Vegetable Parts You Should Stop Throwing Away
Doctors are often telling their patients the benefits of integrating vegetables into their diet. Many people successfully add a host of new foods to their routine, but are they throwing away product? When was the last time you bought produce and used every piece of it?
You may not be aware, but there’s a good chance that when you’re disposing of ‘veggie scraps,’ you are throwing away perfectly edible food. Here’s a list of vegetable parts you should start saving:
1. Mushroom Stems
Shitakes and porcinis are the most commonly eaten type, often used in main dishes because of how easy they are to grow. No one ever keeps the stems, though, not even when making Mushroom Pappardelle with Mascarpone or Mushroom Miso Pot Pie.
After you’ve set the stems aside, add finely chopped pieces of them for duxelles – a preparation of mushrooms sautéed with onions, shallots, garlic, and parsley and used to make stuffing or sauce. Some recommend it as a topping for crostini, or as a pickled condiment for sandwiches.
You can also simmer a batch of duxelles as a great vegetable stock.
2. Onion, Leek, and Scallion Extras
There is more use to onion skins and the dark green parts of leeks and scallions than people know. The majority of us toss it away when cooking, but we’ve been throwing away the ingredients for a wonderful stock with a full-bodied flavor.
If you plan on using the skins, make sure there are no ‘iffy’ marks. Thanks to the sinewy texture of the tops of leeks, they are best used to lend their almost buttery flavor to your soup dish.
For scallions, it is the green that is most commonly eaten, though you might see some chefs using the small white parts.
All these extras can be placed together in a freezer bag and pulled out when a flavorful soup base in needed.
3. Celery Roots and Leaves
These are usually tossed out well before the products get anywhere near a customer. It turns out that celery stalks that still have their leaves are the best in the lot. Celery leaves can be used for garnish or as part of a salad.
The leaves can also be used as part of a stock or sautéed with other herbs in preparation for a French dish requiring celery.
The root can be julienned and with mayo, be turned into a simple slaw. Or you can cook and mash it, like a potato.
4. Radish, Turnip, and Beet Greens
The greens of each of these are just as important as the veggies themselves. Radish greens, surprisingly, have the same spiciness as the radish itself. Combined with the mild greens of beets and turnips, radish greens can be sautéed in olive oil and garlic.
5. Herb Stems
Having watched many cooking shows where contestants used herbs, I’ve observed so many of these simply tossed away into the trash. Although most herb stems are a little hard, the tender stems of cilantro, mint, and parsley can be minced for a recipe that calls for aromatics.
You can use them as part of a compound herb butter or salsa verde as well.
6. Corn Cobs
This is another much neglected ‘trimming’ that isn’t given very much love. When all your kernels are off, you can submerge them in water for a broth ideal as a corn chowder base.
When you are boiling the cobs, make sure to taste the broth to ensure it gets to the sweetness you are looking for.
7. Broccoli and Cauliflower Stems
The florets, or in layman’s terms, the ‘tree-looking parts,’ is what is most sought after. Some stir-fry dishes utilize the stems of both. Many eat stems boiled with garlic cloves as an alternative to mashed potatoes.
You can also blend your stems for broccoli to add body to a broccoli cheddar soup.
8. Potato Skins
One of my favorite dishes, potato skins are totally and completely edible if done right. You’ll first want to remove any dark spots or eyes with gentle scrubbing. After you fry them up in some olive oil, just season them with your choice of flavor and serve it as an alternative to hash browns or French fries.
9. Watermelon Rind
This is a dish touted as an American classic. Cut away the green and pink from the rind to prepare it. After dissolving salt and sugar into boiling water for a brine, completely submerge the watermelon rind, adding cloves and peppercorns for taste.
You can chill the rind in the fridge for a couple of hours and save it for the reunion coming up in a few weeks.