Use It Up: Fight Food Waste!

The first time I ever cooked with kohlrabi was when I received it in my weekly farm share. The vibrant purple vegetables had the hearty green tops attached, and I remember being stumped by what to do with it all. Do I boil it? Do I fry it? Can I eat the leaves?

Rather than letting it languish in the back of my fridge, I did a quick search online. I found a few recipes that recommended peeling, chopping and roasting the kohlrabi root alongside other vegetables like beets and carrots. And the leaves could indeed be eaten; since I was already using the oven, turning them into chips seemed the simplest and most straightforward. (And kohlrabi chips are delicious, by the way.)

It takes a while to build a use-it-up mindset and find ways to use parts of food that are usually discarded, but food is too precious to let go to waste. The Natural Resources Defense Council recently released a comprehensive report about America’s wasted food. According to the report, 40% of food in the U.S. never gets eaten. This wasted food also wastes the resources that went into making it: 19% of all U.S. cropland, 21% of U.S. agricultural water usage, and 2.6% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (about 37 million passenger cars’ worth) all go into growing perfectly good food that goes to waste.

Though most of this waste happens before the food ever gets to our fridge—on the farm, at the grocery store, or at a restaurant—wasted food is still an issue we can all pitch in to help reduce. In the U.S., the greatest portion of wasted food happens at the consumer level. According to an estimate by the organization ReFED, households account for 43% of food waste generated. On average, individuals and families end up tossing 20% of the food they buy, leading to a loss of $1500 per year for a family of four. For a two-person household like mine, that’s $750 spent every year on food that doesn’t get eaten.

I am still learning how to use up my food, and I always end up doing a quick search on sites like Save The FoodThe Kitchn, and Serious Eats for inspiration to use food I’ve never cooked with before. Based on my experience, there are some trends I've noticed on how to use up everything:

  • Leafy green tops can often be used the same way one would use kale, spinach, and other hearty greens. Turning them into chips is one way, but they can also be used in stir-fry, chopped up and eaten raw in salads, or be used to create slaws and pesto.

  • Many organic root vegetables can be cooked and eaten without peeling. Carrots are a prime example of this; just make sure to wash and scrub the outside to get rid of dirt, and voila! It's ready to eat.

  • If you do peel your food, you can save the peels to make chips. Apple peels can be used to make a quick, sweet treat, for example, and potato peels make great potato chips.

  • If you don’t feel like making chips with your leftover peels, store them in the freezer until you have enough to make a good, homemade vegetable stock.

  • It’s great to have a few recipes on hand to whip up whenever you have food that needs to be used quickly. I personally love to make frittatas with the last of the fresh vegetables from my share, but you can also make a loaded pizza, use vegetables in savory scones, or add the vegetables with some beans, broth, and spices to make soup.

  • When all else fails, share what you have with neighbors, friends and family. Invite people over for dinner or bake some treats for your co-workers. The only thing better than eating food is sharing it with others.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible at home. By planning in advance, using what we buy, and sharing what we make, every one of us can help fight food waste.

This article was written by Caroliena Cabada. Caroliena is a Corbin Hill Farm Shareholder and  Social Media Associate at the Natural Resources Defense Council. She manages the social media accounts for NRDC’s Food Program and Save The Food, a national public service campaign created by the Ad Council and NRDC. 

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The city doesn’t feel like fall yet, but cooler weather is headed our way this weekend. Get cozy with the following creamy broccoli cheese soup.  The terrific part about broccoli is that the whole plant is edible. Experiment with Caroliena’s tips on food waste by using every last bit of your broccoli.

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Ingredients 
3 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 medium yellow onion diced
3 carrots diced
2 stalks celery diced
2 cloves garlic finely minced
3 tbsp flour
2.5 cups chicken stock
2 cups 2% milk
1 bay leaf
4 cups broccoli, chopped into bite-sized florets
salt and pepper to taste
pinch nutmeg (optional)
8 ounce block of cheese, shredded by hand*** (I used Colby jack, but you could also use cheddar)
Optional: bacon bits and more shredded cheese

Recipe adapted from A Pinch of Healthy
Cook time: 30mins. 

Directions

1. Preheat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat.
2. Add 2 Tablespoons of butter to the pot to melt.
3. Add onions, celery and carrots, and cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Add garlic, and cook 1 minute more.
5. Add the other 1 tablespoon of butter, and give it a few seconds until it melts. 
6. Then add flour, stir to coat, and cook for another minute.
7. Whisk in the stock and milk to incorporate the flour and break up any lumps.
8. Add in the bay leaf and broccoli florets.
9. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer on low until the soup thickens and the broccoli is tender (about 7 minutes).
10. Remove the bay leaf, and turn off the heat.
11. Add the cheese and a pinch of nutmeg (optional), and stir until it is well-incorporated.
12. Garnish with more shredded cheese and bacon bits if desired and serve immediately.

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