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Get More Bang Out of Your Produce Buck: How to Use Fruits and Vegetables in Their Entirety

Today is National Healthy Eating Day! I like to think I celebrate this holiday year-round, but any reminder to eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables is welcome. One way to make healthy eating more affordable and healthier for the Earth is to reduce food waste, by using whole foods when you cook.

That’s a laudable goal - what exactly do you do with all those stems and stalks and peels and cores? A recent article in Epicurious gave me some ideas.

First off, consider eating parts of the vegetable you might normally toss. I learned this lesson a long time ago, when a friend asked me why the heck I was throwing out the best part of the broccoli. Turns out, if you peel broccoli stems, the inner portion can be sliced thin and used in salads or stir-fries. It’s tender and delicious! Carrot greens are also edible; use them as you would fresh parsley. And if you roast a cauliflower whole, the stalk will be soft and tasty.

Try this broccoli recipe that makes a salad from the stalks. And this whole roasted cauliflower recipe sounds great too.

Next, make your own vegetable stock. Nothing makes the house smell better on a chilly autumn day than a simmering pot of homemade vegetable stock. And the result will be a lot lower in sodium than broth you make with veggie bullion cubes. Carrot and celery ends, onion and garlic skins, the tough stems of mushrooms, vegetables that are past their prime but still edible, and herb stems are all perfect for adding flavor to homemade stocks or soups. Adding the cores of apples or pears gives the stock a touch of sweetness. Just keep a bag of fruit and vegetable scraps going in the freezer until you have enough for a batch.

Try this recipe for stock, or experiment with what you have on hand.

This idea was totally new to me: Save fruit scraps separately to boil down into broths and syrups. You can use the resulting sweet liquid to cook oatmeal or brew tea. I’m even thinking of trying this with the almond pancakes I make every weekend. My recipe calls for ¼ cup of water, but how much tastier would it be with apple-infused broth?

Instead of dumping your fresh herb stems into the trash or compost, here’s a bright idea. If you’re blending herbs in a food processor for a pesto or other smooth sauce, you can throw the stems in right with the leaves.

Think before you peel. A lot of recipes call for peeling fruits and vegetables when it’s not really necessary. Some peel in your applesauce or mashed potatoes can give them a nice chunky texture.

Finally, when you’ve used everything you can, the final scraps from your fruits and vegetables can have another life if you compost. There are lots of inexpensive bins you can buy that help reduce your contribution to the landfill while keeping animals out.

I know one thing that inspires me not to waste food is if I’ve grown it myself. How could I toss something I coaxed to life from a seed? If you’re interested in gardening but don’t have a green thumb, considering getting a Tower Garden. This vertical aeroponic gardening system makes gardening easier by eliminating the need for digging, weeding, and battling pests. But it doesn’t reduce your pride in the end result.

How do you reduce food waste in the kitchen?

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