Celebrating The Roots, Stems, Stalks & Leaves Of Our Food

Stop for a moment and think about all the time, effort, and resources (i.e., soil, water, seeds, crop inputs, machinery, fossil fuels, and manpower) that go into growing and producing our food. Reducing food waste is a great place to start appreciating the true value of fruits and vegetables.

Here are five specific tips for reducing food waste in homes and professional kitchens. These tips can also boost flavor and amp up nutrition, in some cases.

Keep The Peel On Potatoes
On average, a potato peel contains about 30% of the total fiber in a potato. In some varieties, the peel contains valuable phytonutrients, naturally occurring plant compounds that provide benefits to the plants, produce color, and potentially provide health benefits for us. Keeping the peel on potatoes provides other benefits beyond fiber, like saving time. Making mashed potatoes become quicker and easier if you simply wash potatoes, cut them up, and boil or stem them before mashing.

Use The Stems Of Cilantro
Too many fussy recipes tell people to remove the leaves from cilantro stems, discard the stems, and just use the tender leaves. Cilantro stems add additional texture and intense flavor to both raw and cooked dishes like pico de gallo, guacamole, soups, and stews. The stems of other herbs can also be used. Encourage people to add stems from mint to smoothies or the smaller, more tender stems from basil plants to soups or sauces like pesto.

Cook With Carrot Tops
If your store offers carrots in bunches with their gorgeous tops, encourage shoppers to use the leafy tops to make carrot top pesto to serve with roasted carrots or other roasted vegetables. Carrot tops can also be added to salads, soups, and smoothies or sauteed with extra virgin olive oil and whole or ground coriander for a flavor-rich side dish.

Candy Or Salt-cure Lemon Peels
If you’ve taught someone recently the flavor merits of citrus zest, that’s awesome. Your next step can be teaching them to easily candy or salt-cure lemon peels by cutting peels into thin strips and immersing in either granulated sugar or fine grain table salt for one week for candied and four weeks for salt curing. Candied lemon peel can be used to garnish and add flavor to desserts; they are especially awesome when paired with apple, pear, or berry desserts. Salt-cured lemon peels offer a powerful punch of flavor to dishes that combine whole grains and vegetables, like Moroccan tagines made with whole grain couscous and a variety of vegetables.

Save & Savor Canning Liquids!
Having canned fruits and vegetables on hand is a smart way to encourage greater consumption at home. Home cooks can use the juice from canned fruit such as pears to make vinaigrettes, add sweetness to and thin the consistency of plain Greek yogurt, or add liquid to a smoothie, especially one made with frozen fruit where the blender can use some help getting started. The canning liquid from canned vegetables can add sodium—versus sodium from added salt—to balance the flavor of soups, stews, chilis, and sauces. Canning liquid from pickled items like dill pickles or pickled green beans can be used to boost flavor in many dishes. Try adding the pickling liquid plus some chopped pickled green beans to your next batch of egg salad or deviled eggs!

These are a just a few suggestions to inspire your work of helping everyone you work with reduce food waste, increase fruit and vegetable consumption, and celebrate what goes into the complex process of growing and producing food. If you have other ideas for reducing food waste and celebrating the roots of our food, share them on social media! #haveaplant

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