Can you spot the ripe banana?

Spotty ripe bananas

Anyone who knows me might be surprised to hear me say this:

It’s time to stop throwing away bananas.

Not because I enjoy tossing bananas, but because I never used to touch them at all.

My mom would try to hide them in peanut butter sandwiches. Other times, they’d appear uninvited in fruit smoothies – taking over, as they are wont to do.

I was a vocal opponent, and as a result, my sister’s horse, Pilgrim, ate more bananas (and with much more gusto) than I ever did growing up.

My banana coming of age, and a realization.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found the practically of bananas hard to ignore, and the flavour something I can actually tolerate….enjoy even.

They make a pretty perfect after surf snack. Frozen bananas are just about life changing.

So here I am, adult me, fully on the banana train. And I’ve come to notice that many people like to eat greeny-yellow bananas.

No biggie – do what you like.

The problem isn’t that people are choosing to eat greeny-yellow, unripe bananas, but that they are tossing their bananas when they develop spots.

When our cheerful yellow friends start to freckle, we see it as a sign of old age, and toss them prematurely. Like your sweet gran, they have plenty more love to give, if only you had a little more time for them. Ripe bananas are sweeter and easier to digest. Spotty on the outside doesn’t mean spotty on the inside!

ripe bananas
Someone is missing out on delicious banana bread!

Things to do with your ripe, spotted banana:

  • Eat // Trust me, you’ll be fine. Better than fine. I used to be anti-banana, so I feel my recommendation holds some weight.
  • Freeze // Always have frozen bananas on hand, I say. Use them in smoothies, on yogurt or chia pudding, or just sliced up. Pro tip: peel them before you freeze them.
  • Cook // The older and sweeter your bananas, the more delicious your banana bread.

If you’re a spotty banana tosser, you’re missing out. Those spots are trying to tell you that your bananas are finally old enough to stay up late and party.

Apparently you can eat banana peels too, but let’s just put one foot in front of the other for now. Instead I compost them.

I give a F#g

figs on toast

Or, how I brought three little figs, all the way home, unpackaged.

It’s fig season here in Australia. A juicy, ripe fig is the stuff of dreams.

I eat them in salads, with spinach and goat cheese. Or for breakfast, as the showstopper finale in the ensemble hit that is the breakfast smoothie bowl. One of my favourites is figs on toast with a spread of labne.

I was shopping for figs today and, to my utter dismay, could only find them sold as a trio, wrapped up in plastic and seated on a polystyrene tray.

Now, I know where to recycle soft plastics and polystyrene, the efficacy of which we can talk about some other time, but that’s for emergencies, a last resort.

I had been daydreaming about figs all day and wasn’t about to leave the green grocer empty-handed. But there was no way I would buy them in all that unnecessary packaging.

Then I had an idea. I found a fellow who was restocking the produce.

Could I buy three figs without the packaging? I asked.

He didn’t understand at first (and this is normal, and where a smile and some patience will serve you well). I clarified – I’ll buy the same amount in the package, for the same price – I simply want three unpackaged figs. Oh! His face brightened as he registered understanding. We went to the back of the shop together, and three unpackaged figs were proffered. Smiles.

Upon checkout,  I nestled the little fellas in with my bulk spinach, itself collected in a reused paper bag. Safe and sound.

No unnecessary packaging, no hard feelings, no sweat. All I had to do was ask. Maybe if all of us pointed out that no, we don’t need any excess packaging thanks, grocers will start offering them this way by default.

This story has an even happier ending. Those three figs were f#%king delicious.

Waste-free shopping in Sydney

Bulk refill Sydney

I now keep a page for waste-free shopping in the Sydney area. You’ll find it over here

When I first moved to Sydney from Vancouver, I felt lost without my carefully cultivated go-to shops for refill and bulk goods. Luckily, the trend for unpackaged foods is catching on, and if you live in Sydney, there are now a decent number of shops where you can refill your nuts, grains, seeds, beans, spices, baking supplies, superfoods and many other edibles. Don’t forget personal and home care products – many of the shops below cater to the Zero Waste lifestyle more fully by offering a small selection of packaging free cleaners, soaps and shampoos.

