We throw away far too much food: up to 40% of what we produce for human consumption in United States ends up in landfills. Nearly one-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted each year. That’s enough to feed 2 billion people—double the number of undernourished people around the world! And while the battle against food waste isn’t limited to a holiday, we’re taking this Earth Day to provide some actionable—and delicious—ways to confront the problem.
Here’s the thing: Food waste takes many forms. It’s left to rot in the fields, bruised and ugly produce is discarded for purely cosmetic reasons, grocery stores carry too much inventory…sadly, the list goes on. But we’re guilty at home, too—and we’re not just talking about that bag of spinach left to get soggy in the fridge. We eat beet, carrot, and radish roots, but not the greens. We have an orange for breakfast and mindlessly toss the skin in the trash. But those discarded bits could be the secret weapon in your next favorite recipe. Chopping a bunch of carrots for a roast? Make carrot top pesto. Stuck with a bunch of bruised bananas? We have a silky banana-chocolate pudding for that. That pile of citrus peels? Candy the lot of them and add to cookies, cakes, or cocktails. Even duck skin and leftover bacon fat deserve a place on the sustainable table. Here are some of our best recipes to reduce food waste at home, so you can celebrate Earth Day with delicious (and environmentally-friendly) results.
Don’t discard your sourdough discard.
Leftover sourdough starter lends ordinary waffles a boost of flavor and a a crisp-yet-airy texture. Get the recipe here. Photograph by Matt Taylor-Gross | Plate by Keith Kreeger
Save that liquid gold (aka leftover bacon fat) for baking and frying.
Give bruised or lightly shriveled vegetables a second act by roasting.
Three types of tomatoes result in a bouquet of flavors and textures, from sweet to burst-in-your-mouth cherries fragrant with Italian herbs. Get the recipe for Oven-Stewed Tomatoes. Farideh Sadeghin
Blend misshapen beets into a rosy riff on classic ketchup.
Ketchup made with roasted beets has a surprising, slightly earthy flavor—we love it in place of tomato ketchup on turkey burgers. It’s easiest to cook it over the course of two days: On day one, cook, cool, peel, and chop the beets; on day two, cook them into ketchup. A splatter screen will help keep splashes contained while cooking the purée. Get the recipe for Beet Ketchup » Khushbu Shah
Pickle your trimmings.
When cooking vegetables, every last scrap and stem can be useful, so don’t toss trimmings like radish greens and kale stalks. Joshua McFaddenj of Ava Genes in Portland, Oregon pickles radish tops with vinegar, garlic, and chiles for a simple and flavorful condiment. Get the recipe for Pickled Radish Greens » Ingalls Photography
Blitz feathery carrot tops into a fragrant pesto.
“I’ve become known for doing nose-to-tail pig cooking, so this is kind of top-to-tail vegetable cooking,” says chef April Bloomfield. In her cookbook, A Girl and Her Greens, Bloomfield offers this recipe for pan-roasted carrots with carrot-top pesto, shaved carrot salad, and creamy burrata. Get the recipe here. Ingalls Photography
Smash leftover cheese into a punchy French spread.
Meaning “strong cheese” in French, fromage fort is a classic way to use up all the leftover ends and mismatched scraps of cheese in your fridge. In Julia Turshen’s version, which we adapted from her Small Victories cookbook, a little butter and a few splashes of wine round out the salty cheeses and help them become spreadable enough for topping toast or crackers. Get the recipe for Fromage Fort here. Matt Taylor-Gross
Don’t ditch the greens.
Crisp duck (or chicken!) skin in its own fat for added crunch.
Beyond banana bread: Ferment overripe bananas for a luxurious chocolate dessert .
Though this recipe takes some advanced planning (you need to allow around 2 weeks for the bananas to ferment), it’s well worth the wait. The fermented, sweet tang of bananas blends with bitter chocolate for a tropical spin on the classic pudding. It’s easier, too, as the pudding is set with gelatin rather than egg yolks, which also lets the banana flavor shine through. Get the recipe for Fermented Banana Chocolate Pudding. Matt Taylor-Gross
Simmer citrus peels in sugar syrup.
Purée bruised fruit for an icy sweet treat.