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We peel our apples, we throw away the stalk of the broccoli without thinking twice and we buy our beets without their tops.  It’s common. But would it be weird if I told you to buy sneakers without laces? Or, to take home a bikini but throw out the bottoms?  Definitely.

Why is it that we’ve become accustomed to removing super nutritious parts of our fruits and vegetables without even a second thought?  We’re going to challenge you to try something different by adopting a new way of eating your scraps. This philosophy is called “nose-to-tail” cooking. The term started as a way of eating an animal in its entirety and minimizing waste.  However, it has been recently applied to fruits and vegetables, too. In fact, there is often even more nutrition in the skins, leaves, and stalks of the produce that we are so mindlessly discarding.

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Kiwifruit

Although uncommon to eat the skin of the fruit, we have known some people to do so without hesitation.  And why not? Past the fuzz, it adds great value to your health. The skin of the fruit contains large amounts of fiber.  In fact, a recent study shows that eating the skin of the kiwi triples the fiber intake compared to eating the flesh alone.  By eating the skin you are also retaining much of the vitamin C content of the fruit. One serving of kiwifruit contains two times the recommended daily intake of vitamin C.

For more information on maxing out the nutritional impact of your meals, check out our other article,
Mixing Ingredients to Get the Most from Food.
eat-skin-kiwifruit-nutritious

Squash

Let’s start by describing the squash family a little bit more.  Squash is a vast and generous term given to many vegetables that we eat.  Zucchini and cucumbers, for example, are also squash. So it would make sense that, if you can eat the skin and seeds of zucchini and cucumbers, you can eat the skin and seeds of other squashes too.  In fact, other than the stalk, every part of every squash is edible. Watermelons are included in this list, but we’ll have a closer look later.

What can you do with these different varieties of squash?  The easiest thing is for you to take a moment to think about what you currently do with these vegetables and then expand that to other varieties.  

  • Used to roasting pumpkin seeds?  You can also roast butternut squash seeds and any other squash seed.  Toss them first with olive oil, salt, cayenne, and whatever other spices you find tasty. Cook at 350 F for 20-30 minutes until crisp and golden.
  • Butternut squash skin is very easy to eat, along with any other “thin-skinned” squash.  For the thicker skinned varieties, like pumpkin, you can scrape as much of the flesh from the skin as possible and then roast the skin and turn it into chips. Cut the skin into 2- to 3-inch pieces, toss with olive oil and salt. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, keeping a close eye to ensure the chips do not burn.
  • Although we must admit we’ve never tried this ourselves, some people will eat the “stringy bits” from the inside of a squash like they would eat zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash.

For a succulent squash dish to include the skin, you could try our Chicken Squash Salad – a tasty recipe that is easy to prepare. If you want to take it a step further, we love adding pistachios too!

Cauliflower

If you’ve never eaten the dark green leaves encompassing your cauliflower, you’re missing out on something pretty special; namely, calcium!  Cauliflower leaves are one of the highest sources of calcium from vegetables. They are also rich in iron and fiber. Foods high in calcium and iron provide for healthy bones, better immunity and the high fiber content aids digestion and keeps the gut healthy. A 100g serving of cauliflower leaves has approximately 600mg of calcium.

Cauliflower Preparation

How to Roast Cauliflower Leaves

To prepare the leaves, trim off the woody ends of the stem, give the leaves a quick wash, and then throw them in a bowl or plastic bag with some oil and spices. We highly recommend dill and garlic powder. Place the oiled leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 400°F until they darken and get crispy, about 15 minutes.  If you leave them a bit longer, you’ll get chips that are very similar to kale chips.

Tips for Serving Cauliflower Leaves

From there, choose your own roasted cauliflower leaf adventure. Mix the leaves with florets or other roasted veggies as a side to your main meal. Serve under a juicy piece of meat, or fish, or even cauliflower steak. Toss immediately with herbs, nuts, and dressing for a warm salad. Just make sure you eat them while they’re hot (or warm).

Sweet Potatoes

edible-sweet-potato-leavesSweet potatoes are the root of a plant.  And that plant has edible leaves. In fact, you can easily sprout your sweet potato and harvest its leaves all winter long.

