A couple of days ago, I was listening to one of Mark Hyman’s podcasts, and in this particular podcast he talked about food waste, and one of the things he said was “40% of our food is wasted.” I was shocked when I heard this, but at the same time it inspired me to go out and look for ways in which we as a collective could change this.
How to Reduce Our Food Waste
So, to start off our journey to reduce food waste, I thought we’d begin by looking at parts of food we’d normally throw away which are actually edible and highly nutritious.
Edible Food Parts No One Knew You Could Eat
1. Kiwi Skins.
Now for me, I’ve always loved eating the skin on kiwi fruits (some of you may be thinking, “Ew, girl. That’s gross”). It adds a delicious sour taste to the sweetness of the fruit which I love. But for some of you growing up, you would have enjoyed cutting the fruit in half and scooping out the green, juicy, fleshy part with a spoon. The skin was always trashed or thrown in the compost.
Here’s a little kiwifruit nutrition for you all. Kiwifruit is actually a natural prebiotic (not to be confused with probiotic), which means it serves as a food source for the natural bacteria and microflora found in your gut. It also helps improve sleep quality.
But what about the skin? Well, these fuzzy, furry skins contain triple the amount of fibre compared to the fruit, and by not peeling the skin, you also receive more vitamin C. Make sure you always wash the skin before eating it and choose organic whenever you can.
2. Broccoli Leaves.
Broccoli leaves are loaded with antioxidants, which help fight off free radicals in the body. These harmful free radicals are linked to cancer, they speed up the aging process, and cause numerous other health problems in the body.
Boiling the leaves for a few minutes and then using them as a wrap alternative is a great option, or you can chop and sauté them.
3. Pumpkin (a.k.a Squash) Scraps.
Pumpkin skins. The skins on pumpkins are packed full of powerful antioxidants. Studies have shown oven-dried samples to contain higher levels of phenolics and antioxidant activity, perhaps due to increased bioactivity after roasting it in the oven. So, unless your pumpkin skin has wax on it, you can leave it on. Organic pumpkin is recommended to avoid pesticide residues.
Pumpkin (Squash) blossoms. Scientists have found that a compound in pumpkin blossoms known as spinasterol contained possible anticarcinogenic properties. You can eat these blossoms raw in salads, but they’re even better fried. For a healthy version, coat them in egg whites (or if you’re vegan, use 1 tablespoon of seeds with 3 tablespoons of water for every egg used in your recipe), almond flour and lightly fry in coconut oil.
4. Lemon Peels.
Scientists have found that lemon rinds may have anticancer effects. As always, choose organic citrus whenever you can to avoid toxic pesticides. Use the zest in muffins, on salad dressing, vinaigrettes, or even as seasoning.
5. The Whole Dandelion.
Dandelions are great for making detox teas, but you can also use the flowers and leaves in salads and smoothies. The dried, ground dandelion root can even be used as a coffee substitute.
Dandelion greens are rich in the carotenoid, lutein. It helps protect the eyes from oxidative stress.
Dandelions have been used in herbal medicine to treat infections, bile and liver problems. It’s also a natural diuretic.
6. Corn Husks (Sort Of).
They aren’t really edible, but don’t throw away organic corn husks. Try soaking dried husks in hot water and then use them as a wrap to encase food to be baked or steamed. The husk gives a mild corn flavour to the food. Remove the husk after cooking and compost it, don’t eat it.
7. Cauliflower Leaves.
As the stem and leaves can cause digestive upset for some people and tend to be tougher in texture, many people will just stick to cooking the white part of the cauliflower and throw away the leaves. But if you are able to tolerate them, toss the leaves in olive oil, dill and garlic powder, then roast them in the oven on a baking sheet at 200°C (or 400°F) until the leaves are crispy.
8. Onion Skins.
Onion skins are a great add in for flavour and extra nutrients in homemade bone broth or vegetable broth recipes. I throw whole onions (with skins) into a pot with my other vegetables and let it simmer to create the base for soups and healthy tonics.
Studies suggest that onion skins potentially help:
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower inflammation
- Thin the blood, reducing the risk of clots
- Improve insulin resistance
8. Corn Silk.
Have you ever had the experience where you’ve been chewing on your corn on the cob and then all of a sudden, as you were chewing along, you got some of the silk stuck between your teeth? Well, it turns out that this silk has some health benefits, and can even be eaten.
Corn silk contains proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, potassium, calcium, magnesium, alkaloids, saponins, tannins and flavonoids. Research has also discovered over time that corn silk may contain anti-fungal properties as well.
You can chew on the corn silk strands or use it to make tea.
Now, while corn silk is relatively safe for many, there’s something you should keep in mind: It’s important to always look for organic corn products when looking to consume edible food parts. Non-organic versions are likely to be genetically modified, containing residues of glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. Glyphosate is a toxic substance and disrupts endocrine function in human cell lines. One more caution, if you’re allergic to corn, it’s best to avoid this edible food scrap, too.
9. Wilting Lettuce.
For lettuce that’s past its prime and has begun bolting (which is where the plant cycle of the lettuce is coming to an end, and it starts going into blossoming mode, sending up a thick seed stalk), cut off the lighter green leaves before they turn bitter.
For Cracoviensis lettuce, chop up the thick stalk and add it to soups and stir-fries.
