Let’s be honest – none of us is perfect. Including the vegetables we so carefully nurture in our gardens. But why shun the forked carrot, the split beet or the knobby tomato in favor of their more perfect counterparts? If a peach has a bruise, can’t we just cut it out and enjoy the rest of the peach?
Food waste is an international issue, and one of the best ways to help stop food waste is to shift our thinking to accepting imperfect vegetables and fruits in our own kitchens and at our tables.
I’ve recently become acquainted with a wonderful organization called Bounty and Soul (https://bountyandsoul.org/), whose mission is to get food and nutrition and wellness education into everyone’s hands and to build community while doing it. I get to help out with cooking demonstrations and food distribution at their markets.
Every week I see wonderful smiles as people from all types of life walk away with not only free food, but information on nutrition bringing the food to their tables. Much of the food is donated by local farmers, markets and groceries, and the truth is that it’s not the picture perfect produce you see in the grocery store. It is all perfectly serviceable and delicious, just not perfect in appearance.
The French started a national campaign several years ago called “The Inglourious Fruit.” It was a public relations campaign to get French citizens to slow food waste by purchasing and eating those fruits and vegetables that are not perfect. These were discounted in grocery stores and markets, and the campaign was a huge success.
There is a new website from which you can order imperfect vegetables and fruit and have it delivered right to your door. Check out https://www.imperfectfoods.com/ for great information on food waste, not to mention access to wonderful produce. Their slogan is “Eat Ugly With Us”.
For my own resolution to reducing food waste, I’ve started keeping all my vegetable trimmings and am using them to make a delicious broth for soups. As I trim vegetables for a meal, I make sure to wash the leftovers well (getting all the dirt out of the onion top), and then throw them in a bag in the freezer. Once I have a bag full of not-so pretty beet greens, carrot tops, leek greens, parsley, mushrooms stems and cilantro stems, I put them in a slow cooker along with the remains of tomatoes and a few garlic cloves. I cover with plenty of water and let simmer twelve hours or so.
Once it’s done, I either strain the broth, squeezing out all the liquid I can, or I puree it (depending on what vegetables I’ve used). With a seasoning adjustment, this becomes the base for a delicious, nutritious soup. You can use it right away or freeze it for later.
My other favorite way to save the uglies is to make a batch of “glut” where everything goes in to roast and then gets pureed for a pasta sauce or spaghetti sauce base. This is the perfect way to use all of those tomatoes toward the end of summer. You can add any other vegetables and herbs you have an abundance of. It will taste a little different each time, but that’s the fun! Because it is milled, you don’t have to core the tomatoes or peel anything. Simply make sure everything is washed well.
6 lbs. tomatoes, quartered (or for an eggplant-based sauce, substitute eggplants)
1 ½ c. coarsely chopped carrots, tops and all
1 ½ c. coarsely chopped celery
1 ½ c. coarsely chopped onion
9 gloves garlic, chopped
6 T balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 ½ T fresh thyme, oregano, basil, parsley
1 ½ t. salt
1 T. pepper
Roast 45 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Run through a food mill, bag and freeze. Makes 2 quarts. Use for pasta sauce, over fish or chicken, or use as a base for chili or minestrone.