How to use up all your fruit and veggie scraps

We discard our fruit and vegetable tops and tails, peel and seeds without giving them a second thought, but did you know that most food scraps can be given a second life?

While three million Aussies live in poverty and struggle to put food on the table for their families each night, the Australian Government estimates food waste costs our economy $20 billion each year.

35 per cent of the average Australian household's bin is made up of food waste, which then goes into landfill and breaks down to become the main contributor of methane gas. Eliminating global food waste would save 4.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year: The equivalent of taking one in four cars off the road.

The good news is there are many ways to cook your discarded food scraps and turn them into amazing dishes, reducing the amount of food waste you send to landfill. 

Becky Searles, founder of Family Garden Life, shares her tips on how to put any fruit and veggie scraps to good use.

Broccoli stems

"Sometimes the stem is as big as the head, so I like to use the stem in stir-frys, soups, pesto or make the most delicious broccoli chips," says Becky. "I also love adding broccoli stems to spaghetti bolognaise."

Onion skins

Onion skins are awesome in soups and slow cookers because they retain the flavour of the onion and are still nutritious.

"You can even boil the skins for 20 minutes to make an infused water, which is said to help with leg cramps," Becky tells us. "Just remove the skins from the water and drink the liquid before bed."

Pineapple core

Use the core of a pineapple in vegetable, chicken or fish stock to add some sweetness. Another of Becky's tasty ideas is to use it as a stuffing for a roast chicken.

"You can also try a flavoursome iced tea or lemonade or even use it up in a jam recipe because pineapple core acts like a natural pectin," Becky says.

Leafy green tops of strawberries

If you’re making a smoothie, you can simply throw the whole strawberry in, top and all, Becky says. You can also infuse strawberry tops in water to make yummy flavoured water, you just need to make sure the tops are washed thoroughly and still green.

Herb stalks

So often we think the stalks of herbs aren't edible, but they can be. Chop up your stalks just like you do the leaves herbs and add them to stocks, soups, spaghetti sauces or stews.

"They are awesome infused in oils and vinegars as well," she says. "You can blend them to make pesto or add them to marinades."

Apple and pear cores

The core of your apples and pears can go in with the rest of the fruit when you’re making jam or if you're making apple cider vinegar.

Throw the cores in your fruit smoothies as well, there's no need to waste them.

Potato, sweet potato and carrot peelings

Did you know that potato skins make the most delicious potato crisps? You can also use the peels of all three in stocks and soups.

When juicing carrots, don’t peel them first, just throw the whole thing in.

"And have you ever tried carrot oil?" Becky asks. "It's yum!"

Banana skins

Banana skins are full of B group vitamins, potassium and magnesium and Becky suggests incorporating them into smoothies, cooking them in cakes or even pickling the skins.

"But you should only use organic bananas, where you know the skin hasn’t been tainted with pesticides," she says.

Citrus skin

Citrus skin can be used for so many things: Infuse lemon peel in your tea, add it to a chicken cavity when roasting or pop it in a jug of water to flavour it.

You can make jam or marmalade from citrus peel and lemon skin can also be made into lemon sugar or herbed lemon butter.

"You can also place dry skin in your wardrobe to scare off moths, use it to freshen up your fridge, sanitise your cutting board or add to white vinegar for a cleaning remedy," Becky says. "It’s great in the bathroom as a homemade cleaning solution, to make it shine and give it a fresh fragrance."

The insides of capsicum

The inside of a capsicum can be used in a worm farm, composting or simply save the seeds for replanting. Seed saving and sowing works best with organic capsicums, not store purchased.

Tops and tails of carrots, zucchini, and tomatoes

Blitz tomato ends in the blender and add them to tomato sauces for pizza bases, spaghetti sauces or soups.

Carrot tops can be used in stocks, soups and salads and zucchini ends can be given a second life in soups and stir-fries, or simply be composted.

How can you keep your scraps fresh until they're ready to be re-used?

You can blanch your scraps, freeze them for a later date or pickle most of them to help preserve them for later consumption.

You can also invest in buying or building a worm farm or compost to enrich your soil. Be mindful that citrus, tomatoes and onions can’t be used with worms, but you can add them to an indoor composting system.

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