Monday, July 5, 2010

Eating Food Scraps

-or "Things You Never Knew You Could Eat"

I actively try to reduce the amount of trash my family produces. Environmental reasons is a plus, but the main reason I try to minimize my family's garbage output is simply because once something goes into the trash, you've decided that that item has no more benefit to give to your family, and more often than not, that something you're tossing is something you've paid for.
Things in the trash is money in the trash, and I try to waste as little as possible, quite simply because I don't have excess money to be tossing in the trash, and if you're reading this blog, I assume you don't have either.

Here's a list of some food scraps you might not have thought to use, but can help provide tasty, nutritious, and wholesome goodness for your family. Food that you never knew you could eat, saved from the trash and feeding your family.

Eating Food Scraps

Vegetable Peels

Potato Peels. I simply leave mine on the potatoes in almost every dish I serve, from French fries to mashed potatoes to baked potatoes to hash browns.  Rare is the time that I actually peel a potato. When you do peel a potato, consider making fried potato peels- quite delicious and nutritious, or even consider making a potato peel soup. (I've never made this myself but was a guest at a home that served this soup. Potato peels, water, salt, pepper and other spices, blended into a delicious, nutritious brown soup.)
Squash Peels. Both summer and winter squash peels can be eaten. Zucchini as well as other summer squash's peels can be eaten raw, but winter squashes, such as pumpkin and butternut squash only soften enough to  eat once fully cooked with the rest of the squash.
Carrot Peels. Scrub the carrots well and eat the peels together with the carrot. So long as the carrot is fresh, this shouldn't affect the taste at all.
Tomato Peels. When making recipes that call for peeled and deseeded tomatoes, I always leave it in. The texture is changed somewhat, but I prefer to have less work, and waste less food, even if it means the texture is slightly changed.
Eggplant Peels. Can be cooked together with the rest of the vegetable without affecting the taste.
Cucumber Peels. Unless they're waxed where you live, the peel can and probably should be eaten.

Vegetable Scraps

Pepper Scraps. Haven't tried this myself, but my dad takes the pith and the seeds from peppers and cooks them into his vegetarian chili, and claims you can't even know they're there.
Cabbage Cores. You know that hard part in the middle of your head of cabbage that you usually throw out? I only recently learned that you can eat this. Its got a strong delicious taste and can be eaten plain or dipped in humus or other dips suitable for crudités.
Celery Root Stems and Leaves. A little tough to eat plain, once cooked, this imparts the most delicious flavor into a broth and softens enough to eat.
Root Veggie Greens. Turnips, radishes and beets often are sold with the green leafy part still attached. Don't throw that out! Clean it and cook it as you would any other greens (like spinach, mustard greens, or collard greens.) Sautéing and putting  it in soups are my favorite methods to cook greens.
Fennel Stems. Fennel bulbs usually come with a bit of the tough, fibrous stem attached. These stems are delicious and soft cooked; I use them as a celery replacement in most recipes.
Celery Leaves. These impart a really powerful flavor to broths. They can be added to recipes that call for celery seed if you don't have the ingredient. The flavor it lends is similar.
Squash Seeds. Instead of tossing, roast these seeds and eat them as you would sunflower seeds. Alternatively, you can shell them and use them as nut replacements in most recipes. This works not only for pumpkin seeds, but with all winter squashes, from butternut to acorn squash seeds.

Anything else- simply put into veggie scrap soup. Strain that, and put the leftovers in the compost heap.

Fruit Scraps

Watermelon Scraps. I've already taught you that watermelon rind can be eaten as a vegetable, with a taste similar to pumpkin. My two favorite ways of eating the rind are in chicken vegetable soup, and with curry type seasonings. But did you know that you can also eat the seeds? The black seeds can be roasted and served similarly to sunflower seeds (and are even packaged and sold in our local store). Apparently you can also grind the seeds into a flour, but I haven't tried that yet as I don't currently have a grain mill, but one day...
Melon Seeds. I've stumbled upon a delicious looking melon drink made from every part of the melon, excluding the peel. The seeds are ground into the drink, then strained to remove any hard pieces. I can't wait to try it next time I buy melon. Alternatively, the seeds can be roasted and eaten as aforementioned, or they can be ground into a paste, used in many African recipes.
Brown Banana Parts. I'm not a big lover of mushy bananas. Whatever part of the banana gets brown or mushy, I remove before eating, and I bet I'm not the only one. Instead of throwing out these parts, I freeze them and use them in my breakfast shakes.
Apples. Half eaten apples can be saved and chopped, peel and all, to make either apple sauce or apple compote. Apple peels can also be eaten plain- they're delicious simply as is.
Leftover Fruit. Any partially eaten fruit can be made into compote.
Grape Seeds. Grape seed extract is sold in health food stores and other places because of its highly nutritive value. A pity to toss the seeds and buy the extract- simply eat the seeds with the grapes!

Animal Scraps.

Chicken Bones. You probably knew already that you can make a delicious broth from raw bones, especially ones the butcher was going to otherwise throw out. But did you know that once you've already cooked a chicken with the bones, you can save the bones (from people's plates, even) and make a broth from these? If you add a little lemon or vinegar to the broth, the bones will impart the broth with a nice amount of calcium, and will also become soft enough to actually eat.
Chicken Skin. Fried in their own fat, these skins taste fantabulous and are a low calorie (just kidding!) treat, similar to pork rind chips. They can be broken up and added as a crunchy topping to various dishes, like mashed potatoes or salads. Alternatively, these can be boiled to make a flavorful soup stock.
Chicken Fat. Rendered chicken fat works as a great alternative to oil in recipes, and is a great way to saute vegetables as a start for soup. This chicken fat is so chock full of flavor that it "takes away any need for msg-full soup mix" according to my husband.
Egg Shells. Add these also to a slightly acidic broth. The calcium will go into the soup, making it even more nutritious. You can fish out the shells before serving. Alternatively, grind up the shells as a calcium supplement.
Fish Parts. Bones, scales, skin and all can be made into a broth, then strained. Delicious!

Using this list, hopefully you won't ever need to throw any food away. Then again, things do spoil, so try to make your fruit and vegetables last longer and lengthen the life of your vegetables already on their last leg so you don't end up using that food to feed the dumpster instead of your family.

How much food waste usually goes into your trash can each week? Do you eat any of these things I've mentioned, or have you been inspired to start making use of some of your vegetable scraps? If not, why?
Anything to add to my list?

This is part of my Don't Throw That Out Yet series. 
Other posts in the series:
Spoiled Milk Pancakes
Pickles from Wilting Cucumbers
Plarn Dish Scrubbies from Recycled Shopping Bags
Stale Bread Uses

Yes, I am aware that there are more pesticides usually found in vegetable peels. This advice is meant for people who either don't care, don't have enough money to make pesticide avoidance a priority, grow their own food, or buy organic.
This is not meant to be nutritious advice, simply ideas on how to utilize every last drop of food. Consult a professional dietician or doctor before implementing any change to your diet.

Linking up to Frugal Friday, foodie friday, and friday foods.

1 comment:

  1. My dad made watermelon rind pickles one year... yummy


Share This