Roots to Fruits: Eat Pea Pods, Cauliflower Leaves, and Onion Peels

image-cauliflower-with-leavesAvoid food waste – eat your peels, roots and vegetable “waste” like pea pods, onion skins and cauliflower leaves.

Want another reason to feel virtuous? Alright – remind yourself that your local landfill isn’t one tiny bit fuller because you cooked. But let’s not dwell on smelly, pollution-charged landfills when we’re contemplating dinner. Let’s look at more ways to utilize all edible parts of your produce – even onion skins.

Take a look inside the vegetable bin in your fridge. Got a cauliflower in there? There is no reason you shouldn’t eat the entire cauliflower. Let’s show you how to make two dishes out of one cauliflower.

First, detach the leaves and put them aside. Not in the garbage – just aside. Cook the head as you like (how about our quick pan-roasted way?).   Now rinse and dry the leaves. Yes, those sturdy cauliflower leaves. They’re delicious, sliced into thin ribbons and steamed, then topped with a little  melted butter or smen. Serve over rice or potatoes. There – you’ve wasted nothing, saved money, and eaten well – twice.

Edible and Delicious “Garbage”

Yes, onion skins. People in the Middle East color their hamine eggs with onion skins, as we wrote in this post which shows you how to do it. Another way to use up the papery skins and the first thin layer that gets peeled off with it, is to put them into stock. Onion skins contribute a golden color to broth, and any onion flesh attached to them boosts flavor.

Eat egg shells

Eggshells are good for more than compost or for your chickens. Take leftover shells from organic boiled eggs – or gently wash raw egg shells next time you bake a cake, and bake them in a tray alongside your cake. Grind them in your food processor till they’re a fine dust and add to drinks or cooked food as an efficient calcium supplement. Egg shells must be cooked one way or another before consuming, to kill any doubt of salmonella. Another green way to use cooked eggshells: crush them into coarse particles and use as a non-toxic abrasive for pots and pans.

Potato peels, well scrubbed, and organic, are delicious fried in olive oil till crisp. Addictive, in fact.

Broccoli stems are tender and tasty inside their tough peels. Slice that tough peel away and steam the soft-green inner stem. Don’t neglect the nutritious leaves, either.

The leafy greens of celery, radishes, and beets are excellent pot herbs. I chop a small handful of them and throw it into almost any soup or stew. Cooked beet greens are a savory dish all by themselves – with a little onion or garlic. These bitter greens are full of potassium, iron, and vitamin C, aid digestion, and support liver function.

Dried orange and tangerine peels contribute bright flavor to all kinds of cooked dishes. Traditional French beef stews often demand a strip of dried citrus peel, and so do some Korean dishes. Push a threaded needle through one end of a citrus peel, make a loop and tie it. Hang the peel up in a dry, shady spot. When it’s entirely dry and breakable, store in a (recycled) glass jar.

Organic lemon and lime peels are too good to throw 0ut. Chop the peels up into chunks and bury them in salt or sugar, stirring the mix up every day for a week. You’ll find many ways to use your flavored salt or sugar, but for starters, scatter lemon salt over broiled fish, or substitute lemon sugar for plain sugar in a cake.

The tough ribs of chard or kale may be treated the same way as cauliflower leaves: sliced thinly and stir-fried, steamed, or cooked as a gratin (with wine, stock, or cream).

Edible Garden or Windowbox Surprises

Culinary herbs have edible flowers, so don’t be discouraged if your chives, basil, mint, oregano, or sage put out some flowering shoots when you weren’t looking. Just snip the flowers off and add them to salad or an omelet. They look pretty and taste great. I actually allow some of my herbs to flower just because I like eating the flowers.

If you have nasturtiums, taste the peppery leaves. They’re good as a sharp accent in salads and sandwiches, and have strong anti-microbial properties too.The unopened buds may be pickled as for capers, but I personally feel that the (edible) flowers are too pretty to sacrifice.

If you’re lucky enough to live where there are dandelions, take note of these ways to eat them. The young, tender leaves may be added to soups, stews, rice, and eggs. They become bitter when mature. You may find that the very small leaves are a pleasantly bitter addition to salads. Autumn and springtime dandelion roots are full of nutrition, and tasty too; a little on the sweet side. Scissor the yellow flowers into omelets, or mix them into cream cheese. Don’t eat dandelion stems, though. The latex they exude is toxic (and unpleasant to eat).

Now that you’ve gotten the idea, look at all your fruit and veg  again. Hopefully, you’ll be imagining all kinds of new ways to eat the parts you used to throw out.

More on managing food waste and eating well:

Eat the Whole Animal: Lamb’s Testicles

Jonathan Bloom Shows How to Avoid Food Waste

5 Tips to Avoid Ramadan Food Waste

Photo of cauliflower by Miriam Kresh.

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