In my recent post about Nose to Tail eating I mainly talked about using up as much as possible of the animal in question. However, the same concept is also applicable to veggies and other produce. If you want to stretch your food dollars and lessen waste, I think it’s a good idea to figure out how to use as much of everything you bring home. I recently saw this infographic about what a big problem food waste is, especially in the Western world.
This second infographic shows that production, processing and packaging accounts for a huge percentage of food loss and explains that a big part of the loss is due to grading and other quality standards set by retailers. This is pretty outrageous when there are also people go hungry not just in the Third World, but also right here in the US.
Here are some thoughts and tips that came to my mind as I looked at these infographics and their relevance to buying food farm direct and trying to waste as little as possible.
Buy “field run” and save money.
The nice thing when you know your farmer is that you can communicate directly with him or her, and together come up with ways to eliminate waste, keep costs down, and still get lots of high quality food. Don’t let cosmetic blemishes scare you off! You can ask a grower to give you a “field run” price on whatever s/he grows. This means the grower will not have to grade his or her apples or cherries, for example, according to size thereby saving a lot of labor and being able to pass on some of those savings to you. (If you know a fisherman, you can ask to buy “ocean run,” which basically means the same thing: you will get fish of various sizes with some imperfections, but you will get it at a lower price per pound.)
Buy “choice” at the height of the season.
Sometimes growers produce more than they can sell and fruit sits and rots either in storage or on the vine. If you approach a grower and tell them you are interested in buying “choice” or #2 quality produce instead of letting it go to waste you can get fantastic deals. If you plan ahead and are prepared to can on the drop of a dime you can often get very ripe tomatoes that make amazingly flavorful sauce and can it for later use.
Ask your farmer what to do with what s/he grows (aka how I learned that carrot tops are edible!)
If you are a member of a CSA you may get some unfamiliar things in your basket every now and then. Thanks to Joanne of The Little Homestead (producer of the “All You Can Eat” CSA that we are members of), I recently learned that carrot tops are edible. I had no idea and had been tossing them to our chickens (back when we had them) or into the compost bin. Now we eat the carrot greens (use them as you would parsley) along with lots of other greens (beet greens, radish greens) that I used to just chop off and discard, not knowing they were edible. Many of these greens can be used in salads or lightly steamed as a side dish. When in doubt, just throw some greens into a soup towards the end of the cooking time and you have just added lots of vitamins to your meal. Check out this recipe for Carrot Top Tabouleh, for example.
Save your veggie scraps in the freezer.
A friend of mine gave me this tip a long time ago. She said she had learned it from a Mennonite cook book she happened to leaf through. Every time she peeled an onion or a carrot or chopped off the end of a celery stalk, she’d throw the parts you’d normally discard into a bag that she kept in the freezer. Then, the next time she was making stock she’d take the veggies scraps out of the freezer and add them to the pot.
Make your own pectin.
Don’t throw out apple peels! Keep another bag in the freezer and add apple peels to it to use for making your own apple pectin stock. Then, when summer rolls around and you want to make jam you can use your own homemade pectin.
Keep citrus peels for marmalade! (Or to clean with.)
I don’t know about you, but I love marmalade. I still haven’t tried making my own, but every time I juice oranges and throw away the peels I feel like it’s a wasted marmalade making opportunity. If you don’t have time to make marmalade, you might want to consider making citrus household cleaner or at least keeping spent lemon peels around for using to wash your hands with. They make your finger nails so clean and white!
I am sure there are lost of other ways to use up parts of fruits and vegetables that normally get thrown away.
What are some of your favorite tips?
What is the most unusual thing you have a purpose for?
Leave a comment! I’d love to learn more!