Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Working Towards Zero Food Waste

By some estimates, half of all U.S. food is wasted. For my part, I want to make sure I'm doing everything I can to keep food out of the waste stream. It's sacred stuff we're talking about here--food, sustainer of life. We shouldn't be treating it so casually.

I do pretty well, but there are still blind spots. I've been composting for years, so not much escapes the property. Food scraps get turned into compost which gets turned into more food next year in the garden. But the other night I discovered a small blind spot. I was making butternut squash soup from this year's bounty of squash. As I scooped out the seedy pulp and was about to toss it into the bin for compost (as I've done in the past) it occurred to me, Why am I not saving these seeds for toasting or sprouting? Until now I've been mindlessly composting them, which is a little silly since I'm careful not to let weed seeds into the compost bin, but had never worried about vegetable seeds. And I had always saved pumpkin seeds for toasting. I just never made the leap to saving seeds from the other winter squashes.

So, instead of sending them out to the compost, this time I toasted them and saved them for snacking on. This last bit of nutrition, that I'd been sending out to rot, now gets put to an even better use.

Blind spots are so interesting and so hard to explain. As time goes by I realize I have way more of them than I ever would have guessed. But I only know that after the fact, when something has jolted me into awareness.


  1. Hi Melanie
    Not sure if you know this already - you're pretty knowledgeable! - but squashes and pumpkins seem the least understood vegetables, a lot of people seem to think pumpkins are for Halloween and nothing else, while others use the pulp for soup and seeds for snacks but ignore the rest. I used to peel them, then cut the flesh up to cook, but recently discovered that the outer peel, which seems so tough and unusable when fresh, softens when baked with a little oil and garlic [if you like], so now I chop up the whole of it into large chunks, thus no waste!
    From being a vegetable I could never see the point of, it's become a favourite. Seems such a waste to put a candle in it and spoil good food.

  2. Peter,
    I'd discovered that the skins of my butternut squashes were tender and edible when oven-roasted, but I wouldn't have guessed that pumpkin rinds softened up enough to be edible. Thanks for the tip!

    I agree, the mounds of pumpkins with rotting jack-o-lantern faces you see each October--what a waste!
    I like traditions, I think they're important, but why not limit the jack-o-lantern madness to just one per family. Around here people set out mountains of them. Is the madness that great in the UK?