Root to Stem Cooking
April is Stop Food Waste Month and one important way to reduce waste is utilizing root to stem cooking techniques. This way of cooking utilizes every part of the fruits and vegetables found in a recipe-even the parts that are commonly discarded including the green tops of carrots or beets and the leaves of broccoli and cauliflower. Used in sauces, stocks, or stir frys, it is these components that are often the most nutritious; containing fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Enjoy Spring’s bounty of produce while fighting food waste by incorporating the stems, stalks, skins, and tops of your next fruit and vegetable haul!
Similar to Swiss chard and kale, beet greens pack a lot of flavor and nutrients. They are a great source of iron, calcium and magnesium. They taste mild, like beets, and have a deep, earthy flavor, like spinach. Just like carrot tops, beet greens need a good rinse or two to remove the dirt. When they’re small and tender, they are great eaten raw in salads. The big, heartier leaves make a great addition to stir-fries or taste great sautéed with olive oil.
Carrot tops are similar to parsley but with a slight carrot flavor. They are great eaten raw in pestos and salads. They can also be added to stocks to add flavor or sautéed with garlic and olive oil and eaten warm.
Look for the parts of the carrot tops that are tender and bright green. When carrots get bigger, their tops are woody and less palatable. The thin green sprigs are the sweetest and have the most flavor. When cooking with carrot tops, wash them very well before using them to ensure all dirt is removed.
Fresh herbs add intense flavor to whatever you’re cooking but their stems are usually discarded. Dill, basil, parsley, cilantro and chervil have tender, juicy stems that are full of flavor. They can be added to pesto, salads, soups and other cooked dishes. Cilantro and parsley have particularly flavorful roots-clean them and add to soups and stews. Herbs like rosemary and thyme have woody stems, which are not great for eating but can add flavor to soups and stews. Rosemary branches can also be used as skewers to add more flavor to barbecued meats and vegetables.
The furry tip of fennel, called the frond, has a zesty anise flavor. Chop lightly and toss in soups or salads or chop and stir into Greek yogurt with a squeeze of lemon and swirl of olive oil which can be used as a sauce for fish or poultry.
The stalks and leaves of broccoli are as edible and nutritious as the crowns. Because broccoli stalks do not need to be cooked, they can be used raw in salads and slaws or cooked as part of a vegetable stir fry. The leaves can be drizzled with olive oil and salt and roasted in the oven to be made into chips.
Everyone loves zucchini bread, carrot muffins, lemon poppy seed cake, apple sauce, and pumpkin pie. Before you toss produce that may be past its prime, consider cooking it into a baked breakfast pastry or puree it for future desserts. If you aren’t using it right away, store it in the freezer.