carrot tops

In recent years, we’ve moved from trying hard to be green to having certain eco-conscious tics to our day-to-day behavior. Recycling and compost are sorted automatically, and a cute canvas tote is never forgotten at home when we take a trip to the grocery store. But are there more little things we could be doing on a day-to-day basis to stay green? Without knowing it, you might be tossing completely edible items from your organic produce and meat… but thankfully, those days are over.

1. Beet Greens

When you buy luscious organic beets from the farmers market, do you lop off the greens right away? Good. You should. The greens continue to feed off of the roots as long as they remain attached. But when you slice off those dark leaves, don’t toss them into the compost bin. Beet greens can be eaten on their own, and with a flavor similar to swiss chard, there are hundreds of ways to use them, like in soups, stir fries and our recipe for Easy Garlicky Beet Greens.

2. Carrot Tops

Sometimes, at least here in France, friendly market vendors will give you free carrot tops for hungry bunnies at home, but carrot tops aren’t just pet food. These leafy greens have a lemony, slightly bitter taste, similar to arugula, and can be used chopped up in salads with other herbs or as a main ingredient in a special twist on pesto. Use equal portions of basil and carrot tops in your favorite pesto recipe, or sub carrot tops for arugula in our Arugula and Basil Pesto. Freeze your pesto in an ice cube tray for easy, pre-portioned amounts, and use it in whatever recipe strikes your fancy: recipes using pesto are endless!

3. Pumpkin and Squash Seeds

You may have had grilled or roasted pumpkin seeds before, but did you know that the seeds from your organic butternut or kabocha squash can be roasted and eaten too? Separate the seeds from pretty much any mature winter squash from the flesh. Soak them in cold water for 30 minutes to remove the excess strands of pumpkin, then toss in olive oil and salt and roast in the oven at 450 degrees for 25-30 minutes, tossing once or twice for an even browned color. Add spices like curry powder or cinnamon for a new twist on a classic, and put them out as a snack with drinks in place of peanuts or chips.

4. Broccoli Stems

Whole heads of broccoli are in season in the winter, and this cruciferous vegetable is perfect for quick and easy side dishes. But what to do with those stems? Don’t toss them; freeze them, and when you finally have enough, you can make broccoli stem soup. Because the stalks retain much of the same flavor as the florets, you can even use your favorite broccoli-and-cheese soup recipe and purée the stalks; no one will know the difference!

Any other odds and ends that you have after prepping your veggies — green bean stems, potato and onion skins, carrot peelings and more — can be frozen and used for veggie scrap stock as soon as you have enough!

5. Shrimp Heads and Shells

If you buy head-on shrimp, be sure to save the heads and shells to make fish stock. This flavorful liquid can be used to make any recipe using fish and seafood, from risotto to cioppino to paella, even tastier. Just place the heads and shells in a pot of water, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Allow to cook for about an hour or two, then skim off the foam from the top and freeze or refrigerate. Freeze in small portions for easy addition to recipes.

image: Tiffany Dawn Nicholson