Each year, Americans toss roughly one-fifth of the groceries they buy into the trash. Some of the waste is food that's been left to spoil, but a lot of it consists of ingredients that could be turned into wholesome meals with a little creativity. Next time you have fruit and vegetable scraps on your cutting board, set them aside. You'll need them to make these recipes.
1. STRAWBERRY TOP-INFUSED WATER
If you want to squeeze every last drop of flavor out of your strawberries, save the leafy tops. You may not be able to eat them whole, but you can use them to brew a refreshingly sweet beverage. Just drop a handful or two of tops into a jar, fill it with water, and let it sit for about an hour. That’s enough time for the strawberry flavor to infuse into water, making it taste subtly sweet without a bunch of added sugar.
2. PICKLED WATERMELON RINDS
A little time and attention can turn a tough, inedible watermelon rind into a delectable salad or side. After eating or saving the flesh of a watermelon, Alton Brown says to peel the dark-green skin off the rind and slice it into 1-inch cubes. Bring a syrup of water, vinegar, sugar, and spices to a boil and pour the liquid over the rind pieces. After the mixture has had a chance to cool, add it to a jar and give it time to cool further at room temperature. The pickles will keep in your refrigerator long after watermelon season has ended.
3. BROCCOLI STALK FRIES
Most broccoli recipes focus on the pretty, dark-green florets on top of the plant, but the stalks can be just as tasty if you treat them right. Once you peel the tough outer layer off the stems you can use them in almost any recipe that calls for broccoli. The food blog What’s Cooking Good Looking recommends cutting them into spears to make broccoli stalk fries. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal, salt, and seasonings to give them a crunchy coating. Bake your fries in a 400°F oven for 30 minutes, or until golden-brown, and serve them with the dipping sauce of your choice.
4. CRISPY ROASTED POTATO PEELS
As is often the case with fruit and vegetable skins, the peel of a potato is packed with nutrients. It also lends itself well to crisping, making it the perfect snack food to prepare at home. After making a big batch of mashed potatoes, take your saved potato skins, toss them with oil and seasonings, and roast them in a 400°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes. The result tastes like French fries, but only the dark and crispy bits (a.k.a. the best parts).
5. VEGETABLE STOCK
Bone broth is all the rage, but you don’t need animal products to create a rich and flavorful stock. Save all the vegetable scraps you can’t repurpose into other dishes and simmer them in a pot of water for about an hour or so to make a stock you can use in all your vegan recipes. There are no rules here: Corn cobs, onion tops, asparagus ends, carrot peels, garlic skins, and parsley stems are all fair game.
6. CANDIED CITRUS PEELS
If you have a sweet tooth, save up your lemon, orange, and grapefruit peels. According to this recipe from Martha Stewart, some sugar is all you need to make these colorful scraps into fruit candy. After slicing the peels into strips, boil them for about 10 minutes. Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and allow them to dry on a wire rack. Create your syrup by boiling one cup of water with one cup of sugar and add in your peels, letting them stew for eight to 10 minutes. Remove the strips from the liquid and let them dry fully before tossing them in granulated sugar. The chewy, citrusy morsels taste great dipped in dark chocolate, baked into cookies, or eaten as they are.
7. CARROT TOP PESTO
You really can make pesto out of any leafy green—even carrot tops. If you know how to make traditional pesto, just swap out the basil for carrot scraps and proceed as usual. In a food processor, pulse together the tops, garlic, a nut like cashews, and an herb like parsley for brightness. Once all the ingredients have been incorporated, slowly drizzle olive oil into your processor while continuing to blend. Finish by mixing in parmesan and salt. You can slather your sauce onto sandwiches, stir it into pasta, or use it as a dip for the carrots the tops came from.
8. PUMPKIN SEED GRANOLA
Every Halloween season, countless families cut open pumpkins and hollow them out only to toss their guts in the garbage. Next time you carve a jack-o’-lantern, don’t forget about the seeds: They’re edible and can be used to add crunch to both sweet and savory dishes. For an especially pumpkin seed-forward recipe, try making this granola from the blog Little Vienna. Start by combining the seeds with chopped almonds, sunflower seeds, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk together honey and oil and toss this with the seed and nut mixture, and bake in a sheet pan at 350°F for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the granola halfway through. Sprinkle on dried cranberries once it's out of the oven.