“Starve a Landfill”


Did you know that food waste accounts for 25% of all our fresh water use? And wasted food represents 23% of global agricultural land?  What can be done to reduce this misuse of resources?  We are fortunate to have Willing Hands in our area, collecting and distributing donated food to those in need and reducing waste in the process.  Vermont has passed legislation aimed at composting food waste . . .  but how much better if we were generating less waste.

Today’s NYT has an encouraging article, “Starve a Landfill”.  “Wasting less in the kitchen is just smart economics, said Dana Gunders, a project scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council whose book, “Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook,” comes out in May. “Eating better may cost more, she said, but an efficient cook can make up the difference. “We are so price sensitive in the store, and 10 cents will swing us one way or other,” she said. “But in the kitchen we throw out so much money without even thinking about price.”

The article tells of chef/author Dan Barber, who is so dedicated to ending food waste that he is turning his Greenwich Village restaurant, Blue Hill, into a pop-up in which every dish is based on waste. It’s an extreme extension of what many chefs already do.  For his project, which begins on March 13, Mr. Barber and his cooks are putting kale ribs into a pressure cooker and turning them into vegetable rice . . .  He has created a burger from the vegetable pulp left over from a fresh juice company. He tops it with cheese trimmings from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont and serves it with pickles made from cucumber butts and ketchup rendered from beets rejected by plant breeders at the University of Wisconsin.  Even the food left on diners’ plates at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, his restaurant in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., feeds the restaurant’s laying hens.

A list of the country’s best chefs have volunteered to do cameos at Mr. Barber’s pop-up this month. One of them is Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad in Manhattan.  Considering how to use all the food that comes into Mr. Humm’s restaurants is a constant concern but offers opportunities for innovation. For a while, he was preparing a broccoli dish that produced copious amounts of stems. They became a gratin for the staff meal. “Then I started liking the stems better,” he said. “If you cook it right, it’s as great as an asparagus. We ended up just using the stems for the dish and serving the florets to staff.”

*  *  *  *  *

I have learned to save the tough outer layer of onions and the residue from pressing garlic, for making vegetable stock. I no longer peel carrots (just scrub them.) Bread, milk, vegetables, pesto . . .  you can freeze almost anything and defrost it when you’re ready to use it. With a little googling, I have come up with a few more waste-not tips:

* Freezing leftover coffee as ice cubes used in iced coffee.

* Freezing leftover wine as ice cubes for use in cooking.

* Replanting the cut ends of scallions which will grow again. Head lettuce too. (I am eager to try that this summer – probably easier to do with a longer growing season than northern New England.)

* Pesto from carrot tops? This I have to try!

Of course, these are just tiny steps . . . the bigger ones are to not buy more than you will use, to store goods appropriately (I never knew that apples should go in the fridge), and to compost scraps that will contribute to next year’s garden.

Do you have an effective way to avoid food waste?

Food: Too Good To Waste, a partnership between the City and County of Honolulu, the EPA, and the contributing restaurants found in this guidebook/cookbook: http://www.opala.org/solid_waste/pdfs/Food_Too_Good_to_Waste.pdf


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