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Homelifestylefood-and-drinkWhen imperfect produce is good...

When imperfect produce is good…

Most of us tend toselect perfect-looking fruits and vegetables but, in fact, bruises, discolouration, odd shapes and sizes do not impact nutritionalvalue. It is purely for aesthetic reasons, which should not be afactor since the produce is going to be cut up and eaten anywayand will not be put on display like a work of art! In looking for the perfect tomato, apple, plum or carrot, we forget that theones left behind most likely end up in the trash and translateinto financial loss for the farmer and/or the seller. Also, beingperfectly edible, it is produce that could have gone to someone who really needed it. Rejected produce contributes to around30 per cent of waste at the farm level and, as food goes down thesupply chain, so much more is lost due to improper handlingand storage.

Once we have the produce, how can we make the most ofit? When we hear the term ‘food waste’, our mind goes straightto leftover food from the previous meal. But wastage beginsat the preparation stage itself, in the form of parts we end up discarding because we do not think they are edible or we donot know what to do with them. In my research, I found thatalmost 33 percent of food waste at home comprises peelsand trimmings. Therefore, use everything, even peels and cores.You will be surprised to know that many of thediscarded parts have more nutrients than the actual fruitor vegetable itself or, in some cases, are just better in tasteand texture.

If something cannot actually be eaten, it oftenhas great flavours and health benefits that can be extractedbefore it is discarded.

Potato peelsare not used most of the time, even though they are so easy tocook; orange and lemon rind requiresa bit of processing before being used in a recipe to improvethe texture and get rid of the bitterness.

Seeds and stems ofmany fruits and vegetables can be used in various dishes, andpeels of some fruits such as pineapple and pomegranate canbe used to make beverages even though they cannot be eaten.

Not just that, this way you also getyour money’s worth. Imagine buying a kilo of oranges for juicewhen just the peels account for about 600g or a kilo ofcauliflower where you lose around 120–200g when youthrow the stems and leaves away. It is an exercise worth doing in your kitchen to see how much food is trashed before it evenreaches your plates.

Generations before us did not have the luxury of accessto food the way we do today, not only in terms of quantity butalso variety. We have access to ingredients from around theworld and find seasonal ingredients throughout the year. They made the most of what they had; nothing went to waste.

Turn scraps into plants

Growing foodmeans way more than just soil, sunlight and water for plantsbought from a nursery!Plants need proper care, attention and additional nutrients. The best part is that a lot of the required nutrients are alreadyavailable in our home in the form of kitchen waste andcompost. In fact, you do not always need to buy seeds togrow your own edible plants. You can use so many kitchenscraps to regrow them into ingredients you can harvest,sometimes in a matter of weeks!

Garlic: Peel a few cloves and place them in a shallow dishfilled with water. In 7–10 days, you will see small rootsand shoots sprouting. They can then be planted in soil,making sure to keep a gap of 1–2 inches between eachclove. You can harvest the green shoots to use as garnishor add to pesto and chutney. The garlic bulbs take abouteight months to form, and some of them can be sprouted and replanted.

Spring onion and leek: Keep the whites measuring 2–3inches and place a few in a glass filled halfway with water.In a week or so, you will have greens to use and you canharvest them quite a few times. You can also move themto soil once the roots are 2–2.5 inches long.

Sweet potato: The greens or leaves of sweet potato arehighly nutritious and can be used in a lot of differentrecipes. Cut a sweet potato in half and, with the help of toothpicks, suspend it over a wide enough glass or jar filled with water. The sweet potato should not besubmerged in water. Soon, you will see roots forming and shoots sprouting. You can then move it to soil in a pot orin the ground. The greens grow like creepers, so keeping them near a trellis would be ideal.

Celery: Save the base of the celery bunch with the rootsection intact — around 3 inches should be enough. Placeit in a shallow plate or bowl filled with water and watch itsprout. You can keep harvesting and using the sticks andleaves, or even shift them to soil for the whole bunch togrow again over time.

Carrot, beetroot, turnip: Save about an inch-long pieceof the top of the vegetable, where its leaves would havebeen. Place it in a shallow dish with water, and you will have greens ready to harvest in a couple of weeks.

Basil, rosemary and mint: Find a few stems measuring around 4 inches; remove the leaves at the bottom andplace the stems in a glass of water, making sure the leaves are away from the water. Once you have roots thatare 2 inches long, they can be moved to soil.

Bok choy and lettuce: Save the base of the bok choyor lettuce with the root or core intact, and place it ina shallow dish with water. You can harvest new leaves in a few weeks and get a steady supply. These can alsoeventually be moved to soil once they are big enough.

Lemongrass: It grows like any grass. Simply place theroot section in a glass of water. You will see new growthin a week and it will be ready to be moved to soil.

Tomato: Organic tomatoes can be grown from seeds.The seeds can be stored until the next season. Cut a fullyripe tomato horizontally, scoop out the seeds and put them in a jar. Fill the jar with water until it is a couple ofinches above the seeds. Cover the jar with a thin cloth orhandkerchief and secure it with a string or rubber band.You should see a thin white layer form on the surfaceof the water in a couple of days. Pour the water and anyfloating seeds out carefully while keeping the rest of theseeds in the jar. Rinse the saved seeds out a few timesuntil they are clean. Arrange the seeds on a plate and letthem air dry in a well-ventilated, warm area. Store themin a jar in a cool place until ready to sow.

(Excerpted with permission from The No-Waste Kitchen Cookbook by Arina Suchde, published by HarperCollins.)

(Published 01 December 2023, 21:44 IST)

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