Root to stem cooking
19 August, 2020
Using more of your plant foods to reduce food waste
In recent years, there’s been a big push in food circles for nose to tail and fin to gill cooking with animal-based foods. Getting creative with offal and using more of the animals we eat is one way to reduce food waste and be more environmentally conscious in the kitchen. But what about the plants we eat? Yes, you can put peel, leaves and cores in the compost, which can help. Even better though is making better use of those bits of the plant.
That’s where the philosophy of root to stem eating comes in. You might also see it called root to shoot or root to fruit. But whatever term you use, it’s all about rethinking the parts of the plant we traditionally think of as ‘waste.’ And then coming up with creative, nutritious and delicious ways to cook and eat them. Sounds good, right? Let’s dive in and see what neglected parts of your fruits and veggies you can start eating.
Don’t toss those leaves!
A great place to start is with the leaves of some of your favourite vegetables. By now, most people hopefully know that beetroot tops are delicious in their own right and shouldn’t be thrown away. (And if you have been, please stop! Chop them into pieces a few centimetres long and saute with some chopped garlic, lemon juice and olive oil for a fantastic side dish.)
But there’s heaps of other leaves you’ve been discarding that have heaps of potential. For example:
- Carrot tops are perfect for making a pesto or salsa verde
- Brassica leaves, like from broccoli and cauliflower can be baked to make chips (like kale chips), or add to a soup
- Radish tops can be combined with other greens to go in a spanakopita-style pie
Peels and rinds
There’s also a huge range of possibilities in the peels and rinds of fruits and veggies. Things like:
- Make pickled watermelon rind
- Use pineapple skins to make tepache
- Dry citrus rinds to add to soups and stews
- Fry or bake potato skins
- Use banana peel to make vegan bacon or make banana bread, just with the peels
Get to the root of the issue
There’s loads of roots where that’s the main focus of the plant. But there’s plenty of neglected roots that you can try. For example:
- Celery root makes a great puree
- Parsley root can substitute for or be used in combination with carrots, parsnips and turnips
Stalks and stems
Other parts of the plant that are often neglected include the stalks and stems. But if you’ve ever taken the effort to peel the tough exterior off a broccoli stem, then you know what a waste this is. You can save your stalks and stems to add extra flavour to soups and stocks, pickle them or shred finely to add to stir fries, salads and so much more.
What new favourite discovery will you make?
We hope this article inspires you to try new ideas with less conventional parts of fruits and vegetables. With so much edible food thrown out by most households, a bit of effort to use up more of what we buy can have a big environmental impact. So if you’re wondering “Hey, can I eat that?” why not see what recipes you can find and give it a go. You might just find your new favourite recipe!