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How to Reuse in the Kitchen: Veggies and Fruit

Here's a sobering food fact: about one-third of the food produced in the world each year is lost or wasted, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Some organizations that track food waste put that number even higher; the UK's Institute of Mechanical Engineers contends that as much as half of the food we grow and make gets sent to landfills. Even more troubling still: most of that food is still edible.

The good news is, this is a problem we can easily do something about. By cutting down on food waste in our own kitchens, we not only help reverse those alarming statistics; we also stretch our grocery shopping dollars and make the most of all of our ingredients, extending their shelf life and utility. Plus, it feels good to use what we normally throw away, not only because it means less waste, but because it becomes an exercise in creativity. When you peer into your refrigerator or look at what you would have thrown away in the past and ask, “What can I do with this besides send it to the landfill?”, all sorts of fun–and tasty–possibilities emerge. Read on to find out how to trim food waste and find creative uses for items you might be throwing away.

Broccoli and Cauliflower Stems

If you only like to eat the crown pieces of broccoli and cauliflower, you're likely producing lots of food waste when you buy these two vegetables. But in addition to using the stems for vegetable stock (more on that in a minute), you can trim and julienne them. If the stems seem particularly thick, blanch or steam them to soften before cutting them into matchsticks. You can do the same for asparagus stems. (Tip: Bigger is not better when it comes to asparagus. Always buy asparagus the thickness of a pencil to ensure that the stems aren't woody).

Uses: Sauteed vegetables and stir-fries. Raw or flash cooked garnishes for spring soups. Thicker, longer matchstick-sized stems also make great after-school or travel snacks for kids, especially when paired with one of our favorite dips.

Watermelon Rind

Watermelon rind is another summer scrap that seems almost inevitable but when used properly can avoid a huge amount of kitchen waste. One of the effective ways to reuse lots of watermelon rind is to turn it into pickles. For some home cooks, the idea of brining anything may seem a little daunting, but there are plenty of quick pickling recipes to make the task easier. Once you've found a recipe you like, you probably won't throw out the rinds anymore.

Next, what to do with fruits...

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