Sunday, April 4, 2010

0 Green Ideas For Reducing Kitchen Waste

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I was brought up not to waste food. Our mother always impressed upon us, that no matter how much or how little one has got, it's important to be thankful for it, and that includes food.

And in these frugal and environmentally-conscious times, the conservation and recycling of resources has become all the more important. It's not just about getting the maximum value for one's dollar; it's also about being smart about consumption -- buying only what you can use, making the most of what you have, and appreciating what you've got.

In the states and the rest of the developed world, we often take it for granted that food is available and abundant, and is so easily accessible at that. In much of the developing and underdeveloped world, food can literally save lives and can also instill hope where there seems to be none; and growing one's own crops and livestock can eliminate poverty, empower people, and change lives. Sometimes, it's easy to forget that forget that food has that kind of power.

Food has intrinsic value.  It gives us much more than basic nourishment. It has the ability to create joy and bring people together, in both literal and metaphoric ways.  We all need it to sustain us. It's a basic building block of life. It reminds us of our common humanity.

And that is why it's so important to make the best use of food.  And this is why, when I cook, I try to use as much of an ingredient as possible, and buy only as many fresh ingredients as I need for the day or the week.

One thing I tend to notice while watching cooking shows is how much unnecessary waste there is. TV chefs will often barely squeeze a lemon & then throw it out. Or they'll discard the green part of a scallion, broccoli and cauliflower stalks, or the stems of certain herbs that are completely edible like cilantro or parsley. This is something that really bugs me. It's quite unnecessary.

I don't understand why they can't make better use of these parts. Or, at least, if they aren't going to use them in a vegetable dish, a lot of times these parts can be used to make soup.  Many soups require puréeing in the final stages, and honestly, no one will even be able to detect the difference in taste or texture.

Also people don't need to peel the skin off vegetables and fruits; that's where a lot of the nutrients are. Many root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, baby carrots, etc., don't even need to be peeled; they can be scrubbed and cut up just as they are. Tomatoes don't really need to be peeled either, nor do zucchini. Additionally, the peels of oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes can be zested; even if you can't use the zest right away, it can be dried and preserved for future use. When I make eggplants, I either don't peel them at all or peel them in a striped pattern to create a more colorful and interesting presentation. Another trick I use on vegetables like cucumbers and zucchini is to take the tines of a fork and scrape them in a lengthwise fashion all around the vegetable(s), and then cut them into rounds. This creates a wonderful appearance and texture, and again is much healthier for you.
Or, if you can't use some types of scraps, create a compost pile in your backyard, and throw the scraps in there. Then, at least they'll have a useful purpose. It'll save money and energy, and extend the life of your kitchen garbage disposal. :) Even in the city, it's possible to compost; you can do what I do -- Buy a 32 gallon garbage can (I found one locally for only $14!), prepare it for composting, and store it out on your porch.  If you create the right compositing conditions -- proper aeration and moisture, and the right proportion of green to brown material (1 part green to 2 parts brown) --  you won't have to worry about any potential odor.

So the next time you cook, try some of the above suggestions. They are easy to do, and hardly cost a thing. By doing something as simple as making better use of food scraps, you can do your part to make the world a better and healthier place to live.

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