of a couple weeks (I'm usually on top of what's in the crisper and using it quickly.), so it's a work in progress.

  4. I knew celery and carrots would perk up but never potatoes or apples. Thanks,Cheryl

  5. I have some grapes that are going bad [wrinkly].. Going to give it a try.. Thank you for sharing.

  6. I had heard this worked thanks for actually experimenting and proving it.

  7. Oh how fun> :) I love that they perk back up in water. This just saved some apples. I knew about the lettuce my mom used to put it in water and even add some lemon juice or that stuff you sprinkle on fruit if it has a tiny bit of brown on the edges and you do not want to make a trip to the store for just lettuce. What a fun science project.Was your sweet girl excited about the crisp apple and grapes? I really enjoy your blog .
    Patti from San Diego


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