You may have mastered meal prep and have a slew of go-to recipes featuring your washed, peeled, chopped and neatly stored fruits and veggies. But as you’re slicing and dicing to get to the “meat” of your produce, you’re forgetting a few tasty parts: roots, sprigs and rinds. Lots of these leftovers contain key nutrients, like vitamins A, B, C and K, fiber and potassium. So toss ‘em and you’re missing out on some serious health benefits — not to mention delicious dishes.
From carrot leaves to broccoli trunks to kale ribs, you can make use of these vegetable vestigials to prepare tasty broths or fiber-rich snacks. Read on to find out how food experts use every part of their fruits and veggies, so nothing goes to waste in your own kitchen.
8 Ways to Get More From Your Produce
1. Stock Up
Your excess herb sprigs, onion peels and beet greens will be lifesavers when you’re sick and crave some homemade soup. Libby Mills, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, suggests keeping a Ziplock bag in the freezer and tossing scraps in there as you cook. When the bag gets full, you know it’s time to make a fresh batch of stock. All you have to do is boil the produce in water for about an hour. When it’s done, strain it and you have the base for soups, risottos and more.
To add even more zing to your soup, Ali Maffucci, food blogger and founder of Inspiralized, takes the rinds of cheeses like Parmesan and throws them into the broth while it’s cooking. Just remember to take them out before you eat.
2. Zest You Can
Monica Klausner, co-founder of the meal delivery service, Veestro, likes to use lots of greens to flavor her grains. “I put the leaves of beets and carrots, the tops of peppers and sprigs of herbs like dill or thyme in a cheese cloth and cook them with my buckwheat, farro or other grains,” says Klausner. Remove the cloth when you’re finished cooking, and you have a side dish or bowl base that brings a more earthy flavor to your meal. Better yet, bitter greens are good for your gut and aid in digestion, so also try them in your smoothie or Maffucci’s favorite: frittatas.
Mills suggests using citrus zest to spice up your salad, muffins or soup even more. You can also infuse vinegar, oil, salt or sugar with fruit rinds for a burst of citrus in your salad dressing, fish seasoning or cookie topping. Steeping or muddling fruit rinds in alcohol makes for a deliciously fancy cocktail, too.
3. Chip In
You can turn almost anything into a crisp chip — even veggies and fruits. (Kale and banana chips, anyone?) Klausner suggests roasting the leaves of beets, carrots and celery in the oven with olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper so they turn into a healthy homemade snack. Potato skins and apple peels also make great fiber-rich alternatives to traditional chips, says Mills. Want another snack option? Swap your chips for toasted seeds from pumpkins, squash and even watermelons (yes, those are edible too).
4. Enrich Your Water
Getting your fill of agua for the day can get boring — that is, unless you add some juicy flavors. For citrus-infused H2O that you can grab and go, Maffucci likes to put chopped orange, lemon or lime rinds in ice cube trays, top with water and freeze. Pop ‘em in your bottle the next day for extra tasty hydration. The fruit also infuses your water with essential minerals and electrolytes that can help you power through your workouts.
5. Pickle It
That crunchy pickle you crave doesn’t have to come from a cucumber. Watermelon rinds — chock-full of chlorophyll, which boasts healing benefits — and the middle stems of rainbow chard also make for a great crunchy, salt-and-vinegar snack. Try subbing in other produce to prepare this pickled vegetable recipe.
6. Wok This Way
If you’re looking for a super quick weeknight meal, your answer is a stir fry — and you can include lots of veggie leftovers in it. Mills recommends cooking broccoli and kale stems or the rinds of your watermelon over high heat with a blend of other veggies for an easy, nutrient-dense dinner. Add your scraps into any one of these eight speedy stir-fry dinners.
7. Scent Your Home
Trying to get rid of funky odors or planning to have company over? The smell of produce can freshen up your home. Take a cue from Klausner: Boil citrus rinds with cloves and cinnamon in a large pot. The sweet, cozy aromas will permeate the room for a natural air freshener.
8. Make New Roots
Buying whole veggies — root and all — has its pay offs. Mills likes to create her own garden by replanting the roots of celery, onions and scallions or the seeds from heirloom tomatoes. (Peppers will also work, but only if you buy from a farmer’s market where they’re not commercially grown.) Not only will you have fresh veggies right in your backyard, but you’ll save some money, too. Now that’s a win-win.