How to make fruit and vegetable off-cuts taste good

More than half of the food throw away is preventable.
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More than half of the food throw away is preventable.

Every New Zealand family throws away about 148 kilograms of food each year, that's enough to fill more than an average recycling wheelie bin.

More than half of that is avoidable, especially fruit and vegetable waste. The most binned produce includes potatoes, bananas and apples, according to the environmental experts at Love Food, Hate Waste. But there's also plenty of off-cuts thrown in there needn't be.  

Knowing how to make them taste good can be hard, especially when you're feeding kids. We sought advice from two chefs who make a point of minimising waste - Kyle Street from Auckland's Culprit, and chef at pop-up spot, Cult Project, Carlo Buenaventura.

Kyle Street works on low-waste principles, not only to reduce wastage but because it's practical.
CHRIS MCKEEN/FAIRFAX NZ

Kyle Street works on low-waste principles, not only to reduce wastage but because it's practical.

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BROCCOLI STALKS AND LEAVES

Street channels southern-style American collard greens for his broccoli off-cuts, adding the tough leaves to a stewing liquid used for ham hocks and bones. "It's kind of a low waste dish. We braise the ham hock in a big pot of water and put in the stock then braise broccoli leaves in there for about 15 - 20 minutes." 

When doing this technique, similar to using puha, the leaves become "really, really meaty", Street says. 

Buenavenutra puts broccoli in most of Cult Project's menus, and he doesn't shy from the stalks or leaves. The stalk works sliced thinly in salads, but Cult Project roasted broccoli stalks are a "staple". 

Cauliflower leaves and stems can be treated similarly, but they are also great in purees or soups, he says. 

CARROT TOPS AND CELERY LEAVES

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Nearly 270 tonne of celery stalks and leaves are wasted annually and 2340 tonne of carrots are sent to landfill, but there's plenty to to with them.

"I love both of these, actually, they are great in salads," Street says. He prefers the inner, pale green leaves from celery, and sometimes uses them in place of parsley for flavours.

Buenaventura says he dries his celery leaves occasionally, and uses them as if they were herbs. Because celery is quite a strong, fibrous vegetable, it sticks up to braising very well, he says. 

When it comes to carrot tops, both chefs utilise them in carrot dishes as a garnish, to add another element. 

Buenaventura adds the cleaned skins of carrots into a conventional barbecue sauce recipe, to add sweetness and an earthy flavour. "It gives [it] a bit of body too."

OLD FRUIT

Apples and bananas are the two most wasted fruits in New Zealand, 7267 tonnes of avoidable waste is created annually. Soft apples are sweet, but the floury texture and bruised flesh makes them off-putting.

This need not be the case, given any old apple is a good addition to the filling of an apple pie, Street says. 

"Chop up the old apple, (and stew) with brown sugar and butter in a pot over a high heat. Sometimes I will add golden raisins. You can use that in doughnuts or a traditional apple pie."

​While the obvious option for old bananas is to mash and make a cake, they're a great addition in desserts, these chefs say. Buenaventura has made ice cream with the old fruit and Street has pimped up a bread and butter pudding.

CITRUS PEEL

Oranges are the second-most wasted fruit in New Zealand, but the chefs have some ideas for how to use citrus peel - and not just their zest.

For the mixologists, Street suggests making sugar syrups with hints of various fruits to add something to happy hour.

"One part sugar, one part water and then [the peel] will last forever in your fridge."

Buenaventura uses the pith and zest of lemons in a pickle, which ends up tasting like Japanese citrus fruit Yuzu - likened to a cross between lemon and a mandarin - which goes well with fish. 

 - Stuff

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