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The Produce Box is a wonderful service here in North Carolina that provides you with fresh produce, meats, dairy, and bakery items directly from North Carolina farmers and other small business owners. Each week there is a different selection, depending on what’s available and in season, and unlike a CSA, you choose exactly what, and how much you want to purchase. It’s like a farmer’s market brought right to your door. (Want to become a member? Check it out here!)
Because of my Produce Box deliveries, I have become much more aware of the parts of food that we use and the parts that go to waste. Produce Box items arrive to your door a little differently than if you pick them up at the grocery store. For example, carrots might have the greens attached when you get them, or you’ll find broccoli and Brussels sprouts still attached to the stalk.
At first I would just cut off and throw away the parts I wouldn’t normally use. But then a friend mentioned the broccoli stalk could be used multiple ways instead of throwing it out. Peel and chop up to use in a salad or cook it and puree for a soup. Then I read that the Brussels Sprouts stalk is delicious steamed, once you cut away the bamboo-like outer skin. Little by little I started discovering recipes that used the parts of the vegetable that would normally get thrown away, like the peel.
Did you know that every year roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption gets lost or wasted? In developing countries food waste and losses happen mainly at the early stages of the food value chain (like before harvest or in storage before delivery to the retailers).
But in medium- and high-income countries, like the US, more than 40% of waste happens at the retail and consumer levels. For example, in the grocery store broccoli (and cauliflower) is cut off the stock into florets; carrots, cauliflower, and beets are sold without their green tops. Broccoli stalks have a richer flavor than the florets and those greens are nutritional powerhouses full of vitamins A and C. (Just a half cup of beet greens provides 30% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.) Or at home you cut off the tops of the carrots and onions and throw them away.
If just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world!
Using Produce from Stem-to-root
Our ancestors practiced stem-to-root cooking for centuries, saving greens from carrots and beets to serve on salads and in side dishes, and potato peels and carrot tops to simmer for stock. Until recently, this practice somehow became lost in the hustle and bustle of life. We opted, and paid a premium for convenience by purchasing ready-to-eat/use produce like broccoli and cauliflower florets, diced onions, chopped peppers, and fresh cut fruit.
But when only using part of the vegetables in a dish, food is wasted and opportunities to add flavor and nutrition are missed. Many times there are more nutrients contained in the skin/peel of a vegetable than in the vegetable itself! (Check out all the stem-to-root suggestions listed after the recipe.)
For example, the peel contains 50% of the nutrients in the potato. When you toss the peels you miss all that fiber, potassium (more than a banana), iron, magnesium, antioxidants, and vitamins C and B-6! That is why the last time I peeled potatoes for a recipe I decided to make something with that yummy “scrap”.
Chips are a favorite treat in our house, so it was pretty obvious what I should make with the peels.
Potato Peel Chips
- Peels from 4 medium to large russet potatoes
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt
- 1 teaspoon McCormick Perfect Pinch Roasted Garlic & Bell Pepper Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon McCormick Salt Free Perfect Pinch Garlic & Herb Seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
Add the Himalayan Pink Salt, McCormick Perfect Pinch Roasted Garlic & Bell Pepper Seasoning, McCormick Salt Free Perfect Pinch Garlic & Herb Seasoning, and fresh ground pepper into a small bowl and mix well.
In a medium bowl add the peels, avocado oil, and the spices mix.
Toss to coat thoroughly.
Carefully spread the peels on the hot baking sheet in a single layer, skin side down. (I didn't do this and not all of the peels got crispy.)
Roast for 10 minutes. Then for even browning, stir the peels around using a spatula and roast for another 10 minutes.
Check to see if they are crispy enough. If the peels are to your desired crispness, remove from oven. If not, continue baking for another 3-5 minutes. Keep an eye on the peels at this stage because they can burn quickly.
I used a regular peeler, but used more pressure so that the skins would have a little extra potato flesh on them.
If you won't be baking the peels right away, place them in a bowl of water to prevent browning (up to a day). When ready to bake, drain the peels and squeeze them dry in a clean dish towel.
