Every summer the produce section gets a glorious makeover. Suddenly, those apples, bananas and grapes that we’ve been seeing all winter long are joined by a rainbow of fruits and berries.
While beautiful to look at and delicious to eat, these seasonal treats are fragile by nature and tend to go from ripe to past their prime more quickly than the produce that’s available all year long. Brandon Fortener, product development chef at Kroger, is full of helpful ways to give new life to these seasonal delights.
Smoothie stash

“Smoothies are an easy and delicious way to extend the life of these fruits,” says Chef Brandon. “They offer a wonderful catch-all for anything that’s not exactly fruit bowl-worthy. Those bruised nectarines will blend beautifully with some yogurt and protein powder, and overly squishy raspberries give a peanut butter and banana smoothie a summery touch.”
Brandon recommends coring, pre-slicing and freezing fruits on the far end of ripeness for mornings when there’s no time for slicing and dicing. And the same goes for citrus. “When you’re squeezing a lemon just for the juice, think about zesting it first. I like to keep a stash of zest in the freezer, so I always have some on hand.”
Building a better breakfast

Banana bread is just the beginning when it comes to repurposed fruit breakfasts. Brandon is a fan of working overly ripe fruit into multipurpose purees as add-ins to plain yogurt or as a syrup replacement for pancakes and waffles. His ratio and recipe couldn’t be easier: just mix one pound of fruit, one tablespoon of the sweetener of your choice, and one cup of water, and cook until thick. “Once cooked, it will last another week. And it usually ends up tasting even sweeter,” he says.
If you prefer to keep your fruit intact, think about mixing chopped strawberries or pineapple into softened cream cheese for a sweet bagel spread.

Pre-gaming pies
While some pumpkin purists might disagree, there are few slices more enjoyable than a really good wedge of summer fruit pie.
For a taste of warm weather in the colder months, think about storing zip-top bags of delicate fruits like berries and pitted cherries in the freezer for pie filling or cobblers. Brandon suggests adding a bit of lemon juice when baking the pie to balance sweetness and acidity—a technique that works particularly well with peaches.
Savory solutions
Sweets and breakfast treats are fantastic ways to spread fresh fruit love, but the savory sides offer great options, too. Mixing up chutneys and salsas balances sweetness with spice. Warm spices like cardamom, coriander and ginger lend aromatic notes to fruit-based chutneys. “Adding onion brings out the savory flavors,” Brandon suggests.

Chunks of fresh fruit work wonders in bright salads. Riff on a classic Caprese by swapping out slices of tomato for peaches. Mixed greens with crumbles of blue cheese benefit beautifully from a handful of really ripe strawberry slices. As a rule of thumb, opt for a bright vinaigrette instead of something creamy when dressing your salad to let the sweetness of the fruit come through.