Let’s be real: Nobody likes prep work.
All that peeling, cutting and hacking away at a beautiful fruit isn’t just tough and time consuming, it leaves behind a holy mess of discarded produce parts.
But don’t throw those peels and cores away just yet: the laborious task of chopping things up can bear some pretty great fruit – literally!
What Is Composting?
Before we get into the finer fruity details of what types of fruit you can compost, allow us to explain: Composting in and of itself is a bit of a science.
Well, actually, a lot of a science.
Compost itself is just a neat little word that stands in for “decomposed organic material.” But don’t feel bad for those dead-and-gone crops – they go on to live again in the future fruits and flowers they help to flourish.
As anything organic breaks down, certain gases and other elements are released as part of the decaying process. In the case of most fruits, this element is nitrogen – which just happens to be an integral part of plant health.
Nitrogen is huge in helping plants produce chlorophyll, the compound that allows them to convert sunlight into energy. And nitrogen is also a major building block of the amino acids that plants use to create the pivotal proteins they need to survive.
When reintroduced to the soil, a nitrogen-rich compost can help nearly any type of earth bear fruit, whether by improving the composition of clay dirt or increasing the amount of water sandier soil can hold on to.
But discarded fruit parts and all their nitrogen-emitting goodness are just one element of a commendable compost.
How Do You Compost?
In fact, a proper compost is made with everything from fruit peels and cores to dried leaves and even lawn clippings.
That’s because an effective compost needs a few key ingredients to deliver the gardening goods: nitrogen, carbon, moisture, oxygen and bacteria.
While the fruits – and other green materials like lawn clippings – provide the nitrogen, brown organic materials such as dead leaves and twigs supply the carbon. A solid ratio for most composts is 1 part green to 1 part brown organic material, with the stuff laid down in alternating layers.
What works to break this produce down is the bacteria, which essentially “eat” the organic material and release heat in the process.
And just like us humans, these tiny microbes need air and water to live—although getting the right oxygen and moisture levels in a compost pile is also a bit tricky.
The pile should feel something like a wrung-out sponge, with water or fruit pulp an addable option if the pile is too dry. On the flip side, sawdust or more leaves can be used to soak up excess wetness, like the water leftover from a rainstorm.
And in order to release all that bacteria-borne heat and ensure a more consistent oxygen supply, the pile should be turned about every two weeks, with material from the edges brought into the center and vice versa.
A number of other factors influence how long it will take to turn all those fruit scraps into a pile of black gold, including how big the pile is, how deep the pile is, how often it’s turned and the exact ratio and make-up of the produce involved.
Experts advise somewhere between a 3 feet-cubed and 5 feet-cubed space for optimal composting – and, if all goes well, you should have a free supply of gardening gold in about three months.
Not bad for a pile of garbage!
What Fruits Can You Compost?
While we here at FruitStand love each and every fruit, when it comes to composting, not every fruit is created equal.
Due to a number of science-y factors, like their exact biological make up and biodegradable potential, some fruits simply work better—or more quickly—than others in the compost pile.
As a general rule, however, organic fruits are the way to go, as fruits that don’t bear the label are likely carriers of pesticides that would compromise the entire compost.
And apple cores, melon rinds and citrus peels should generally be chopped up into smaller, bite-sized pieces to keep the process on track.
Other than that, some of the best types of fruit for composting include:
- Apples: Skin, flesh and cores are all compostable.
- Bananas: Their skins are one of the best for the job, but the fruit can be composted, too. (Though we wonder why anyone would ever not want to eat their banana instead!)
- Cucumbers: You may want to shred them if composting large amounts.
- Grapefruit: Compostable, but don’t add these to any wormeries.
- Limes: Again, these citrus fruits should be avoided in wormeries.
- Mangoes: Skin and flesh are both compostable.
- Melons: Rinds, flesh and even seeds can be composted.
- Peaches: Stones can be composted, as well, though it may take a while.
- Pears: Flesh, skin and stem all compostable.
- Pineapples: The flesh will compost quickly. The prickly rind – and waxy leaves – will have to be cut up.
- Tomatoes: Especially good if your compost needs a bit more moisture – but beware adding too much.
But whichever fruits you choose, you’ll get the chance to turn some trash into treasure.