Waste Not, Want Not: You Can Eat Yummy Food Scraps Without Turning Freegan

We waste about 1/3 of all food produced on the planet. Globally, that’s 1.3 billion tons of food waste each year. This staggering statistic supplied by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations isn’t just important because it means that some people don’t get enough food to eat. Food waste also represents a loss of land, water, energy, and other resources. Food going to waste means that greenhouse gases are being released into the environment without producing a visible benefit. And that’s just the gases associated with food production!

When food gets thrown out, we obviously have to do something with that waste. Even more land and resources are taken up unnecessarily in the waste collection process, but it doesn’t end there. Most of the food waste in America – roughly 25% to 40% of food grown and produced in the US – will end up in landfills where it will contribute to the production of methane gas. And while this is happening, 9% of all senior citizens and 19% of households that include children are experiencing food insecurity.

That’s just garbage!

 

Food waste: 1/3 of all food on the planet is never eaten | #frugal #waste
1/3 of all food produced on the planet goes to waste
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What You Can Do About Food Waste

If you’ve been buying only what you can use, planning meals around the food that’s already in your fridge, and using up leftovers, you are on the right track. But you could do more to help: you could eat food scraps! No, I’m not talking about turning “freegan” and taking up dumpster diving. And you won’t have to beg for write-offs at the back door of your local restaurant or grocery store.

But there are probably parts of food ingredients that are going to waste because you didn’t realize you could eat them. You can reuse some kitchen scraps to make broth for cooking, and many of your table scraps and other food wastes can go into your compost pile too. But there are also parts of fresh fruits and vegetables that most of us treat as scrap, that are actually quite edible!

 

3 Food ‘scraps’ you don’t have to toss away | #frugal #foodie
Does your family eat the kitchen scraps?
(Image from a public domain photo by PDPics/Pixabay)

 

Cooking with Kitchen Scraps

In our house, we keep a zippered bag in the freezer at all times and we use it to collect up all of the food waste that would otherwise end up in the garbage or compost heap. Vegetable skins and peels, the end bits that aren’t too appetizing, bones leftover after we eat a roast or enjoy fried chicken, it all goes into our soup bag. Sometimes we’ll have several of these bags waiting in the freezer – especially when I’m making freezer meals and I’ve been chopping a week’s worth of vegetables in one afternoon! A couple of times a month we make broth from this food waste. It’s a choice we make for the environment and for our food budget: making “free” both at just the cost of our electricity is a much more frugal food option than buying commercially produced broth at the grocery store!

But there are a lot of foods you might think belong in that soup bag, that we can eat instead. The following is a list of three foods you’re probably enjoying now – or will be in the coming weeks. These are foods that most people separate into a pile of edible bits – the root of the carrot, the flesh of the watermelon, the broccoli crowns – and a pile of skins and rinds, green tops, and woody stems that too often get thrown away.

Did you know you can eat every one of these “food scraps”? Let me tell you more about them.

 

Kitchen Scraps You Can Eat

1) Carrot Tops

A lot of people think carrot tops are poisonous, but this simply isn’t true. Look around online and you can find literally dozens of recipes for carrot top pesto or chimichurri, carrot greens in tabouleh salad, or carrot top soup. Use carrot tops the same way you would basil, parsley or cilantro, or add them to your soups and juices the way you would beet greens.

When you buy whole carrots that still have their tops, it’s like getting a second vegetable free! But you want to cut the greens off before you store your carrots in the fridge or cold room. The carrot tops will tend to pull moisture back up from the root if you store the whole carrot intact; that will dry out the root end and make it spoil more quickly. Store the carrot tops as you would leafy greens or herbs. If I know I’m going to keep them for more than a day or two, I like to treat carrot tops the same way I would my lettuce and other leafy green vegetables. I make sure they are unwashed, and I pat away any moisture with a clean towel. Then I store them in a rigid container or zippered freezer bag, along with a bit of paper towel or a clean dish towel. This wicks away any moisture and increases the shelf life of my carrot tops.

Try carrot tops as a parsley substitute in this tabouleh recipe

2) Watermelon Rind

Were you ever told not to eat the white or green parts of the watermelon because they would make you sick? Most people avoid this part of the melon because they believe it’s not edible. But again, if you search the internet you can find dozens of recipes for pickled watermelon rind, jams and jellies made from the rind, and even watermelon rind curry.

