Many gardeners have experienced it: a single fruit found lying on the ground, a single vegetable ready to cull. For fruits, it’s often the case that the wind blew off an immature fruit or a bird or animal tried to get at it, causing the fruit to fall. For vegetables and fruits, sometimes it’s a matter of different rates of maturity, where a single piece of vegetable or fruit ripens faster than the others on the same plant or tree. If this happens, what do you do?
If the fallen fruit or orphan vegetable shows signs of decay or insect damage, it’s best to throw it in the green recycle bin or compost heap. But if it is intact, why not use it? It had always been a frustration: visions of collecting a bounty of fruit or vegetables and using that large quantity in a dish that can feed a small army. But if that bounty comes one piece at a time, you have to be creative in making use of your good fortune. Don’t give up and throw it away!
My apple trees have been productive, but there have been occasional single apples found fallen on the ground. Some have been intact, others with a little bruising. For the latter, I clean the fruit, cut off the bruised part, and use the rest of the fruit, chopped it up and added to salad, pancakes, muffins, and hot cereal (also good raw!), among many other ways.
Yesterday, I cooked a fallen, immature quince. The recipes that I have found for quince call for mature fruit. I took the chance and cleaned up the intact fruit, peeled it, chopped it up, and put in a small pan of boiling water and three tablespoons of cane sugar. The poached fruit was soft after about 35 minutes and was delicious, tasting of warm, soft pear.
My one artichoke plant produces few artichokes and they mature at varying rates. Consequently, I cook one artichoke at a time! It makes for a single side dish for a single cherished meal, but is delicious without doubt.
Sometimes, the fruit or vegetable is mature but is quite a bit smaller than expected. The micro-produce remains delicious, so think of ways to use them. The big tomato and mozzarella salad that you have been dreaming of? That dream can wait! The small handful of small, mature tomatoes in front of you can go into a lovely bowl of salad greens, dressed with a vinaigrette. I speak from experience on this one!
Most cookbooks and recipes call for large quantities of fruits or vegetables. When you have only one piece of fruit or vegetable, or a very small single fruit or vegetable, you have to let your creative juices flow. Instead of lamenting dashed “produce dreams” and saying, “I can’t do anything with this!” think of this as an unexpected but welcome opportunity to create something inventive and delicious. Focus on taste, not waste!
CONSUMER ALERT UPDATE: The quince is related to apples and pears, whose seeds are highly toxic if ingested. For this reason, do not ingest the seeds of these fruits.
The non-fruit parts of tomato plants are poisonous if ingested.
More information on toxic plants can be found here:
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