Gotta Have it All: Eating Root to Stem

January 20, 2018

The slower-paced days of winter are the perfect time to consider challenging yourself with new ways to use produce. Why not try eating “root to stem”? Learning how to use and eat more of the food we buy in the store or grow in our garden can be a fun way to reduce our food waste and boost our nutrition. Did you know approximately 40% of our food is wasted? Fruits and vegetables have the highest rates of loss and almost half of our food waste occurs in our homes. So let’s get creative!

Getting Your Feet Wet

If you are just taking your first stab at this root to stem thing, start simple.

Collect your vegetable scraps (peels, carrot tops, greens, herb stems, etc.) in a tupperware stored in the freezer. Once you have a pound or two, make your own vegetable stock by throwing your scraps in a pot, filling with water, and simmering for an hour. Instant starter for your next chili, soup, or sauce.
Stems: Along with the florets and leaves, consider using the stem of vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or Swiss chard in your dish. Simply chop them into pieces.  It’s not a bad idea to peel off the thin rough outer layer of the broccoli stems.  Or “coin” them or slice them into sticks for easy dipping in hummus or dressing.  Make unforgettable brown butter, lime and pepita cauliflower steaks from dietitian Ashley. Blend cilantro stems into dressings and marinades to bump up the flavor.
Leafy Greens: Save those beet greens or carrot tops to put in your next morning smoothie.
Peels: Resist the urge (or recipe directions) to peel your potatoes and carrots. Instead give them a vigorous scrub and throw them all in. Not only are you reducing waste, you are boosting the nutrient content and earthy flavor of your dish.

Ready for More

Once you’re ready for a new challenge, try these.

Stems: Shave or julienne broccoli stems to make your own broccoli slaw. This works great in Chef Lesli’s Peanut Sesame Noodle Slaw.
Leafy Greens: Sauté greens from beets, cauliflower, broccoli, or turnips in olive oil, salt, and pepper for a quick side, addition to soup, or bonus layer in lasagna.
Delicate Leaves: Use fennel fronds or celery leaves as a tasty addition to a fresh salad like this Fennel & Sunchoke Salad.


If you’re a produce processing pro, why not take it a step further?

Pickling: Try a new pickler like watermelon rinds or Swiss chard stems.
Dehydrate: Do you blanch and peel tomatoes for sauce?  Save those skins and dry them.  They make a great umami addition to soups and chilis.
Leafy Greens: Expand your horizons with carrot top or radish green pesto.