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We strive for a diet packed with fresh organic fruits and vegetables, but there’s just one problem—what to do with all the leaves, stems, and leftover bits to avoid unnecessary waste and an overflowing compost bin? We’re taking a cue from efficient homesteaders and nose-to-tail cooking about how to reuse the castoffs.
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They’re great for veggie stock, but they’re a surprise ingredient for a pungent tea and are rich in antioxidants such as quercetin. Simply steep the skins of an onion in boiling water or a tea baller for a few minutes, bearing in mind that the longer they sit, the more assertive the tea will become.
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Save your cantaloupe seeds and that goopy stuff around them called “the mesh,” and throw them in a smoothie for an extra dose of fiber and protein.
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There’s no need to throw away a jar of pickle juice once you’ve eaten all the cukes. Just do as Molly Siegler, culinary content editor for Whole Foods Markets does, and store blanched veggies or hard-boiled eggs in the pickling liquid.
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Fennel is so flowery and showy, but we typically only use the bulb part. Add the fronds to a flower arrangement, or steep them in hot water for a mild anise-flavored tea. Chef Bruce Kalman of Union in Pasadena turns fennel fronds into sorbet. Start by juicing the fronds—you’ll want 2 cups of liquid. Then mix the juice with 2 cups of simple syrup and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine, or turn it into a granita by freezing in a shallow container (stirring with a fork every hour, fluffing once it starts to freeze). Kalman finishes it off with a pinch of flaky sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil.
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Cookbook author Dina Cheney likes to grind up the stems of dehydrated herbs (such as cilantro, basil, or mint) in a coffee grinder. She then adds them to salt or sugar in a ratio of 1-to-4 (herbs to salt or sugar) to create a finishing seasoning, which can be sprinkled on both sweet and savory dishes.
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Pickle them. Slice off all the pink fruit and pickle the green rinds using your favorite recipe or try this one for starters.
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Cherry pits can add a new, nutty dimension to ice cream. Pastry chef Diana Valenzuela of Elan in New York City smashes the pits with a meat mallet, picks through the pits for the kernels, and then toasts them in the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes. She then pulverizes 2 tablespoons of cherry pits with 1 cup of organic cane sugar to a fine dust and sprinkles over ice cream.
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If you can or jam, you likely produce a great deal of discarded skins. Instead, you can ferment peach, plum, apple, or apricot skins (fermenting is a long process; try this recipe) and use the resulting vinegar as a tonic with seltzer (like an old-fashioned shrub), as a marinade, or in a salad dressing.