5 Reasons You Should Be Eating Garbage
It’s common knowledge that fresh vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet.You know this. This is why you buy, cook and eat them on the regular. Every week, you dutifully fill your cart with your local market’s bounty. You chop, toss, roast, and sauté. You feel pretty darn good about this.
But then you go and do a stupid thing: you throw away the scraps.
Dude. Stop doing that.
Fresh vegetables (especially organic ones) can be expensive, and this means you should be making the most of them! So often, their scraps (better known as the parts of produce we tend to immediately compost) can actually be made quite delicious with just a little bit of effort. So delicious, in fact, you might even find you prefer some of these “trashy” preparations to the whole vegetable. Better yet, using every last bit means your money goes further because your veggies yield more meals. You get to pat yourself on the back for helping minimize waste (go you!).
See? Eating garbage is good for the earth, good for your waistline and great for your wallet. So put away that compost bin and read on for 5 easy, tasty ways to turn vegetable scraps into gourmet eats.
Beet, Radish, and Turnip Tops
Don’t toss out the green, leafy tops of root vegetables, like beets, radishes, and turnips! They’re perfectly edible, often with a pleasantly bitter flavor, not unlike chard or kale. They need nothing more than a good rinsing (they’re often covered with dirt, so do this thoroughly) before they’re ready to use. Chop them finely and toss with lemon juice, olive oil and salt for a delicious salad, sauté in butter for a lightening-quick side dish, or even puree into a fresh pesto with garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, salt and pepper—it’s great on pasta or spread over freshly-grilled chicken or fish.
Tough, fibrous broccoli stems may seem destined for the compost bin, but 2 minutes of effort will totally transform them. Simply grate, using the large shred side of a regular cheese grater (or shred in a food processor using the grater attachment).
The resulting broccoli slaw is a healthy substitute for coleslaw. Try tossing it with shredded carrots and your favorite creamy dressing, or a mixture of apple cider vinegar, olive oil and honey, for a lighter slaw. For a crunchy Asian-inspired slaw, toss it with rice vinegar, a touch of sesame oil and crunchy toasted almonds or peanuts.
Many recipes call for potatoes to be peeled, but don’t throw away the peels after you’ve removed them! Rather, toss your (scrubbed and dried) potato, sweet potato or yam peels with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and spread them in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for 12-14 minutes, until crisp. Toss with herbs or grated Parmesan if desired and serve as you would potato chips or French fries.
Chard and Kale Stems
Fibrous, stringy chard and kale stems are no fun to eat raw, but pickling them changes them completely. To make, cut 2 bunches worth of stems into thirds, and place them in a medium pot. Add ½ cup regular water, 2 ¼ cup white vinegar, and 1 teaspoon each of salt and sugar. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for 1 hour. After about an hour the liquid will have mostly evaporated. Continue cooking for another few minutes, just to lightly brown.
Let cool completely, then serve alongside grilled meats, sandwiches, on a cheese platter or on their own as a refreshing snack.
Nearly all recipes calling for fresh herbs instruct you to discard the stems and use only the leaves. While the stems tend to have an unpleasant chewy texture, they are often packed with intense herb flavor. Rather than tossing them, try making herb paste or pesto. Combine chopped cilantro, parsley or basil stems with a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and a garlic clove and lemon juice if desired. Puree in a food processor or blender until smooth. This is fabulous for slathering all over chicken or fish before cooking, or for blending with fresh goat or cream cheese for a flavorful cracker spread.
What are your favorite uses for vegetable scraps? Share with us in the comments!
Gabi Moskowitz is the editor-in-chief of the nationally-acclaimed blog BrokeAss Gourmet and author of The BrokeAss Gourmet Cookbook (May 2012) and Pizza Dough: 100 Delicious, Unexpected Recipes (November 2013). Most recently, she developed “Young and Hungry”, an ABC Family sitcom based on her life and writing. It premiers this summer (2014).