Your mom was right when she told you, “eat everything on your plate because kids in other countries are starving.” Food waste is one the largest contributors to the climate crisis, but luckily many resources on campus helps fight it. On Wednesday January 22, Health and Wellness hosted a workshop titled “Unknown Edible Foods” to help students prevent food waste in their daily lives.
The workshop itself was presented by the UCSB A.S. Department of Public Worms (DPW), which is an edible campus program that focuses on composting but also works on projects to create gardens and overall a more sustainable UCSB. The DPW student staff take food scraps from the green bins outside of the dining commons and use that compost in student gardens to grow food for the A.S. Food Bank. If you were unable to attend the Health and Wellness workshop on unknown edible foods, do not fear, for I have gathered all the tips discussed.
- Storage is essential to learn how to store food properly! You probably think you know how to put food away, but there are many different methods that preserve certain foods longer than others.
- In your fridge, you should store berries, apples, celery, corn (in husks), broccoli, mushrooms and any leafy greens.
- In a basket or countertop (or when you have no space like me, the top of your fridge) you should store avocados, store-bought fruit (not fresh fruit from the farmer’s market), tomatoes, garlic, peppers, potatoes and winter squash. If any of these vegetables are bought refrigerated, keep them in the fridge.
- When organizing your fridge, place older food toward the front so you don’t forget about it.
- *Bonus Tip: To keep celery crunchy, place it in a jar of water in the fridge; to make leafy greens last even longer, place them in a bag with a damp paper towel.
- Don’t always trust expiration dates!
- There are FDA regulations in place for a reason, but food can usually survive a bit longer than its stamp says. So use your nose to check your food’s edibility.
- There is a difference between sell-by and expiration dates; stores use sell-by dates so that consumers have a few days to use a product, while expiration dates are when the product is ‘supposed’ to expire (but again don’t trust them!)
- If you can’t or don’t want to eat leftover food, composting is a great way to still reduce food waste.
- The process is a bit complicated (so you should become a worm wrangler or just ask the department of public worms for more information) but you will need: food scraps, newspaper or leaves and bins.
- Foods you thought were inedible but may not be!
- Banana peels: Organic or fair trade banana peels are eaten around the world. They contain B6, B12, protein and a lot of fiber. One recipe you can make is banana bacon. Scrape off the white stuff from the peel and marinate it with maple syrup, soy sauce, smoked paprika and garlic powder. Use a bit of oil to fry them, and voila you have banana bacon! I tried these at the presentation and they weren’t crunchy because they weren’t fresh, but surprisingly, I enjoyed them. Although they were too salty (probably because of overuse of soy sauce), I could see how they would taste like plantain chips!
- Strawberry stems: Instead of cutting these off and throwing them away, you can eat strawberries whole or use the stems in salads, steep them in tea or blend in smoothies.
- Papaya seeds: They are said to taste like mustard or peppercorn, so you should wash and dry them and use them like pepper, eating them in small amounts. These only last for 3-4 days refrigerated, but will last longer if frozen.
- Vegetable scraps: To make homemade vegetable stock, boil scraps from carrots, celery, onions, garlic, potatoes and herbs in a pot for 30 minutes.
- Carrot tops: These are rich in vitamin K (not found in the actual carrot) and potassium. You can add raw carrot tops in salads or soups, or saute them in oil and garlic as a side dish. They also serve as a replacement for basil in any pesto recipe, or an addition.
- Dandelions: Can you believe 1 cup of petals has more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach? Dandelions are also rich in vitamins C, A, and K. Because America loves herbicides, do not take these from soccer fields or the side of the road, the safest way to gather them is in your own backyard. Once you have dandelions you can saute the newest leaves in oil, use the flowers in vinegar or make dandelion flower tea. There is also a traditional Scandinavian syrup made with apples and dandelions.
Make sure to try these tips at home, and help the planet and your pocket!