Whether we are people who love to eat the skin on the potato or the type that insists that our cucumbers be peeled, we all have times when rinds, skins, seeds and so on are removed from what’s to be cooked and left in a heaping pile of compost. And, that’s not a bad thing. Building compost is one of many ways we can deal with our trash responsibly, and it also one of many natural alternatives to promoting soil fertility.
However, sometimes we need to fill our lives with a little more whimsy than rich, rotting mound of compost, and it’s in those moments, when the tea leaves tell of a different way, that we might use our fruit and vegetable peelings to create a whole new magic. A dash of sugar, blasts of hot air, and an empty spot in the garden patch — these are but a few of our options.
1. Make Hard Cider/Cider Vinegar
Most of us are largely in tune with the power and prowess of apple cider vinegar, but there are actually lots of fantastic (and healthy) vinegars we can make from organic fruit scraps. In addition to apples and pears, pineapples, plum, raspberry, and even tomato can be used to make homespun vinegars. All it takes is a bit of sugar, a pile of scraps, some water, and a heap of time. First, the concoction will ferment into some sort of booze (at about a week), after which that booze will slowly turn to a delicious version of vinegar. It’s great fun.
2. Grow New Plants
Vegetables and fruit scraps embody the perfect time to join the legions of green-thumbed activists out there growing their own food. Plus, it cost nothing to try. Many, many plants can be grown from the scraps we are tossing out, hopefully into compost bins. While compost is great, there is also the potential to grow our own pineapples, ginger, scallions, lettuce, celery, papayas, sweet potatoes, potatoes, garlic, and the list just keeps growing. Check out this article to learn how.
3. Create Specialty Seasonings/Teas
Fruits peelings and rinds are particularly good for making flavorful seasonings and loose-leaf teas. With the help of a food dehydrator (or an open oven on very low heat), apple cinnamon sugar spice could be sprinkled on tomorrow’s toast. Or, the morning beverage might be a soothing lemon-ginger tea. Lemon-pepper, orange-mint tea, grapefruit-cayenne salt, and many other interesting and tasty combinations can come mostly from scraps. And, don’t forget, dried onions, garlic, and other vegetables can be dried and powdered then used to make great seasoning mixes.
4. Infuse Liquids with Them
Infusion is an easy game to play, and it can be done with liquors, oils, vinegars, and plain old water. The flavor possibilities are enormous. Tops of jalapeños can be used to make delicious vodka for even better Bloody Marys. Strawberry tops and mint stems might make a refreshing summer beverage. Herb tips, stems, and tops can rest in bottles of oil or vinegar so that drizzling some atop salads or whatever becomes an even more tasty addition. Infusions are very addictive and require only putting the scraps into the liquid for a while.
5. Use Them as Air Freshener
Food dehydrators and slowly simmering pots can make the air in a room dazzle the nasal passages. We all know the the lure of pumpkin pie spice in the air or the gentle waft of wind over a basket of potpourri on the windowsill. Sweet smelling vegetable and fruit scraps, as well as herbs and spices, especially in combination with flowers from the garden, can be dried to create long-lasting potpourris. Or, sometimes boiling them on an afternoon can really provide an atmosphere. Click here for more ideas.
6. Cook Them Up
Any professional chef worth their salt knows how to make use of every part of the food they are working with, and part of the job is getting the most flavor for the buck. Potato, sweet potato, apple, pear, and all other sorts of skins become delicious crisps. Vegetables peelings and scrap ends become delicious stocks. Citrus peels become candy. Leafy tops of radishes, turnips, beets, celery and so on get tossed into recipes, as they, too, are delicious and most definitely filled with valuable nutrition. Instead of immediately tossing our scraps, why not consider how they might feature in the fare? Creative cooks can almost always find a way.
In the end, hopefully, all remnants will make it to the compost bin anyway. Boiled vegetables decompose, too. Fruits used to infuse will break down into rich soil, no problem. So, in the meantime, why not start making the most of what we’ve got?
Lead image source: VICUSCHKA/Shutterstock