One day, I was watching a chef preparing a recipe on TV. The guy took a broccoli, removed the florets and to my surprise, he grabbed the stalk, with a knife carefully removed a bit of the outer skin, cut it in cubes and used it in the recipe.
I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that for my entire life, I had never used the stalk because that’s what my mum used to do (and she probably learned that from my grandmother) and I never questioned it.
I know for some of you this may sound silly, but there are so many habits we follow just because we learned them when we were young and we thought that was “the right way”. Some of these habits are wasteful, specially when it comes to food that is a massive issue for the environment. My post today is around habits and beliefs I’ve changed to get the most out of my veggies and waste less.
Several years ago, I used to cook mainly with the white part and left the green part in the fridge. Again, when I was young I had learned that the green part was too tough and fibrous and you don’t eat it.
One day I was watching Jamie Oliver (yes, you got me, from time to time I watch cooking shows) and he grabbed the whole leek and with his knife cut it from the white part all the way to the green part and then again, on the other side like making a cross. The end result were some long strips of leek attached to the white base.
Leeks usually have soil and dirt on the inside, using this method you can easily wash the whole thing.
Of course after Jamie washed the open leek, he cut it and used it all, green part included (*angels choirs singing moment here*). Another life-time habit smashed in 2 minutes. Thanks Jamie!
Check the portion of the video below for a reference, it is almost the same as I do it, but they only make one cut instead of a cross.
I don’t know you, but years ago I always removed the seeds and the skin of my pumpkin out of habit.
These days, when I use the pumpkin for soups I wash the pumpkin skin with a brush and cook the whole thing, seeds included. As I always blend it, everything goes into the soup.
When I only need the flesh, I take the seeds out and baked them or cook them in a pan without any oil. We eat them as snacks with salt or add them to salads.
Related to the previous point, I used to remove the skins from carrots, potatoes, beetroots… again for no particular reason.
Years ago, reading an article I learned that the peels are packed with nutrients and fibre that I was throwing away.
Look at these numbers taken from this article on HealthLine.com:
“a raw apple with skin contains up to 332% more vitamin K, 142% more vitamin A, 115% more vitamin C, 20% more calcium and up to 19% more potassium than a peeled apple… a boiled potato with skin can contain up to 175% more vitamin C, 115% more potassium, 111% more folate and 110% more magnesium and phosphorus than a peeled on”
The only thing to consider when eating the skin is pesticides residues. If you (like me) are concerned about synthetic pesticides, then buying organic is probably the best option.
If you eat only conventional produce, then pay special attention to the washing. I wash my veggies really well (a brush is really good so scrub root vegetables) and I soak the veggies in bicarb-soda/vinegar.
I recommend this article: “How to wash vegetables and fruits to remove pesticides” from The Food Revolution Network, it goes into the details and the studies to support the recommendations.
The other thing to consider is eating the tops. Sometimes, I buy carrots, beets, radishes with their greens (and from time to time we get these from our garden). I have use them in salads, soups and even pesto sauces. In my experience, the best thing is to do is to mix them with other veggies. For instance, radishes leaves cut and mixed with other lettuces and greens, add an interesting flavour that’s not too overpowering. It is about experiment a bit with them and give them a chance, they are nice and edible.
Silver beet (or chards)
Yes, you guessed it. Guilty again! I used to eat only the green part of the silver beets. This one was mainly because I am not big fan of the silver beet stalk flavour. However, over time in my efforts to reduce waste I have found ways to eat them.
If I only need the green part for a recipe, I just wash and freeze the stalks, if I am in a hurry I freeze the whole thing and I use them for soups. If not, I cut them in small pieces and later add them to any stir fry, curry or rice.
Just to add a bit more of details to the story I wrote in the introduction, the chef removed a bit of the outer skin of the stalk because some parts are quiet tough, while the core of the stalk is softer. Removing these parts (see photo below, the small pieces on the right-hand side of the broccoli), makes the cooking time the same for the rest of the stalk.
Usually when cooking, I add the stalk first and later the florets as they cook faster. If I am steaming them, then I cook them together.
“Everything you buy comes with its own set of responsibility – and food is not exception” – Rhonda Hazel
That’s it for today. Tell me in the comments: Was it only me? Do you also have/had some of these habits? What other habit have you changed over the years to use your veggies? What did you learn from this info that you can change today?
Thanks for reading,