The Source Bulk Foods
Various locations around the Eastern Suburbs, Inner West and North Sydney, as well as many others across Australia

The source
image source: Instagram

The Source Bulk Foods started in Byron Bay and has expanded to over 20 locations and counting. They offer 400 bulk reasons to visit, including food, home and laundry.

Naked Foods
Various locations in Eastern Suburbs and Inner West, the Sutherland shire, and Canberra.

This fast growing chain began as a market stall and now offers four storefront locations in NSW and ACT + continuing market appearances.  In Sydney, try Bondi Junction, Newtown, or Cronulla.

You’ll find (most) staples, including basic and speciality flours, grains and cereals, dried fruit, spices nuts, snack foods, oils and vinegars as well as more obscure ingredients that are a challenge to find unpackaged. I’m talking hemp hearts, chia seeds, spices rice pasta, vegan chocolate, bee pollen, and ahem, maple syrup. Also try their unpackaged soaps for home, body and laundry.

Scoop Wholefoods
Bondi Beach, Mona Vale, and Mosman

Scoop Wholefoods Bondi

Another bulk food chain. They really do focus on foods – the only personal care item I found at the new Bondi shop was epsom salts. The stores are well-organized, with plenty of ingredients to inspire.

Alfalfa house
113 Enmore Road Enmore, Newtown

Alfalfa House

This cozy co-op has been in existence longer than I have, and offers a small selection of personal care and household cleaners. This is where I first met and fell in love with the humble coconut husk dish scrubby.

University of Sydney Food Co-op
Level 2 Wentworth Building, Corner of City Road and Butlin Avenue, Darlington

I haven’t visited this co-op, but it sounds pretty perfect for those looking for organic and ethical foods, grains, spices and more in the Redfern area.

The Health Emporium
263-265 Bondi Road, Bondi

The Health Emporium is a health food store with a small, but good bulk section that focuses on mainstay nuts and grains. They have a small selection of soaps for home and laundry.

Energy Scoop
2/19  Victoria Avenue. Castle Hill, NSW

This place look awesome. They carry whole foods and the elusive bulk oils (jojoba, argan, rosehip, etc.).

Manly Food Co-op
21B Whistler Street, Manly

Picture a waste-free, bulk, not for profit supermarket in one of Sydney’s loveliest beach suburbs. It totally exists, it’s the Manly Co-op.

Sam the Butcher
129 Bondi Road Bondi, NSW, 2026

Olive oil and preserved lemons on offer, as well as a range of biodynamic meats. Olive oil is refilled by volume (apparently this works out to the same as by weight), so just bring a container with one or the other listed.

Cha Cha Kombucha
Various markets (Bondi, Double Bay, EQ Village Markets)

You can return your Kombucha bottle for refill to their market stall, or refill around town at places like the Fruitologist on Bondi Road, where it flows from the tap. If you want to try making your own, $10 will get you your very own SCOBY (message Cha Cha a few days prior to arrange).

Perfect Potion
Various locations.

Perfect Potion is a chain with a focus on aromatherapy. The goods are mostly packaged, but there is a small selection of body care ingredients like clays, cacao butter and beeswax that can be bought in your own container.

Dr. Earth
Various locations in Eastern Suburbs and Inner West.

While not necessarily a mecca of packaging-free goods, Dr. Earth is a place to find items like beeswax food covers and bamboo toothbrushes. Their Newtown store has a tiny bulk refill area for laundry powder if I recall correctly.

Toby and Rosie
Various Sydney markets

I met Toby at the Bondi Farmers Market, where he sells a variety of soaps (including shampoo bars), scrubs, and oils. He will refill essential oils upon request. Send him a note a few days prior to arrange with him. So far this is the only essential oil refill option I’ve found.

Flame Tree Co-op
1/374 Lawrence Hargrave Dr., Thirroul, NSW

You’ll find healthy, organic food with as little waste as possible at the Flame Tree Co-op. If you, like I did, stumble upon this place without your arsenal of refill containers – rejoice – for they have a pile of clean, donated jars to use, free of charge.

Bulk food, home and laundry supplies, as well as local food organic produce.

This not an exhaustive list, simply the places I know about. If you know of someplace good in Sydney, post in the comments below!