Been to the farmers market lately? Then it’s probably safe to say that you’ve been busy chopping and prepping your heart out while making all sorts of 5-a-day veggie delights (your doctor would certainly approve). After all the peeling, removing of stems, scooping of seeds and trimming of extraneous material, now you’re swimming in what probably seems like tons of biodegradable scraps – all of which could easily be plunked into a garbage can – but hey, wait a minute… that’s not what people do anymore!
Now that we’re all becoming far more in tune to the environment and exercising increasingly sustainable lifestyle habits, that once obscure thing called composting has now hit the mainstream and it turns out that it’s no more challenging than doing the laundry. Okay, so maybe a squidge more effort is required in order to ensure that all of the elements that you add to your backyard pile or bin biodegrade successfully – hey, don't forget the worms! – but once you get the hang of it, you can actually experience a geeky eco-rush knowing that you’re ‘growing’ your own nutrient rich garden gold (that’s what the green thumbs call it).
That scenario plays out in the best of all possible worlds, though, and the fact of the matter is that not all of us are endowed with the magical ability or even the burning desire to dig in the dirt… which is a-okay. So, when composting really isn’t your thing, what alternative is there aside from relying on the good old sanitation department to make their twice-weekly pickup? So glad that you asked! It’s time to get scrap-happy with these produce skin, peel, seed and stem repurposing tips:
MAKE FRESH, INCREDIBLY NUTRITIOUS PET FOOD
That stuff in a can? Let’s just put it this way… the convenience can’t be beat, but processing the contents at really high temperatures all but destroys valuable enzymes and nutrients, which is why they must be added back into the recipe. Furthermore, you never quite know what kind of protein-based amalgam your furry companion is ultimately ingesting, and with recalls and contamination issues all too common, it seems worth it for peace of mind and your pet’s longevity to try your hand at making their food from scratch. Proponents claim that in addition to being more affordable overall, homemade doggy and kitty vittles ensure that our best wet-nosed buddies get a clean bill of health. Give it a try. Reserve all of your produce scraps in a large container for one week before throwing them in a food processor. Mix the veggie blend into your pet food recipe of choice, knowing that the extra nutrients and fiber will make your fur balls feel like dynamite!
WHITEN YOUR TEETH NATURALLY
You’ve probably heard that banana skins do double-duty as tropical houseplant leaf-polishers not to mention an instant potassium rich fertilizer for rose bushes, eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers when buried right at the base of the root system. But surely that’s where the buck stops… right? Perhaps this tip is for the adventurous and the turbo-greenies among us, but various sources claim that rubbing the interior banana pith – which has an admittedly sharp, unappealing flavor – directly on the front surfaces of each tooth will bestow them with a naturally white glow. Sounds a bit wacko, but you know this is going to pop in your head while you’re noshing on your morning banana… and there’s no harm in trying it out, is there?
RESTORE THE GLEAM TO VARIOUS HOUSEHOLD SURFACES… AND YOUR SKIN!
Pick a hollowed-out citrus half of your choice and dip the rim in a bit of salt or baking soda. Then, get busy with your bad scrubbing self... all over your discolored metal pots, putting a bit of elbow grease into the process. After a few minutes, it will seem as if a veil has been lifted off of your cooking ware to reveal their true inner glow, which can be attributed to the acidic nature of the skins’ volatile oils. This is the very same natural action that removes dead skin cells (when citrus ingredients are incorporated into DIY facial masks), and according to oodles of green living gurus, the old citrus skin half dipped in baking soda or salt trick also works wonders on bathtub rims and as a totally natural skin exfoliant!
MAKE HOMEMADE VEGGIE-FLECKED PAPER
Banana fibers aren’t the only eco-alternative to conventional wood-based pulp. Innovation and experimentation have taught us that sugar cane fibers are also a suitable replacement, as are pulverized rock particles (yes, really!) and deodorized elephant excrement (again, really and truly!). If you really want to do something cool this weekend, gather the kiddies around and show them how to turn vegetable scrap fibers into a lovely texturized paper that smells as good as it probably tastes, although you might want to discourage them from chomping down. If, on the other hand, you have pet guinea pigs, rabbits or hamsters in the house, then by all means, let them have a quick nibble!
REWARD WILDLIFE WITH A SPECIAL TREAT
Sometimes it’s hard out there for Mother Nature’s creatures, especially in drought-stricken regions or areas that are so highly developed that species are forced to hit the ‘hood in search of decent eats. They’re just trying to survive, but when hungry critters with ginormous teeth and big claws encroach on our territory – things often don’t turn out so well for them. In the interest working with rather than against nature, it might be nice to take a trip to the edge of the forest where you can leave your yummy produce scraps for some lucky animal to discover. If, on the other hand, you live in a suburban area where the most unusual visitor you ever have is a fox, raccoon or bird, then consider leaving scooped-out fruit and veggie seeds for them (cantaloupe, watermelon, pepper, cucumber) as well as any other plant-based matter that will give them a dietary boost.
TRANSFORM YOUR WINDOW SILLS INTO A MINI GREENHOUSE
Despite being fully edible, very few of us actually choose to consume the seeds that we’ve removed from the heirloom peppers and other fruit and veggie varieties that we add to our salads. But, they don’t have to go to waste. In fact, they can be easily sprouted on a sunny window sill before being planted in the garden, a technique that comes in particularly handy when a farmers market find is especially delicious. The same can be said of the root ends that are typically lopped off of various types of onions or potato eyes, both of which bear the ‘seeds’ for future good eats. For those who appreciate lush (and essentially free) houseplants, don’t forget to sprout your pineapple tops and avocado pits, either!
MAKE GOOD GOURMET EATS
Plain olive oil and vinegar both serve as the perfect foundation for dressings and marinades, but they leap off of the page when infused with assorted culinary ingredients. Don’t have the Bon Appétit budget to back your caviar dreams? No need to drain your bank account when you can rely on produce scraps to take your condiments from ho-hum to whoa, yum! Chefs in the know practice this shrewd technique on a regular basis, boosting the flavor profile of everything from soups and stews to baked goods, dessert sauces, cocktail alcohols and jellies (Ever tried apple peel jelly? Mmmm, it’s an oldy but a goody).
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