Reduce food waste with these cooking tips and leaf-to-root recipes that use the whole vegetable, including broccoli stems, carrots tops, kale ribs, beet greens and more.
The average American household wastes about $2,000 worth of food a year. Fighting food waste sounds smart, right? What it doesn’t sound: delicious. That’s where this use-the-whole-veg, root-to-leaf cooking approach comes in. Here are some smart ways to make the most of your vegetable bounty. 100% outrageously good food. Zero waste.
1. Broccoli Stems
Broccoli florets usually take center stage, but the hard stems cook up to be delicious and tender, too, perfect as a side or a base for your dish. Here, spiralized broccoli stems transform into tender “noodles” in this lo mein–inspired dish. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a vegetable peeler to make long strips.
You can also eat broccoli stems:
Mashed with butter
Sautéed with garlic
Shredded into slaw
Stir-fried with oyster sauce
2. Carrot Tops
Yes! You can eat carrot tops. Use them just as you would any herb. Pro tip: When you buy untrimmed carrots, cut off the tops and store separately or they’ll draw moisture from the carrots.
You can also eat carrot tops:
Added to green sauces, such as chimichurri
Fried to make crisp garnishes
Added to salads
Chopped into tabbouleh
Tossed with parsley, oranges and red onion
3. Leek Tops
Recipes usually tell you to discard the dark green leek tops. Show them some love! Cooking them a bit longer makes them meltingly delicious. They’re also high in fructans, a type of prebiotic fiber that contributes to good gut health.
You can also try leek tops:
Sautéed with sesame oil and peanuts
Roasted under a chicken
Caramelized into onion jam
Stir-fried with celery, pork and cashews
Added with other onions to French onion soup
4. Kale Ribs
Think kale ribs are too tough to eat? Think again. After a good charring in the skillet, kale stems add a tender-crisp bite and touch of smokiness.
Try kale ribs:
Roasted with balsamic vinegar and tossed with Parmesan cheese
Wrapped with prosciutto and baked
Baked into a quiche
On top of a pizza
5. Cauliflower Stems
Love cauliflower rice? Get the most out of your head. Dice the ribs and cut the greens into slivers and throw them in. Because they’re thicker, the ribs take a little more time, so cook in oil for 2 to 3 minutes before you add in the rest of your “rice” and the leaves.
Other ways to enjoy cauliflower stems:
Pureed with leeks to make a creamy soup
Steamed and pureed with roasted garlic
Roasted with olive oil and rosemary
Spiralized and roasted, served with aioli
6. Collard Stalks
Woody collard stalks just need a little extra prep to show their softer side. For instance, a quick pickling turns collard stems from trash to a treasure, adding a pleasant tang to these leaf-wrapped spring rolls.
Some more ways to enjoy collard stalks:
Sautéed with bacon and cider vinegar
Stir-fried with fish sauce and lime juice
Braised with white wine and herbs
Added to an omelet
Added to split pea soup
7. Beet Greens
The entire beet plant—roots, stems and greens—is edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. In this stunning appetizer, the beets are roasted then pureed with goat cheese for a creamy ruby-red spread. The greens and stems are sautéed with olive oil and garlic for the topping.
Some more ways to enjoy beet greens:
Tossed in a salad with cooked beets
Sliced up for a veggie slaw
Sautéed with olive oil and garlic
Added to borscht