We all know that the finale to this phrase is “want not,” but I am working on really sticking to that first part about not wasting… especially when it comes to vegetables. Despite my consistent frugality and unabashed love for veggies, I have to admit that I am exceptionally picky about the fruits and veggies I eat. Though I will always cut out a brown spot on a banana or apple, I have been known to toss out whole strawberries if not totally perfect; if potatoes are a bit soft or if the carrots are kinda wimpy, I simply toss them out. Worst of all, perhaps, is the waste of stems, tops, skins, and ends of veggies. I use only the perfect florets of the broccoli, I always de-stem my kale, and I toss the eyes of potatoes, ends carrots, green onions, and all manner of other, perfectly edible foods. But no longer!
Two things galvanized me to change my cooking and trashing habits. Jennifer Hee, a wicked smart writer for Hawaii Women’s Journal and the talented vegan cook & baker at Kale’s Natural Foods in Honolulu, wrote in the last HWJ issue about making her own veggie stock. I read the article and literally saw the (CFL) light bulb go off in my head. The second push was a small article in Whole Living Magazine entitled 50 ways to eat sustainably. I have to say I was pretty happy to realize that do nearly all the items on the list (except for the fish/meat related things and baking my own bread), with the exception of number 2: use the whole plant! They write, “The stems of cauliflower or broccoli, the inner leaves of celery, the fronds of fennel, the greens of beets, even the stems of herbs: all edible, all tasty.” Well of course!
But what to do with all these ‘scraps?’ Hee says that after saving all her peels, scraps, and less-than-pretty vegetables for a week (in the fridge), she simply simmers all the pieces into a stockpot for at least an hour; she then uses her own stock to cook her grains and as a base for soups. She warns, “don’t use much from the cabbage family (this includes kale, broccoli, and cauliflower) because it will turn your stock bitter. An overripe tomato and ugly basil are okay to toss in the stock pot; [but] rotten jicama and slimy basil are not- be careful with aging produce.” After reading this article, I got very interested in making my own Homemade vegetable broth. It is delicious for cooking grains, pasta, and of course as a base for homemade soups.
Other ways to use those ‘un-usable’ veggies:
Broccoli: Separate the florets from the stalk. Slice the stalk thinly to make little green coins, except for the last inch or so- that part is often dried out and tough. To cook, simply add the ‘coins’ in with the onions and garlic for a stir-fry, or toss into the soup pot early with the onions and mushrooms. They are fairly tough, so they need more time than the florets. The extra little crunch they add to foods is great. If you are lucky enough to know a farmer, then try to get some broccoli, kohlrabi, or cauliflower greens too: these are so tasty. These brassica plants usually come leaf-less in the stores so talk your farmer and get cookin!
Leafy greens: Instead of wasting the stems on my kale or choi sum, slice them thinly (like the broccoli) and using in the same way. They are very small and make a cute confetti for salads, soups, and as a topping for rice.
Carrots: You can eat the skins! Make sure it’s organic and get crunchin’! Peel the carrots down to almost nothing and make a pretty shaved carrot salad. Chop the inner core into little confetti pieces and sauté lightly.
Beets, turnips, and kohlrabi: these root veggies usually come leaf-less in the stores too, which is so sad. Miso soup with fresh turnips and fresh turnip greens is so tasty and very healthy. You can also roast the beets, turnips and kohlrabi separately, then lightly steam the greens for a heaven & earth kinda meal.