The rind of the watermelon tastes a bit like the skin of a cucumber, which is not surprising because the two fruits (yes, cucumber is technically a fruit!) are related. The outer green part can be a lot tougher than cucumber skin, but it’s still very edible. This probably why one of the most common ways to use watermelon rind is to pickle it.

Some recipes call for soaking the rind to soften it a bit, and if you find it too tough that might be something you’ll want to do. But you can also make it easier to chew by cutting it into matchsticks. And if you’re going to use it raw, as in a carrot and raisin salad, you may want to prepare the dish ahead of time and let it marinade for a few hours or even overnight before you serve it.

Remember that the rind of the watermelon is what protects the juicy flesh. Unlike carrots, you want to leave your watermelon whole and uncut until you need it. Try to plan ways to use the flesh before you’ll need the rind; this way you won’t need to worry about the flesh spoiling.

Alton Brown’s watermelon rind pickles have just a tiny bite of spice

3) Broccoli Stems

Broccoli crowns are really nice for steaming or throwing into a stir fry, but don’t be tempted to discard the stems! If your broccoli stems are woody, you can remove the skin with a vegetable peeler. Toss it in your soup bag, and keep the rest of the stem for cooking. It used to be that most people just used the stems for cream of broccoli soup, which is admittedly a tasty dish! But you can also chop the stems up for use in a garden vegetable soup or in a tasty stir fry.

One of the most popular ways to use broccoli stems right now is to make broccoli slaw. I’ve bought commercially prepared broccoli slaw and found it dry – not terribly appetizing. But homemade? It’s absolutely delicious! I like to use peeled broccoli stems that I cut into matchsticks. I add shredded carrot and sweet golden raisins to the mix,and let the salad marinate in a creamy dressing overnight before I eat it. If you like carrot salad or coleslaw, you’re going to love broccoli slaw!

Try this healthy update of a crunchy broccoli slaw recipe from The Kitchn

 

3 Yummy Foods from Scrap | #waste #frugal
Did you know you can safely eat all of the watermelon rind?
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(Image from a public domain photo by StockSnap/Pixabay)

 

Store your leafy greens the right way and cut down on food waste | #foodstorage #frugalfood
Learn to store your leafy greens the right way and cut down on food waste
(Collage of images from Pixabay users sergio741030, FraukeFeindm, Unsplash, JoshM, and skeeze)

What food scraps does your family eat? What other measures do you take to reduce food waste in your home? Let me know in the comments!

 

Original content ©2016 Kyla Matton Osborne

This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

What Do You Need to Know About Heirloom Vegetables?

Heirloom vegetables are a popular option for home gardeners today. “Heirloom” marked on a seed packet is probably second only to “Organic,” in terms of popularity. But have you ever wondered what it really means?

Simply put, an heirloom variety is an old-fashioned version of a vegetable or other plant that you’ve always known and loved. Heirloom vegetables are the plants your grandparents and great-grandparents would have grown in their gardens. They existed before biotech companies were patenting seeds, and before anyone had heard of GMOs. Heirloom vegetables link us back to a time before anyone thought to ask if something was grown organically – before we’d even heard the word “agribusiness.”

Many people grow heirloom vegetables because they prefer the old-fashioned taste over the flavour of today’s commercial varieties – most of which have been bred for traits such as uniformity, a single determinate harvest, and the ability to withstand the rigours of shipping over long distances. Two other traits that mark an heirloom variety are its history and the fact that it is “open pollinated.”

What makes a vegetable an heirloom? | #gardening #veggies
Heirloom vegetables link us back to a time when everything was organically grown
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Unique Vegetables – with a History!

An heirloom vegetable is a variety of plant – called a cultivar – that has a fairly long and stable history. Unlike a more recently developed hybrid, the heirloom has looked and tasted pretty much the same for decades, and sometimes even centuries. And unlike the vegetables you buy in the grocery store, an heirloom variety generally has one or two unique features that make it stand out from the rest. It might be a red, yellow, or purple carrot. It might be a tomato whose skin and flesh are green when completely ripe. Or perhaps it’s a red-skinned pumpkin or a purple-podded bean.

