root t o stem
ARROT TOPS, cauliflower leaves, broccoli stems, onion skins, potato peels
and watermelon rinds, once destined for the garbage disposal or trash, now could be
the inspiration behind your next meal. The root-to-stem movement is inspiring cooks
to turn those carrot tops into pesto and that tired bunch of greens in the crisper into
soup rather than simply tossing it out.
Some of the most iconic dishes from Chinese, French, Italian, Indian or, even
closer to home, Southern kitchens, are made from the bits that most people throw
away — bouillabaisse, coq au vin and gumbo to name a few.
Before terms like nose-to-tail and root-to-stem became monikers for championing
a food movement, many chefs and frugal home cooks were already using up every
inch and stretching ingredients.
But in the past 100 years or so, refrigeration, industrial agriculture, genetic modi-fication,
and the push toward economic development have caused most people to
lose sight of where their food comes from. They have less of a need to use up every
bit of an ingredient.
At the core of the root-to-stem movement is the issue of food waste. About one-third
of the 1.3 billion tons of food produced every year for human consumption is
lost or wasted.
A study commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations titled Global Food Losses and Food Waste reports that wasted food accounts
for about 20 percent of all carbon emissions released. Fruits, vegetables, roots and
tubers are the worst offenders. The report estimates that over a five-year period,
methane gas from decomposing vegetables generates 100 times more heat into the
atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
In the United States, a staggering 40 percent of all food goes uneaten each year
at an annual cost of $218 billion. Individual households are the biggest culprits and
are responsible for 43 percent of this waste — more than grocery stores, farms and
restaurants. In its campaign called Save the Food, the Natural Resources Defense
Council reports that wasted food costs a family of four about $1,800 a year. All of
this is going on while one in five American families doesn’t have enough to eat.
BY COLLEEN THOMPSON
Waging a war on waste,
one scrap at a time