Picture this: you’re standing in your kitchen with your mise en place in front of you, with chopped garlic and onions in neat piles on one side of your cutting board, and the vegetables of your choice on the other. The vegetable stumps and peels and the garlic and onion skins may be collecting in one bowl ready to throw in the trash, but let’s hit pause for a second. That is money literally going into the garbage!
For many of us, we were brought up thinking that certain parts of our fresh produce could be eaten, and that the rest needed to be thrown away. When was the last time you dined at a restaurant that served unpeeled carrots or garlic cloves with their skins still on? I’m here to ask you to save your ends and stems, and your peels and skins, because there are a number of ways you can get some additional use out of these food scraps!
Grow the stumps for a gift that keeps on giving
Most of the vegetables we can find at our local farmer’s markets and grocery stores can be regrown, either in water or in soil. If you don’t have a yard, not to worry because indoor gardening is definitely a great way to bring the outdoors in! One of my favorite things to regrow in water are my scallions AKA green onions–just trim most of the green tops off and pop them in some fresh water and change the water every other day. You can also regrow a variety of vegetables like celery, romaine lettuce, and cabbage. I recommend you have at least two inches of a stump and letting them sit in water, about half of its height. Once they start producing new leaves, you can transfer them into soil.
Save your peels, skins, and tops for a delicious soup stock
You might be wondering what to do with the food scraps that appear less-than-appetizing, like the skins of your garlic and onion, or the vegetables that have sat in the refrigerator for a little too long and started to look sad and droopy. You can save vegetable peels, skins, and tops in the freezer until you accumulate enough to prepare a nice, homemade vegetable stock.
Make chips out of peels
I have no problems eating vegetable peels and usually skip that step in recipes, but there are some people who are accustomed to peeling their vegetables and fruit out of habit and because they were taught as they were growing up. Did you know that the skin of fruit and vegetables are packed with amazing nutrients? If you absolutely need to peel your vegetables and fruit before consuming, save the peel and make baked chips! Preheat your oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius), lay the peels out on a baking tray and drizzle with oil and any seasoning, and pop the tray in for 10-20 minutes, and take it out when you see the peels crisp so they don’t burn.
Have you ever thought about how expensive cleaning products at the stores can be? Most of the time, you’re paying for a cleaner which is composed of 90% water! The next time you start running low on cleaning supplies, you might consider saving your citrus peels and make a do-it-yourself, homemade cleaner. There are many recipes online, and the more commonly known two-ingredient ones consist of using citrus peels and either white vinegar or at least 60% rubbing alcohol. Here’s a good zero waste tip: keep your old jars and repurpose them to hold your cleaning products!
As a last resort: compost
Let’s say you’ve exhausted all the ways to repurpose and upcycle your food scraps. You’ve regrown edibles from your ends and stems, you saved the peels and skins to make a savory vegetable soup stock, you put on your chef hat and baked some chips, and you made some homemade cleaning products. The only thing left to do is to send the food scraps to the compost!
What is composting and why is it important? Composting is the process of recycling organic waste (such as your food scraps and many other examples) to produce “compost”, a nutrient-rich fertilizer that can be used for your growing needs. It’s incredibly important that we compost whenever possible, as organic waste that ends up sitting in landfills produces methane, a potent, harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and when we compost, we are directly making a difference!
Once you start getting creative with your food scraps by upcycling, repurposing, and finding other ways to consume them before composting, you’ll find that the volume of trash you send to landfill and incineration as a household drastically decreases!
If you have been inspired by this post and have some tried-and-true methods of reducing food waste in your home, or if you’d like to learn more easy ways you can lower your ecological footprint, visit my Instagram. I’m excited to connect with you so we can learn and share with each other!
Note: This blog post was originally published with Bare Biology.