In this article, we’ll look at some of the things you can do with vegetable scraps. When you grow you own, making the most of everything that you grow should be a top priority.
Food waste is a major issue. Huge amounts of food are thrown away in the UK each year. We should all be doing everything we can to use up all the food we buy. Use imaginative ideas to make the most of leftovers, and find innovative ways to use up gluts from your garden.
As a polytunnel gardener, you should already have a composting system in place. If you don’t, make sure you set one up right away. But before you send those vegetable, fruit and herb scraps to the compost bin or heap, remember that there are a number of other things you could potentially do with them.
Here are just 15 simple ways to make use of vegetable scraps in your home and garden. This list is by no means comprehensive. But it should give you a good idea about how you can make the most of all of the crops that you grow (and those you buy):
Regrow Vegetables from Vegetable Scraps
Did you know that you can regrow a range of different crops from scraps? Rather than sending them straight to your composting system, consider using them to grow more plants – for free. You can find out more about which vegetables you can regrow, and how, in this article I wrote on the topic.
Make Vegetable Stock
You can also use a wide range of vegetable and herb scraps to make your own vegetable stock. A good vegetable stock is an essential ingredient in a wide range of recipes. By making your own, you have much more control over exactly what it contains. This is great if, for example, you need or want to reduce your salt intake.
The base of a good stock usually consists of onions, carrots and celery. But you can also toss in a wide range of other vegetable scraps and leftover herbs to increase the depth of the flavours and the nutritional content of the stock. Why not play around with different ingredients and scraps to create a stock ideally tailored to your particular tastes?
Blend Peelings and Stems To Use in Soups and Stews
Many people are guilty of throwing away perfectly good food. It you tend to toss broccoli stems, kale stalks, beetroot leaves or carrot tops, consider that these are not only edible, and good for you. They also make for some delicious meals. Many soups and stews, for example, can benefit from the addition of these and other similar ingredients.
Freeze Fresh Herb Remnants in Water or Oil
Not all fresh herbs retain their flavour well when dried. You might not realise, however, that you can preserve them. Simply chop them up or blend them and add them to ice cube trays. Cover them over with water or oil, and you can freeze them. Then you can simply pop out a cube or two whenever you would like to use fresh herbs in a recipe later in the year.
Use Scraps To Make Infused Vinegars
Scraps from herbs, or fruits can also be added to vinegars to make infused vinegars to drizzle on top of your home grown salads. Or to be used in a range of other ways – not just in a culinary capacity, but in other ways around your home. For example, add strawberry tops to a vinegar base for a strawberry infused vinegar.
Or Make an Apple Scrap Vinegar
You can also use scraps to make the vinegar itself. For example, save the cores and peel from apples you eat, and add these to water (with sugar). And you can make an apple scrap vinegar that you can use in a huge range of ways around your home.
Use Vegetable Scraps to Make Natural Dyes
Another intriguing way to use of scraps from fruits and vegetables is to use them to make a range of edible natural dyes or food colouring. There are a number of plants you can grow in your polytunnel or elsewhere in your garden to make natural dyes. But you can also simply use scraps for the purpose.
Make Potato Peel Crisps
Don’t discard potato skins. If they are healthy and clean, you can leave them on in most recipes. But if you do want to peel them, save the skins to make some delicious potato peel crisps. Simply coat them lightly with oil and pop them in your oven.
Make Jellies From Apple Cores and Other Fruit Scraps
A wide range of fruit scraps can be preserved by turning them into a fruit pulp that can be strained and used to make a range of delicious jellies. You can also use apple cores (or windfall apples) to make a natural pectin that can be used to help other fruit jams and jellies to set.
Eat Banana Peels
You might be astonished to learn that banana peels are something that you can actually eat! Eating banana peels might sound rather outlandish, but they can actually be very useful in meat-free cooking. For example, they can be used to make a rather tasty substitute for pulled pork for vegetarians and vegans. And you can also use them to make a vegan bacon substitute. They are good for you too – with high amounts of vitamin B6 and B12, as well as magnesium and potassium.
Or Use Them In Your Garden
If eating banana peels is a step too far, remember that they can also be very useful in your garden and home growing. Rub the inside of a banana peel into the leaves of houseplants to keep them healthy and clean. And pop them beneath your tomato plants for a boost of nutrients as they decompose, and also to encourage green tomatoes to ripen.
Use Citrus Peel To Freshen Your Home
Citrus peel can be used to freshen your home in a wide range of ways. Simply leaving some peel on a sunny windowsill to dry out can release citrus oils which smell great and may also have some insect repelling properties. You can also add citrus peels to your favourite homemade natural cleaners.
Or To Make DIY Firelighters
Another interesting way to use citrus peels is to make your own DIY firelighters for a wood burning stove or a fire pit in your garden. Simply leave them on top of your stove or somewhere warm to dry out completely until they are hard and crispy, then add them to your fire. The oils in the peel are very flammable and so make your fire much easier to light.
Use Pits and Stones and Larger Seeds to Make Decorations Etc..
There are plenty of unique and interesting ways to use pits, stones and larger seeds for crafting and decorative projects. Clean and dry these things and you can use them to make a range of different items, from decorations for your home, to home-made jewellery.
Rot (Compost) the Rest
Of course, once you are sure you don’t want to use vegetable scraps in any other way, you should be sure to compost them. Remember, you can compost at home using a range of different systems – but the core principles are always the same. Composting vegetable scraps and other compostable material is one of the most important ways to reduce food waste, and to replenish the nutrients in your polytunnel garden.
Do you have suggestions for other innovative ways to use vegetable scraps and fruit scraps from your kitchen? Please share your tips in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.