Current Location: London, UK
Following up on my October challenge, I’m working on reducing the amount of food that I waste. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that about 1/3 of food produced is lost or wasted. That is an astounding figure, especially considering that 1 in 9 people in the world struggle with food security. The arguments for reducing food loss and waste are diverse and compelling. As I mentioned in my previous post, there is some food waste that is completely unavoidable, which is why I’ve been collecting organic waste to compost. However, I did a little research on edible food parts and came up with this list of surprising ways to recycle in the kitchen. If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably seen a post extolling the virtues of chickpea/bean water which is a multipurpose ingredient.
Here are ten easy ways to reduce waste from your fridge and your wallet:
1. Kiwifruit skin
Kiwifruits, much like peaches, come delivered in a package of fuzz. But there’s no need to raze away that five o’clock shadow. Simply rinse the fruit and you’re good to go, and leaving the skin on makes kiwis easier to eat. The skin holds the flesh of the kiwifruit for an easy, mess-free snack. Kiwifruit skin is also a natural source of both fiber and vitamin C.
2. Broccoli stalks & leaves
Broccoli stalks are just as delicious and are virtually as nutritionally dense as the crown. If you’re removing the stalk for aesthetics reasons, you’re wasting a valuable vegetable. The stalks steam beautifully, have a crunchy asparagus-like texture, and are packed with protein, fiber, vitamin C and folate. Broccoli leaves are a wonderful dark green to add to salads. With a light broccoli flavor, the leaves substitute nicely for collard greens, cabbage, and kale in recipes. Sauté with onion and garlic or chop it raw for a fresh salad. As a bonus, broccoli leaves are chock full of Vitamin A and protein; their lower calorie content and milder flavor make it a challenger against kale as the reigning green superfood.
3. Pineapple cores and skin
Pineapple corers have been a kitchen staple for years, but they may be promoting an unnecessarily wasteful habit. While the flesh of the pineapple is much softer, pineapple cores are nonetheless edible and loaded with vitamins. For those who find pineapple too sweet or stringy, the core has a milder flavor and a grainier texture. The core has so many uses for incorporating pineapple flavor into refreshing drinks. Add frozen chunks to smoothies, punches, and cold water. The spiny and wonderfully exotic pineapple skin too can be used to infuse pineapple flavor. Chop and freeze the peel, then add pieces to create fragrant marinades, broths, and stocks.
4. Citrus peels
Many chefs will add a dash of orange or lemon zest to recipes, but few people realize the potential of all citrus peels: lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits. Citrus peels can be eaten fresh or dried, and are intensely rich in vitamin C. Candied citrus peels are deliciously easy to make with just sugar and water. Alternatively, dry out the peel for a fresh tea infusion or a spice rub. If you’re extremely patient, you can make lemon olive oil by adding finely grated lemon zest to EVOO and letting it stand for two weeks.
5. Veggie tops
Root vegetables have perfectly tasty, edible, healthy greens that often lose their heads for no good reason. Many grocery stores lop off the tops, depriving customers of radish, turnip, beet, and carrot greens’ many culinary uses. Carrot tops are a great substitute for basil; toss the leaves into a food processor with toasted pine nuts, nutritional yeast, olive, garlic, and salt for a creamy homemade pesto sauce. They are also a nice addition to soups and dressings. Beet and turnip greens sauté nicely for side dishes or quick dinners. Radish greens are an easy base for pickling and pair well with spicy stir fry recipes. Easiest of all, toss all the raw tops together for a fresh green salad.
6. Apple core
On average, consumers discard up to 30% of apples, which means that in the US each person wastes about $42 in apples every year. If you’re not eating the apple core, you’re wasting valuable fruit. Of course make sure to pick out the seeds and stems, but the rest of the fruit is perfectly edible. And don’t even think about peeling apples; the skin is a significant source of fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C. If you must peel them for recipes, oven-roast the skin with cinnamon and sugar to make crispy apple chips.
7. Watermelon rind
Most people view watermelon rinds as a handle for the juicy pink fruit, but they do contain some vitamins and there’s no reason not to eat them. You can either eat them plain as a crunchy addition to the ultra-sweet fruit, or try a recipe for pickling. The rinds have a nice crunchy texture raw, but the pickling process softens the exterior to a gentler bite and has a tangy-sweet flavor.
8. Banana peel
Eating cooked banana peels is actually quite common in Asian recipes. While the rubbery texture isn’t for everyone, banana peels are edible and contain more fiber than the fruit. Boil or toss into a juicer for a shot of antioxidants. Thoran, a popular Indian dish of chopped vegetables, can incorporate banana peels into the sauté. If you’re willing to make a long-term commitment there are easy recipes for banana vinegar, but the full process takes two months. Banana peels also have many home uses, including shoe polish, plant feed, and skin irritants (side note: I burned myself cooking last night and used the peel from my banana this morning on it…it kind of worked).
9. Onion and garlic skin
The delicate paper-like skins are the first things to go when chopping onion and garlic. The dry texture, while not ideal for those who enjoy the crunchiness of onion and garlic, makes the skins perfect for steeping and infusing their wonderful flavors. Onion skins can be tossed into simmering pots to help darken stocks. Alternatively, stew the skins in soups, sauces, and even teas, to make the most out of their flavors and nutrients.
Yes, even eggshells are edible. Finely ground eggshells are a natural supplement and a great source of phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium. Rinse and boil used eggshells to remove bacteria. Once dry, run the shells through a coffee grinder until they reach a powder form. You can feed the calcium to pets or take it yourself. Take this mixture judiciously; the shells are extremely dense and more than one teaspoon per day can irritate the stomach.