Worldwide, one in nine people (that's 795 million) doesn't have access to enough food, yet one-third of all food produced is wasted or lost every year, equating to about 1.43 billion tons (1.3 billion metric tons) of otherwise edible goodness.
One way to make a dent in this daunting waste statistic is to use more or all parts of fruits and vegetables, rather than tossing them in the trash. Let's revisit some of the most discarded parts of well-loved fruits and vegetables to see how we can reclaim them.
Broccoli Stems and Leaves
Broccoli florets get most of the love, while the stalks and leaves are cast by the wayside. "We often focus on the florets, which is where a higher concentration of phytochemicals are (including beta carotene), but the stalks are very nutritious as well," registered dietitian and nutritionist Colene Stoernell explains in an email interview. "Actually, the stems contain slightly more calcium, iron, protein, magnesium, Vitamin C and omega-3s."
So how do you cook them? "You can slice the stalks into coins, toss in olive oil and seasonings like garlic, salt, pepper, and roast for a side dish or shred them and add to stir fry or make a slaw," recommends Atlanta-based registered dietitian nutritionist Marisa Moore in an email.
But as unloved as the stalks are, the leaves are the real black sheep of the broccoli family. Imperfect Produce is a service that delivers produce deemed too "ugly" for conventional grocery store shelves directly to people who care less about appearance as they do nutritional value. The group is currently trying to encourage the sourcing and sale of broccoli leaves, which are wasted by the tons because people don't realize there's a use for them; therefore stores don't want to stock them. Imperfect Produce's Reilly Brock likens this to being "as wasteful as a raising a cow, slaughtering it, and only using the filet mignon." Much like collards or kale, broccoli leaves can be roasted, sautéed, used in a stir-fry even blended into smoothies for added nutritional kick.
Carrots are broadly celebrated as an antioxidant-rich root veggie, but the orange portion wrongfully gets all the accolades while the leafy tops of carrots are largely and unfortunately ignored.
"This nutrient-dense foliage contains six times more vitamin C than the root, and they are a stellar source of vitamin A, K, and dietary fiber," explains Michigan-based hobby farm manager and health writer Lydia Noyes in an email. Not sure how to incorporate carrot tops into your menu? "You can use the tops to add texture to your salad or boost the nutritional content of your smoothie," she says. "It's also possible to use them as a basil substitute for a creamy pesto."
You've probably always eaten around the core, but it turns out that the entire apple is not only ripe for the picking, it's also good for the eating (except for the tiny stem at the top). Even the seeds are edible, despite the long-held myth that they're poisonous when chewed because the amygdalin within turns into hydrogen cyanide when crushed. However, you'd have to eat a lot more than just a few simple seeds to experience any ill effects.
Also, resist the urge to take the skin off before eating or baking those apples. "Aside from being where the most vitamins [live] (in the colored peels), this is the source of fiber that helps maintain blood sugar for several hours after eating," emails New York City-based nutritionist Rachel Fine.
When you remove the skin of the kiwi to enjoy the soft fruit inside, you're actually depriving yourself of the fruit's full power. "Try eating this tiny green fruit as you would an apple — skin on! This will not only give your digestive health a boost with an extra dose of dietary fiber, but it will also give your body an extra dose of vitamin C," says registered dietitian nutritionist Maya Bach in an email. "Dice one or two and mix into your favorite yogurt."
If you thought the kiwi recommendation was strange, get ready to have your world rocked. You can actually eat the watermelon rind! "Though it's common to eat out the sweet center and toss the green rind, the watermelon exterior can be a decadent treat if you know how to prepare it," says Noyes. "I recommend making watermelon rind pickles for a sweet-yet-savory dish to dress up your summer party spread. Best of all, the rind's citrulline content has proven benefits for reducing your blood pressure and might improve your workout results."
The peels of oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes and mandarins are occasionally used in recipes, but are mostly tossed out. "The zest and peel of citrus is one of the most nutrient packed parts of the fruit. Peels and zest are rich in phytochemicals and concentrated vitamin C that can help bolster immune function this cold and flu season," says St. Louis-based registered dietician Laura Morton in an email.
She suggests making the most of these flavorful fruits by adding zests to smoothies, muffins, marinades and sauces. Or, steep a citrus peel in hot water with mint leaves to produce a hot or iced tea with extra vitamins and minerals.