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Reduce food waste with root to stem cooking

Posted on March 29, 2018

If you’ve ever seen a statistic about how much food never gets eaten and goes to waste, you know the numbers are big. The good news is that how we create and plan our meals can start making a difference. As individuals, there are some challenges such as food spoilage during harvest or shipment that we can’t easily address, but we can do our part in our own homes.

Root to stem cooking where no part of a vegetable or fruit goes to waste is big step towards lowering your impact on food waste. It’s easier than you think, and you may find you’re reducing your grocery bill each week.

There are numerous sites with recipes such as pesto using carrot tops, stems slaws and sautéed beet greens. They’re all delicious, and we absolutely recommend trying them.

If you like to peel or juice your veggies, or discard the stems of fresh herbs, it can be trickier to find ways to add them back into your meals. So how do you make use of these ingredients? One solution is make them into seasoning salt. It will turn your food waste into what ends up feeling like an artisanal ingredient in your cupboard, not to mention adding to your arsenal of hostess and holiday gifts. Below is a basic how-to guide and some recommendations on combinations.

How to make a root to stem seasoning salt

  • Collect vegetable peels, remaining herb stocks or pulp from your juicer
  • Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast them on the top shelf at 325-350° F until they begin to dry out (about 15 to 20 minutes).
    • Alternatively, if you have a food dehydrator, you can dehydrate them on the appropriate setting and time for your make and model.
  • Place cooled and dehydrated ingredients into a spice grinder to pulverize them. Typically, a cup of dried peels will process down to a couple tablespoons of flavored dust.
  • Once everything is finely ground, add 1 teaspoon of flaky sea salt to the grinder and pulse until it’s all the same consistency. Every heaping tablespoon of this resulting mixture can flavor 1/2 cup of sea salt.
  • These are best if kept in tightly sealed jars in a dark spot. They do not need refrigeration. Try to use them within six to nine months, though storage time will vary by ingredient. Use them for seasoning wherever you would use salt.

Flavor combinations

Beet peels or pulp: A great finishing salt. Also, try adding a dash to your next hummus recipe.

Lemon peel, parsley and thyme stems: Add some pepper, and use it as a homemade lemon pepper seasoning to add to dressings, grilled veggies and soups.

Apple peels or pulp, onion and sage stems: An all-purpose seasoning that’s perfect in the fall. Try it in your next squash recipe.

For more ideas on reducing waste at home, check the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

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