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18 creative and efficient ways to repurpose fruit and vegetable trim

By Robb White, CEC CCA AAC; Executive Chef & Food Waste Prevention Catalyst  ///  January 28, 2021

Trim Waste

Peels, pulp, cores, rinds, stems. When you prep fruits and vegetables you end up with trim. And for the majority of kitchens using Leanpath, trim waste ranks as their second biggest source of waste (behind overproduction). But that trim doesn’t have to lead to trim waste. You can maximize usage of this product, making better use of your food spend along the way. Remember, you paid for that rind, so why just throw it out?

Here are 18 ideas to get better use out of that often overlooked and underutilized fruit and vegetable trim.

  1. Vegetable trim for stocks - okay, let’s look at the obvious ones first. Onion peels, carrot peels and ends, celery leaves, leek hearts, and mushroom trim can all be used in stocks. These can also be put in bags and frozen until you have collected enough to make a good sized batch.
  2. Herb stems - stem from just about any leafy herb can be used to flavor stocks, soups and sauces. You can also use them to infuse flavor into oils and vinegars that can then be used in dressings. Stems can be added fresh, dried, dehydrated and ground, grilled and in some cases even pureed to add an intense flavor to salsas, dressing, relishes and compotes.
  3. Potato peels - potatoes are amazing. The uses are only limited by your imagination and utilizing the peels is just another way to get the most out of them. One way to utilize potato peel is to season, toss them in a bit of high quality olive oil and roast them. Roasted potato peels are kinda like a cross between a potato chip and french fry but a lot more robust in flavor. If your kitchen produces a lot of peels, consider throwing these on the menu as a crispy starter complete with a dipping sauce.
  4. Apple peels- roast these. Spritz the peels with a little acidulated water (lemon juice and water), sprinkle them with a touch of cinnamon and sugar and you have a great snacking treat or garnish for a dessert.
  5. Watermelon rinds - unlike other melons, watermelon has a rind that is great to repurpose in many ways. You can pickle it and use it in salads, salads and relishes. It can be used in chutneys, used as a replacement for cucumbers in a refreshing gazpacho and used in Indian dishes such as curry. In some cases you may need to fully remove the outer green part of the rind since it tends to be bitter.
  6. Citrus peels - peels from oranges, lemons, clementines, and other citrus fruits have tons of possible uses. They can be candied, made into chutneys and syrups and used to infuse vinegars and teas. The peels can also be zested, dehydrated, chopped, minced, ground, and powdered - giving them even more uses in baked goods and desserts.
  7. Leafy vegetable tops - the leafy tops from most root vegetables are great when used in sauces, or chopped and wilted, then mixed with other greens for a tasty side dish. They are especially great for making a variety of pestos, when you pair and puree them with nuts, oils and a touch of vinegar flavored with repurposed citrus peels.
  8. Corn cobs - after you have shucked and removed the kernels keep the cobs! They are spectacular for making a sweet & savory corn stock, which can be used for soups, chowders, and sauces. They are also great for making a sweet, rich corn cream that can be whipped for desserts. 
  9. Strawberry tops - when trimming your berries, you can utilize the tops by infusing sugar and the berry tops with your favorite vinegar to make a flavorful sweet/sour concoction that can be used for dressings (also works with soft fruit that is ready to go bad).
  10. Broccoli stems - these stems can be chopped and tossed into stir fries, shaved and used to make a crunchy slaw, or cut into julienne strips, blanched, and roasted for “broccoli fries.” 
  11. Cauliflower cores - these can be utilized much like broccoli stems but are particularly good when tossed in a touch of oil, seasoned and the roasted. Another tasty way to use up and cauliflower cores is to blanch and then pickle them. From there, you can use them in relishes, salads, chutneys, salsas or as a side dish. 
  12. Vanilla pods - once you’ve scraped the seeds out of the pods for whatever culinary masterpiece you are creating, save the pods! There is no better way to infuse the taste of vanilla into your baked goods than by making your own vanilla sugar. Cut the pods in half and bury them in a container of sugar and seal well. Let the pods work their magic and you will have vanilla sugar for all your baked goods in a couple of weeks. You can also use the pods to infuse spirits like vodka, gin, whiskey, and bourbon - all of which you can enjoy on their own, or use in the kitchen.
  13. Kale and chard stems - don’t waste the woody stems from kale or chard - instead, chop them into smaller pieces, blanch them and toss them into an array of mixed vegetables for a side or salad. You can also blanch them and then slow braise them for an earthy and flavorful side.
  14. Banana peels - if your kitchen does scratch baking, steep the banana peels in milk or cream and add a touch of vanilla for infused milk that you can utilize in your baked goods. It also makes a great base for hot chocolate!
  15. Seeds - Fall is the biggest time of year for utilizing seeds from squash, gourds, and pumpkins. Wash the seeds and roast them for a variety of uses like granola, baked goods, pesto, toppings, garnishes and crusts.
  16. Leek tops - when trimming leeks, most people just use the white part or bottom-third of the leek. Get the most of this great vegetable by using the leek tops in just about any application you would use an onion or scallion. Be sure to chop them and slowly saute until they are soft and have released the sugars!
  17. Olive pits - this one might seem off the cuff, but there is a use for olive pits. They are great for infusing flavor into oils and vinegars. You can then use these to add a flavor punch into dressings and sauces.
  18. Pickle juice - once you’ve emptied your pickle jar, don’t toss the juice. It's great once strained through a coffee filter and then used for dressings, relishes, compotes, and sauces.

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Topics: Tips & Tricks