10. Specific Flowers.
Edible flowers contain healthy levels of vitamins A and C, riboflavins, niacin and minerals like calcium, phosphorous and iron. Try sprinkling edible flowers like pansies, nasturtium, squash blossoms or okra leaves on salads.
11. Strawberry Stems.
Strawberry leaves are full of anti-inflammatory, disease-fighting flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol. Simply toss these leaves into your blender for smoothies or sprinkle them on top of salads.
12. Watermelon Rinds.
Watermelon rind has been found to contain citrulline, a precursor for the amino acid arginine which has been shown to help improve circulation.
A great way to utilise this edible food part is pickle or candy the rinds, or use them in chutneys, Indian curry, or to replace the cucumber used in gazpacho.
Another way we can reduce our food wastage, and resulting impact it has on the planet, is to compost!
One of the reasons food waste impacts the environment is if the food is thrown into the garbage and taken to landfill, it can’t decompose properly. In the landfill, buried under layers of waste, and without access to light or oxygen, food cannot decompose as it should because it is surrounded by inorganic material. It is estimated that around 40% of landfill material is organics.
Why We Should Compost
Composting involves organic material (such as food and plant waste) breaking down to become organic, nutrient-rich fertiliser that can be used to grow plants. By composting food that goes uneaten, vitamins and minerals left behind in the food can be recycled back into the soil and absorbed by plants as they grow.
It’s an easy choice to make but a lot of us don’t have any idea on where to start. Here are some easy steps to help you on creating your own composting system!
1. Decide on Your Process.
As the environmental, economical and physical benefits of composting are becoming more well-known, many households and communities around the world are separating their organic waste from other types of rubbish.
Some cities collect organic waste from homes, schools, businesses, and restaurants. They then process it and return the finished product back to local farmers and gardeners to use for their plants. It’s pretty amazing. To find out if this service is available to you, call your waste collector or enter your postal code at findacomposter.com.
If you don’t have a curbside collection, don’t worry, you get the pleasure of creating your own compost which can be used as fertiliser for your garden. Here’s what you need to know to do it yourself.
Choose An Outdoor Bin
Select a bin that works best for the area where you’ll be composting. I personally like tumbler bins as they’re much easier to manoeuvre. However, if you’re looking for a cheaper option, you can create your own compost bin using wood pallets.
Don’t Have Any Space
If you don’t have a backyard, that’s all good. You can use a worm bin as an alternative method for recycling food waste when you have limited space. Here’s a great guide for making your very own worm bin.
Follow a Composting System
- 1 part green material (which I’ll talk about below)
- 4 parts brown material (I’ll explain in more detail what that is below)
- A dash of water.
Pour these materials into your compost bin, and stir occasionally. Now, when I say “stir” it’s more like turn. You’ll need a shovel or pitchfork to bring the bottom layer to the top. If you’re using a tumbler bin, spin the bin 2 or 3 times.
Your compost make take anywhere from 1-6 months until it’s ready. It will depend on the proportions of your ingredients and how often you stir it (once a week is enough).
2. Learn What to Compost
Not all waste is able to be composted. Learning what you can and can’t compost is a great place to start.
Regardless of the method you use, the following materials are usually* safe to compost.
Green Material Items
- Fruit and vegetable scraps, tea leaves/bags, or coffee grounds.
Brown Material Items
- Paper towels and napkins, soiled cardboard or newspaper, dead/wilted plants, stale bread and crackers, or junk mail.
*If you receive curbside collection, double-check with your service provider to see what materials are acceptable.
Green Material Items
- Weeds (avoid weeds with seeds), and freshly cut grass.
Brown Material Items
- Straw sawdust, and dry leaves.
3. Establish a Process
Composting is something you’ll do every day, so becoming organised with this new habit will help to solidify it.
From the Kitchen to the Compost Bin
Determine how you’re going to get your scraps from your kitchen to the compost outside. Some people will take their food out to the compost after every meal. Others will collect it in a container on their countertop and empty it when it gets full.
I personally collect my food scraps in a bin on our countertop and empty it at the end of each day. I then clean it out to prevent odour and fruit flies from popping up.
An alternative to both these options is to store food scraps in the freezer until you run out of room.
Collecting Yard Waste
If you receive a curbside collection service, you can just throw your yard waste into the bin on your curb after collecting it all up. Super easy!
If you choose to make your own compost, find a good place in your backyard to store yard waste that’s near your compost but protected from the natural elements. A trash bag or heavy-duty container are good options for keeping the brown material dry. Too much (or even too little) moisture can disrupt the composting process. Add your brown material as needed to maintain the composting system mentioned above.
Now, it’s time to get started! Remember to add the finished compost to your garden full of homegrown plants to help them prosper.
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How have you reduced food wastage in your household? Have you composted before?
Zerbe, Leah, MS, NASM-CPT, NASM-CES. (December 12, 2017). Edible Food Parts You Never Knew You Could Eat. Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/edible-food-parts/
Why should I compost? Won’t my food scrap biodegrade in the landfill anyways?. RCBC. Retrieved from https://www.rcbc.ca/resources/faqs/composting5
Hess, Kristen. (June 28, 2018). 3 Simple Steps to Start Composting. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/12376/start-composting/