You can substitute the avocado oil with olive oil, or for a really spectacular flavor use some rendered bacon fat.
After removing from the oven, sprinkle the chips with your favorite shredded cheese to punch up the flavor.
Mix up the spices: Try paprika, cayenne pepper, and thyme for a spicy kick. Or use bacon bits, parmesan cheese, and italian spices.
These crispy chips also make a great garnish for soup and chowder.
Please note: Avoid any green peels as they may contain solanine which is a toxin.
|Amount Per Serving||As Served|
|Calories 65kcal Calories from fat 64|
|% Daily Value|
|Total Fat 7g||11%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs:
|Total Fat||Less than||65g|
|Sat Fat||Less than||25g|
There are many ways that you can reduce food waste. Here are some examples:
TIP: Keep a collection of potato peels, greens, celery leaves and ends, carrot tops, the woody ends of asparagus stems, onion ends and skins, etc. in the freezer until you have enough to make a stock.
Asparagus woody ends can be made into a delicious soup, stock, or even a tasty relish.
Broccoli stalks have a richer flavor than the florets. They make a great soup or simply peel the tough outer skin and then shred the stalk to make a delicious coleslaw–like salad. Broccoli stalks contain calcium, vitamins A and C, and folate. The leaves are also edible. Throw them into a salad or saute with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Substitute broccoli stalks in recipes that call for Brussels sprouts.
Carrots do not need to be peeled… once washed thoroughly they are ready to use. Carrot greens are packed with vitamins and minerals, rich in protein, and they contain 6 times the calcium of the carrot. Carrot greens (along with radish greens) can be added to a salad–but just a touch as they can be bitter. Carrot greens can be made into a hazelnut pesto! And here is yummy recipe from Bon Appetit that uses the carrot stem-to-root. Roasted carrots with Carrot Top Pesto
Corn on the Cob:
Once the corn kernels are cut off the cob, simmer the cobs with onions and carrots for a simple broth. The broth is sweet, with a mild tea-like flavor. It can be used to make braises, grits, risotto, and it makes a great broth for corn or clam chowder.
Radish, Turnip, Cauliflower, Chard, Collard, and Mustard greens can be braised in white wine and water until tender, drain and dress with olive oil and salt and pepper.
The tough stems from herbs are great to use in stocks and braises.
Potato Peel soup is lovely way to use up your peels. Garnish with some bacon and potato peel chips for some delicious texture. This recipe works using carrots and parsnips, as well.
Or for a change, try Potato peel stock. Replace the water from a soup recipe with the potato peel stock to give the soup another dimension of flavor. You can also use it to deglaze a pan or to make gravy.
If you see marked down tomatoes, grab them. Who cares if they are ugly, bruised, slightly overripe, or lumpy? Use them to make tomato soup, gazpacho, pasta sauce, or panzanella. Don’t want to use the skins in your canning… Michael Nolan, author of I Garden: Urban Style, dehydrates tomato skins and turns them into a powder that is good not only for flavor, but also to add color and variety to dishes. Please note: you cannot eat tomato leaves as they are poisonous.
Stem-to-root is not just for vegetables!
Use apple peels and cores to make jelly. Sprinkle the peels with cinnamon and sugar and dry in the oven for a tasty snack. Use the peels in a smoothie, or chop them up and add into muffins, breads, or pancakes. Or make some apple peel tea.
Oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, and clementine peels can be dried and used as seasoning. Candied orange peel is delicious and makes a tasty and pretty topping on desserts.
Passion Fruit Leaves:
Passion fruit leaves can be used in salads or as a substitute for spinach in quiches or pastas. Leaves can also be dried for teas and herbal remedies.
Use peach peels to make jelly, syrup, butter, or liqueur.
Roast and salt watermelon seeds like you would pumpkin seeds. Cut off the hard outer peel and use the crunchy rinds in place of cucumber in salads. Make up a batch of Pickled Watermelon Rinds.
Do you have a favorite stem-to-root recipe you would like to share? Comment below!