In this article:
- With food waste being such a massive problem across the globe, it’s vital that we learn how to use as much of the food that we produce as possible. One of the ways that we can reduce food waste is by finding ways to incorporate the lesser-used parts of our fruits and vegetables into our meals.
- These often-forgotten parts of fruits and vegetables are both delicious and extremely healthy. So, if you’re interested in trying out some new recipes, improving your dietary health, and help to reduce food waste, keep on reading!
- From stems to seeds to skins, we’re going to talk about the best parts of fruits and vegetables you’re not using and what you can do with them.
According to Feeding America, every year, around 108 billion pounds of food are wasted. Meanwhile, there are 34 million Americans struggling with hunger. Reducing food waste is a vital step in the struggle to feed the hungry and reduce the environmental impact of food production. And there are many ways that we can all help to reduce food waste in our own homes.
First of all, planning out your meals for the week before you go to the supermarket is a great way to stop yourself from buying too much food and then throwing half of it away when it spoils. Gifting leftovers to neighbors or friends can also help ensure that food doesn’t go to waste. But, an often-overlooked way to reduce food waste is to utilize as many parts of every fruit and vegetable as you can.
Today, we’re here to talk about the parts of fruits and vegetables that you’re not eating, the lost and forgotten stems, skins, and seeds that get tossed in the trash. Many of these unorthodox fruit and veggie parts have a variety of culinary uses and, beyond that, are some of my favorite things to eat. So, in this article, we’re going to talk about some of the parts of fruits and vegetables parts you’re not eating and how you can incorporate them into your next meal.
Broccoli and Cauliflower Stems
I had to start off with this one because it’s the nearest and dearest to my heart. When did we Americans collectively decide that broccoli and cauliflower stems weren’t good enough to eat? Personally, I know almost no one who eats broccoli and cauliflower stems, and that’s a shame. Broccoli and cauliflower stems are full of beta-carotene, which promotes good eyesight, a healthy immune system, and healthy skin.
Personally, if I’m cooking up a vegetable stir fry, I love to dice up my cauliflower or broccoli stems and throw them in. They take on a nice, soft consistency and taste great. You can also cut them into rounds, put them on a baking sheet with some salt, pepper, and olive oil, and enjoy them as a healthy snack.
Recently, I went to a farmers market and bought a bunch of carrots. The farmer asked me if I wanted him to remove the tops and I replied, “Of course not!” His eyes lit up with delight. That guy understood. Not only do carrot tops have six times the amount of vitamin A as the orange root, but they’re absolutely delectable. Plus, there are a ton of great ways to use them.
I like to take my carrot tops, fry them, cover them with salt, and then use them as a delicious and crispy garnish for pretty much anything. You could even munch on those fried carrot tops while you’re watching a series on Netflix. They’re also great if you put them in a food processor to make some pesto or chimichurri. I prefer the taste of carrot tops to most other leafy greens and it’s painful to think that most people just throw them away.
I’ve certainly been guilty of throwing away watermelon rinds. I would eat a slice of watermelon in my backyard on a hot summer day and just toss the rind to the squirrels when I was done. But, that was before I learned that watermelon rinds are full of citrulline, an amino acid that helps relax and dilate the arteries, which is great for blood pressure.
One of the most popular ways to use watermelon rinds is to pickle them. And, while that definitely sounded pretty strange to me at first, it’s actually super tasty. It’s tangy and sweet and makes a great addition to your next charcuterie plate. They’re also great in stir fry or as a fun addition to your gazpacho soup recipe.
Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
I’ve been roasting pumpkin seeds since I was a little kid, so it came as a surprise to me that a ton of people throw these away. When you’re carving a pumpkin around the Halloween season or preparing an acorn squash to throw in the oven, make sure you save those seeds. Pumpkin and squash seeds are chock full of antioxidants and important vitamins and minerals like manganese and vitamin K, both of which help wounds heal.
When you’re roasting your pumpkin or squash, you can just take out the seeds, clean all of the flesh off them, and spread the around the same pan where you’re roasting the pumpkin or squash. Then, when you take them out of the oven, hit them with a bit of salt and paprika and you’ll have a delicious snack. Alternatively, you could go the sweet route and cover them in brown sugar, which is equally delicious.
When it comes to lemons and limes, most people just squeeze their juices on top of whatever meal they’re eating and then throw the rest away. When it comes to oranges, most people eat the flesh and then put the skin in the trash bin. However, citrus peels are full of vitamin C and antioxidants. Vitamin C helps boost your immune system and stimulates the production of collagen, which helps keep your skin and hair looking youthful and elastic.
My personal favorite use of citrus peels is to throw them in a marinade for meats. I make Cuban-style pulled pork that involves marinating the meat overnight in olive oil, vinegar, a bunch of spices, and as many citrus peels as I can get my hands on. You can also grate the peels with a zester to add a little pizzazz to any meal. And, if you’ve never tried a candied orange peel, they’ll surely change your life.
Similar to carrot tops, beet tops are another type of leafy green that gets overlooked in favor of their root. However, they contain vitamins A and C, calcium, and even more iron per serving than spinach. Beet greens also contain high concentrations of nitrates, which help increase the amount of oxygen in the body, enhancing exercise performance and athletic ability. Plus, they taste every bit as good and look just as beautiful as Swiss chard.
If you have some beet tops sitting in your kitchen, you can use them in any recipe that calls for kale. Kale and beet greens have very similar flavor profiles and cook very similarly. If you want to keep it simple, you can just sautee your beet greens with olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.