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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Getting the Most Out of Your Vegetables: Using Stems, Stalks, Leaves, Flowers, and Seeds

I recently came across an article from The New York Times titled, "That's Not Trash, That's Dinner," and decided that its topic would be the perfect follow-up to my DIY post. The article discusses how you can stretch your dollar (and your CSA box or garden) by using all parts of a vegetable or plant. The article points out that we have become so familiar with the packaging and form of fruits and vegetables sold in the grocery store and served in restaurants, that we don't realize that the "scraps" are functional or edible. I began to realize this last summer when I interned at Sophia Garden, an organic CSA farm. I would bring home vines of leaves from our sweet potato crop, and saute them just like spinach with garlic and oil. Farmer Steve taught me that purslane, a common garden weed, is edible and highly nutritious (did you know that purslane was a favorite food of both Ghandi and Hippocrates?) The tiny white flowers that bloom on arugula is spicy-sweet and can be tossed into salads.

This summer has been my first attempt at an organic garden and my first time as a CSA member, so I have been getting the most out of my vegetables and plants by trying the following:

  • Using other greens, such as arugula and swiss chard, to make pesto
  • Trimming the curly garlic scapes that shoot from my garlic plants to make pesto
  • Battering and frying yellow squash blossoms (my parents still eat this, but I have to pass on it since the batter has egg and cheese)
  • Shredded broccoli stems to make broccoli slaw (or juicing the stems - there are tons of antioxidants in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli!)
  • Simmering herb stems to flavor a vegetable broth or soup (you can strain them out after)
  • Pickling green tomatoes that have not ripened at the end of the season
  • Sauteing beet greens, turnip greens, and broccoli leaves or throwing them raw into salads (let them marinate in lemon juice or vinegar to soften if eating raw)
  • Roasting pumpkin seeds with oil and sea salt
  • Juicing anything else or placing the scraps in my compost bin (any raw fruit or vegetable that is not too moist can be thrown into compost)
  • Letting some of my crops dry out and extracting seeds from their pods to save for next season
  • Hanging fresh herbs from the ceiling of a very dry room to make my own dried herbs and teas
Click on the link for The New York Times article above to find even more suggestions for maximizing your vegetable usage. Some of the parts that we traditionally discard from our fruits and vegetables can be the most nutritious parts of a plant (e.g. the rind of citrus fruits contains most of the antioxidants - so juice your citrus fruits whole and use the rind for zest!)

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