How to Revive Limp Vegetables and Avoid Food Waste

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Nobody likes a limp carrot. But a floppy vegetable doesn’t have to equal food waste. Here’s how to revive limp vegetables, so they aren’t wasted.

fresh lettuce in a bowl

Too often, good intentions become shrivelled reminders of our failure, rolling around the bottom of the crisper.

Food waste is one of the biggest expenses in the grocery budget, and fresh produce tops the list of food that goes in the bin.

And, of course, food in the bin means money in the bin.

The food that is bought and then thrown away uneaten in the greatest proportion is salad; in the UK 45% by weight of all purchased salad is thrown away (60% by cost) [source].

While it’s better to store vegetables well so that they don’t go limp and then eat them at their freshest, that is not always possible.

If you’ve got vegetables going soft in the fridge, you can save them!

Revive limp vegetables and save them from the bin with this one magic (and frugal) ingredient that will rejuvenate them and give them new life:


Yep, as long as your veggies aren’t too far gone or mouldy, plain old water will crisp up most limp or stodgy vegetables.

Revive limp vegetables by standing or soaking them in plain, fresh water for a few minutes in order for them to reabsorb lost moisture.

Why Vegetables Wilt in the Fridge

Vegetables go limp because of dehydration. Once picked, water continually evaporates through tiny pores in vegetables, and their cells lose their “turgidity”, which is an awful way to say firmness.

The dry environment of the fridge can speed this process up. That’s why keeping vegetables in the crisper can make them last longer – it’s more humid in the crisper.

But if your vegetables are wilting in the fridge and looking a little flaccid, here’s how to revive them.

How to Store Vegetables, So They Don’t Go Limp

Ideally, if fruit and vegetables are stored correctly, and you only buy what you need and eat what you buy, then you won’t need to revive limp vegetables.

Here are some tips for storing fruit and vegetables:

  • Hard fruit and vegetables can be stored in a cool, dark place like a pantry (unless you live in the tropics, like me, and it’s summer, then everything pretty much goes in the fridge).
  • Soft fruits and vegetables need to be stored in the fridge. For things like carrots, celery, or salad leaves, a damp tea towel is perfect for wrapping veggies in. It provides moisture, so the vegetables don’t dry out too quickly, while also being breathable, so they don’t go mouldy quickly.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables just before you use them rather than before you store them, so they aren’t sitting in water.

For information on storing specific fruits and vegetables, check out the printable fruit and vegetable guide.

Are Limp Vegetables OK to Eat?

If your vegetables are slightly bendy, wrinkly, or floppy, then they are ok to eat.

However, if your vegetables are mouldy, smelly, or slimy, then it’s best they go into the compost bin.

If veggies do have a bit of mould, is it safe to cut the mould off and eat the rest?

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the answer is…maybe. Depending on how firm the vegetable is.

For firm fruit and vegetables like cabbage, capsicum and carrots, SMALL mould spots that haven’t penetrated deep into the vegetable can be cut off with a sharp knife – at least 3cm (1 inch) around the mould.

For soft fruit and vegetables with high moisture content, mould can easily penetrate below the surface and should be discarded or composted.

[Check out their table for advice on mould and other foods.]

How to Revive Limp Vegetables

Limp Celery Before & After

Here’s how you can restore and refresh vegetables that have been wilting in the fridge:

  • Bendy Celery – cut the bottom off the celery and place it in a glass of water for 30 minutes or until crisp. Depending on how thirsty your celery is, you may need to add more water. Cut celery can be placed in a bowl of water until crisp.
  • Limp Carrots – cut a little off the bottom of the carrot (not the stem end) and place upright in a glass of water until crisp. For cut carrots, place them in a bowl of water.
  • Whole lettuce – if the roots are intact, you can place the whole thing in a bowl of water. However, I find it much better to cut the roots off and just place the leaves in the water.
  • Salad leaves – place leaves in a bowl of water.
  • Potatoes – peel and place in a bowl of water.
  • Spinach – either stand in a glass of water or place the leaves only in a bowl of water.
  • Broccoli – trim bottom and place in a bowl or glass of water or cut florets and place in a bowl of water until crisp.
  • Asparagus – trim bottoms and place upright in a glass of water until crisp.
  • Herbs – either trim stalk bottoms and place upright in a glass of water or strip leaves from stalks and place in a bowl of water.

You can add ice to the water to help this process along, although it’s no necessary.

Some soft vegetables like zucchini or pumpkin tend to go mouldy before they go limp, and this method doesn’t work for them. 

Ways to Use Up Limp Vegetables

Instead of trying to revive limp vegetables, you can also use them as they are. The perfect recipes for limp vegetables are ones where the texture doesn’t matter.

Pureed vegetable soups like this carrot and sweet potato soup are perfect for using up limp vegetables.

Another option is veggie-loaded marinara sauce for pasta. This can be frozen in batches for easy mid-week meals that are jam-packed full of nutrition.

Next time your vegetables are on a one-way trip to the bin because they are looking a little past their prime, try giving them a drink – a little water may be all they need to revive and make their way to the dinner table instead.

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