Iron Chef Stephanie Izard Wishes You'd Stop Throwing Away This Fruit

When it comes to food waste, Americans have a problem. Each year, according to Rubicon, an average family of four throws out about $1,500 worth of food. As a whole, the country wastes about 30 to 40% of its food supply — meaning that quantity is never eaten but goes directly into the waste stream — an amount of food worth about $160 billion. With the busy lives that we all lead, it can be difficult to stay on top of the food in our refrigerators, particularly items prone to spoilage, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and raw meat and seafood. 

More times than we'd care to admit, we've been guilty of tossing a wilted bell pepper or a stinky chicken breast into the trash. But it's important that we all try to do better, and to use almost-past-their-prime items in culinary applications, such as preserves or vinegars, where quality and freshness don't matter quite as much. That's exactly the message from "Iron Chef" Stephanie Izard, owner of Girl & the Goat restaurants in Chicago and Los Angeles. She notes that one type of overripe fruit, in particular, makes excellent jam — and she wants you to cook that fruit instead of throwing it out. 

Stone fruit jam saves a trip to the trash

As chef Izard shared with Food & Wine, she's able to avoid tossing overripe stone fruits — think peaches, nectarines, apricots, and the like — by cooking them down into jam. Past-its-prime stone fruit, with its blemishes and mushy spots and all, is still totally fine in a jam, where the long cooking time and the addition of plenty of sugar will mask any inconsistencies in the fruit. "I have a freezer full of rotting bananas, so that I can always make a quick banana bread!" Izard told the publication. "But one of my favorite types of overripe foods to cook with is any stone fruit—overripe peaches or nectarines make the best jams."

As Izard notes, overripe stone fruit tends to get a little too sweet. This isn't much of an issue in jam, but to be on the safe side, she adds a bit of acid to counterbalance all that sugar. "One thing to remember is that the riper the fruit, the more acidity they've lost, so I make sure to add champagne vinegar to give it a nice freshness," she said. So there you have it — the next time you're up to your elbows in quickly-ripening peaches, nectarines, or apricots, turn to your favorite jam recipe and opt out of creating more food waste.