Are you throwing away valuable food? Part two: Produce

MSU Extension offers strategies for using and preserving Michigan Fresh foods.

Sautéed beet greens, photo by Mariel Borgman
Sautéed beet greens, photo by Mariel Borgman

Preparing fresh produce inevitably generates some food waste. Our vegetable preparation traditions often involve peeling, de-stemming, and removing leaves. In some cases, these practices are important food safety precautions, as some plant parts such as rhubarb leaves are toxic to humans. On the other hand, many of the plant parts we discard are perfectly edible, and with the right preparation techniques, can be delicious. Next time you visit your farmers’ market or harvest from your garden, consider these edible yet underutilized plant parts:

Different plant parts lend themselves to different cooking techniques. Sautéing works well for most greens (leaves). Stems can be tough unless cooked until tender—try boiling or stir-frying them. Stems are also great for making stock or broth, and can be frozen until you are ready to use them; follow these freezing foods tips from Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Fresh program.  Pickling is a good technique for chard stems, garlic scapes, and watermelon rinds. Finely chop carrot tops and celery stems and use as you would a fresh herb.

When handling any fresh produce, be sure to wash your hands and avoid cross-contamination with raw meat or meat juices. Follow these produce safety tips from MSU Extension to reduce the risk of food borne illness.

MSU Extension’s Michigan Fresh program has a No Food Left Behind Pinterest board dedicated to recipes featuring these ingredients. To learn more about pickling and other food preservation techniques, refer to the MSU Extension events page for upcoming food preservation classes in your area. MSU Extension also offers an online food preservation course.

For more tips on reducing food scraps in the kitchen, read the other parts of this article series “Are you throwing away valuable food?” Part One and Part Three: Meat. 

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