Friday, 27 November 2015

Ammunition for the War on Waste

Having written recently about Brussels Tops and said that they are often wasted, I thought I would put something together about other parts of vegetables that are often discarded despite being edible, nutritious and frequently just as nice as the part we usually eat.

One of my favourites is the stem of Calabrese broccoli. This is almost always thrown away, and that is such a shame because it is succulent and tasty. You have to peel it of course, and remove some of the outer layer if it looks fibrous, but that is an easy task with a vegetable-peeler.

When cooked it has the texture of a Turnip, but the flavour of Broccoli.

The inner "cores" of Cabbage and Cauliflower can be used in the same way. Next time you're preparing a Cauliflower, try eating a piece of the stem raw. It's lovely!

Here are some other ideas:
  • The outer leaves of Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts etc can be cooked and processed into a lovely tasty soup. When they are blitzed the coarser texture of these leaves is not a problem!
  • Winter Squash (e.g. Butternut) - roast the seeds on an oven tray with a little oil. Eat as a "nibble" with drinks, or as a substitute for pine-nuts or toasted Almonds.
  • The flesh taken out of your Halloween pumpkin to make a lantern is edible (if perhaps a little bland), so why not make it into soup or a pie?
  • Turnip leaves (aka Tops) - stir-fry or use as general-purpose "Greens".
  • Beetroot (Beet) leaves - cook the big ones as a hot vegetable; use the tiny ones raw as a salad ingredient.

  • Radishes - if they bolt, leave them to form seeds and then use the seed-pods in the way you might use gherkins, e.g. pickled as an hors d'oeuvre.
  • Nasturtiums - flowers, (peppery) leaves and seeds are all edible. The seeds are sometimes pickled in the same way as Capers.
  • Carrot leaves can be used as a salad ingredient when very small. Larger leaves can be made into a sort of pesto.
  • Pea pods  - cook, then blitz in a blender with some stock to make a soup. (Maybe add a fried onion, some cream and some bacon?!)
  • Lettuce - use the tougher / less picturesque outer leaves to make soup.
  • Potato peelings can be cooked into a variant of the potato crisp - "Potato Skins", often cooked with paprika or some such, and served as a nibble with beer!
  • Celery, Celeriac and Leek leaves can be added to soups, stews or stock.

  • Likewise, Parsley stalks are often discarded but will add flavour to a stock or casserole. Chop them finely with a large knife before adding them to the pan.
  • The peel of citrus fruit can be used to make marmalade or can be candied to make a baking ingredient. Candied orange peel dipped in chocolate???
  • The skin of a Papaya / Paw-Paw is a good meat tenderiser, and can be used in a marinade.

 Kanak Hagjer, a blogging friend from India, has written recently about using chilli leaves as a green vegetable. I can't honestly say I fancy that, but I suppose you shouldn't knock it until you're tried it!

Annemarie on Real Food Real Deals has written about making apple Cider Vinegar with apple cores and peelings.

I'm sure there must be loads of other ways in which potential Food Waste can be used as real food. I invite all my readers to add Comments telling us about other suggestions on this theme!


  1. Alot of my discarded veg used to be gobbled up by my two greedy bunnies, but sadly they've both died this year. They used to absolutely love the carrot tops.

  2. A really useful post Mark
    It distresses me that in a hungry world we throw away so much valuable nutrition.
    I always despair when Brenda throws away lovely cauliflower leaves. As good as Spring cabbage!
    I must get to work educating the cook!
    What about green leek leaves?

    1. Yes, I love the cauliflower leaves too! (And Leek leaves are on my list already).

  3. This is such an interesting post! I tend to throw away the outer leaves of cabbage. The thought of using them in soups hadn't occurred to me. I know that papaya acts as a tenderiser but not the skin. This is new to me and I'm going to try it soon. I haven't tried carrot tops in salads either...
    As for peas, I remove the pods and then remove the papery skin from each pea. These can be cooked with other vegetables, fish or even chicken. Have you tried potato leaves? Tender leaves are widely consumed in our region. They are usually eaten fried, like regular greens.

    1. I've not tried potato leaves, because we usually leave them on the plant until they wither and die down, to maximise energy-collection for the tubers.

  4. Cauliflowers were always sold with their outer leaves with the idea that you used them as a vegetable nowadays they seem to be only sold with all the green leaves chopped off.

  5. What a lot of wonderful ideas you presented in this post, many of which I had not thought of. We have always eaten the peeled broccoli stalks, but had not thought to use cauliflower or cabbage cores.

    I know that you don't eat cilantro, but many people discard cilantro stems in the same way as parsley, but they are in fact very tender - I chop them up finely together with the leaves and use the whole lot when a recipe calls for chopped cilantro. And I always save lemon peel in the freezer to not only use in flavouring dishes, but also as a natural air freshener (one or two peelings left to simmer with a few spices such as cloves and cinnamon) - much better than those chemical infused air fresheners!

  6. What a useful post Mark! I do some of these things with the peels/innards/leaves of produce, but I learned a few useful tips as well. Thank you!

  7. Candied citrus peels, although not a vegetable.

  8. Nice post Mark. I used a cauliflower stalk just the other day. Leek greens are definitely on my regular to-use list, they just need chopping smaller than the main parts. I usually leave the skins on my potatoes, we had yummy potato wedges last night, mmm.
    Does anyone have any tips for de-husking pumpkin seeds? I find the husk is often a bit thick so not that tasty or too much hassle if I roast the seeds?

    1. Many people simply eat them but I feel the same as you - I find the skins very unpleasant. Don't have any tips on de-husking, but there are some pumpkin varieties that produce huskless seeds - once I do decide to grow pumpkins, that's probably one of the first varieties I'll try.


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