It’s fairly easy to do. Poke your organic sweet potato with toothpicks and submerge half of the root into the water. Change the water every couple of days.  In a couple of weeks, your potato will sprout roots. Once the sweet potato has a fair number of roots, it will start to sprout on the dry side and produce leaves.  You can harvest these leaves right from here or, to keep cultivating them, you can plant your sweet potato in potting soil. Sweet potato leaves are a great source of fiber, vitamin A and surprisingly, protein.  

Important!
Do not do this with regular “white” potatoes.  Their leaves are NOT edible and can make you sick.

Watermelon
nutrition-rind-watermelon

Watermelon is cucumber’s cousin.  And although the flesh reminds us of hot summer days, the rind of the watermelon is just as healthy!  In fact, not only does the rind contain plenty of health-promoting and blood-building chlorophyll, but the rind actually contains more beneficial amino acids than the pink flesh. The primary amino acid, citrulline, is important for heart health and maintaining your immune system.  You can use the rind any way you would use cucumber. Actually, the green flesh just before the rind tastes almost the same. Cut it for salads, try it in smoothies or you can even pickle it!

Most people tend to buy the seedless watermelon but black watermelon seeds are actually very healthy.  They contain iron, zinc, protein, and fiber. In case you were wondering, seedless watermelons aren’t genetically modified, they are the result of hybridization.

What about broccoli tops or celery leaves?

eat-celery-leaves
Greens or TopsLeavesStemsStalksPeelsOther

Fruit or vegetable: carrots, beets, turnips

Culinary use: Saute or use in green smoothies.  Great in pestos.

Fruit or vegetable: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, celery

Culinary use: Flavor and garnish salads and soups; substitute for cabbage

Fruit or vegetable: chard, kale, collards

Culinary use: Braise or saute

Fruit or vegetable: broccoli, asparagus ends

Culinary use: Grated for slaw; sliced into coins or cut into dipping sticks. (Peeling the stalk will enhance its sweetness)

Fruit or vegetable: potato, citrus

Culinary use: Bake potato peels for snacks; use citrus for zest or try it candied

The stringy brown stuff on the top of corn can be dried and then used to make a potassium-rich tea.

What about edible flowers?

blossom-citrus-plant-edible
Allium
All blossoms from the allium family (leeks, chives, garlic, garlic chives) are edible and flavorful! Flavors run the gamut from delicate leek to robust garlic. Every part of these plants is edible.
Arugula
Blossoms are small with dark centers and with a peppery flavor much like the leaves. They range in color from white to yellow with dark purple streaks.
Basil
Blossoms come in a variety of colors, from white to pink to lavender; flavor is similar to the leaves but milder.
Carnations
Petals are sweet, once trimmed away from the base. The blossoms taste like their sweet, perfumed aroma.
Cilantro
Like the leaves, people either love the blossoms or hate them. The flowers share the grassy flavor of the herb. Use them fresh as they lose their charm when heated.
Citrus
orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, kumquat
Citrus blossoms are sweet and highly scented. Use frugally or they will over-perfume a dish.
Clover
Flowers are sweet with a hint of licorice.
Mint
The flowers are — surprise! — minty. Their intensity varies among varieties.
Oregano
The flowers are a pretty, subtle version of the leaf.
Radish
Remove the white, bitter base and the remaining petals have a strongly perfumed flavor perfect for floating in drinks or scattering across desserts, and for a variety of jams. All roses are edible, with a flavor more pronounced in darker varieties.
Sage
Blossoms have a subtle flavor similar to the leaves.
Squash & Pumpkin
Blossoms from both are wonderful vehicles for stuffing, each having a slight squash flavor. Remove stamens before using.
Sunflower
Petals can be eaten, and the bud can be steamed like an artichoke.

There’s something about eating the “uneaten” part of the vegetables that just makes you feel like a food guru.  Not only are you honoring the whole food, but you are also gaining nutrition and eating in a way that most people don’t. Take some time in the next few weeks to enjoy the last crops of your local farmer’s market.  Take home the scraps that no one else will take and try a new way of eating from “nose-to-tail”.

If you loved this article, you might also enjoy Why Superfoods? – a rundown of the lesser-known foods labeled “superfoods” and why they’re so amazing!


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