Most of the heirloom cultivars were grown before the 1950s, and many of them are even older than that. Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, for example, were grown as early as the 1830s. Green Hubbard squash was introduced to the American seed trade in the 1840s but had been grown in North America since 1739. The Montreal market melon was widely cultivated in the 1880s and was later saved from the brink of extinction in the late 1990s. Oftentimes, the stories behind these heirloom varieties are even more interesting than the plants themselves!

Heirloom Vegetables Are Open Pollinated

Besides a long history, the other thing that makes a plant an heirloom vegetable is open pollination. This term is a bit misleading, but what it means is that the seeds can be saved from one season to another. Plants grown from the seeds of this year’s crop will grow true to type.

That means if your tomato is a large, pink-fleshed beefsteak and you save its seeds, that’s what the seeds should produce again next year. Open pollinated crops will reliably produce the same results year after year, allowing the grower to save – and trade – seeds from one harvest to the next.

“Open Pollinated” is another designation you’ll sometimes encounter when buying seeds or plant starts. This label can be applied to any hybrid that has been stable long enough to reliably reproduce true to type, as well as to any cultivar that has an established history of successful seed saving.

The main difference between a variety marked “Open Pollinated” and one marked “Heirloom” is age. Heirloom vegetables tend to have been around longer, though just as with words like “vintage” or “antique,” there seems to be little agreement about just how long a history a plant must have before it earns the status of an heirloom vegetable.

Original content © 2015, 2016 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter

This is an expanded version of an article I originally published on the now-defunct site Elite Writers in January of 2015. It now appears on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

How to Bake a Yummy, Sweet War Cake

One day when my daughter asked me if we could make up a batch of poor man’s pudding, I discovered that I could no longer find my favourite recipe. So instead, I went looking for one on the internet. What I came up with was one that looked more or less right, but was subtitled “war cake.”

Figuring it was just another name for this frugal dish, I printed off the recipe and gave it to her to make. It turns out, though, I had stumbled upon a completely different and delicious dessert!

History of War Cakes

War cake dates back to the American civil war, and was popular on both sides of the Atlantic during the WWI and depression eras. The recipes is characterized by the absence of milk, butter and eggs – ingredients that would have been scarce during wartime.

Shortening replaces the butter that would be in most cake recipes, and you’ll notice that the only leavening is provided by the baking soda in hot water.

The hot water also replaces the milk and eggs for the purpose of providing moisture. If you find the cake dry, you can increase the moisture by placing a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of your oven during baking.

How to Bake a Yummy, Sweet War Cake | #NoEgg #NoMilk #cake

No-egg, no-milk, no-butter cake – but still moist and delicious!
(Image from a photo by Celeste Lindell/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

 

Frugal Substitutions

You’ll notice that this recipe uses two cups of brown sugar, a more expensive ingredient even today. Many other war cakes have a smaller amount of sugar, and it certainly would be more frugal these days to replace the brown sugar with white.

The pound of raisins is also a bit of a splurge for families on a budget, as are the optional nuts. If you are trying to be frugal, do leave out the nuts. But the raisins (and the brown sugar) give this cake a good deal of its texture and flavour. Don’t skimp on them!

Remember that the recipe makes two loaves, and that it’s supposed to be a little bit of an extravagance when you are otherwise living a rather austere life.

WAR CAKE RECIPE

2 cups dark brown sugar
2 cups hot water
2 tbsp shortening
1 tsp each: cinnamon and nutmeg
1/2 tsp each ground cloves and ginger
1 lb raisins
1/2 lb chopped walnuts and/or almonds (optional)
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 tsp hot water

Directions:

In a saucepan, mix together the sugar, hot water, shortening, spices and raisins. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook 5 minutes.

Set aside to cool for up to several hours, stirring often. The mixture will thicken up during the cooling period. Don’t rush and add the flour too soon, or the cake won’t bake properly.

Gradually mix in flour and soda. The batter should be thick. Pour into two well oiled and floured loaf pans.

Bake 45-60 minutes in a preheated 350°F oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. The resulting loaf should look like a darker, more dense version of banana bread.

Serve slices with a little butter at breakfast or tea time, or as a sweet finish to a hearty meal like stew or shepherd’s pie.