Friday, October 14, 2011

A Scrappy Plate: Vegetable Broth

My grandparents must have had vivid memories of "going without" during the Great Depression. They tended to squirrel away free napkins and ketchup packets from McDonald's to use with casual dinners. No screw, bolt, or twist-tie was thrown out. Junk mail and it's containing envelopes were saved for scrap paper, and gifts were unwrapped so carefully that the paper could be used again next year (if they had to be unwrapped at all - Nanny's technique was to wrap the box top only so it could be lifted off and the entire ensemble reused).  I remember these habits fondly.

What Happened?
American's attitudes regarding waste have changed dramatically in a mere two generations. According to the EPA, the U.S. sent 33 million tons (that's 66,000,000,000 pounds) of food to landfills in 2009.  This includes food we put on our plate but can't finish.  It's leftovers that spoil, fresh produce that isn't stored properly or used quickly enough, and it's also money.  Not eating the food you buy is literally throwing away your money. Most of us wouldn't pay for a new shirt and toss it, unworn, into the garbage two weeks later, but we are much more careless with food.

What Can We Do?
We can work on buying only what we need. Planning meals for the week in advance and having a list at the store can make a world of difference.  We can also practice storing vegetables and fruits so that they last longer.  Try putting them in an airy basket.  I have had success using green bags.  We can prepare food and freeze it before it goes bad if we find we have bought more than we can eat.  We can also repurpose would-be food waste and use it as compost.  Or, as I have recently discovered, we can sometimes use food waste to make new food.

Make Broth
I usually buy the quart-size low-sodium vegetable broth cartons at Trader Joe's, and I like to stock up (no pun intended) as winter - a.k.a. soup season - approaches.  Their list of ingredients is reasonable, but I wondered how homemade would compare. Dan and I were preparing a simple stir-fry, and I was also pre-chopping some carrots, celery, and parsnips for a dish later in the week so I had plenty of vegetable scraps handy.


The "ingredients" include:

- fresh (but limp) parsley that would have been thrown out otherwise
- ginger peel
- garlic skins and 1 odd-looking clove, smashed
- 3 bell pepper tops, stems, and seeds
- carrot ends and peel
- celery ends and leaves
- the skin and ends of a red onion
- parsnip ends and peel
- a handful of spinach that was about to go bad
- a handful of basil, oregano, and sage stalks from my herb garden
- 3 bay leaves
- a pinch of salt and pepper



The scraps themselves looked beautiful - so bright and colorful. I put them all in a pot, added enough water to cover them, and brought it to a boil.  Everything simmered for about an hour.  It smelled wonderful.  The broth turned out to also have a rich color and a very, very good taste.  The boiled vegetables will end up in our compost pile and used to nurture a garden in the Spring. I think Nanny and Poppop would be proud!

4 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this one.
    Dad

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  2. Thank you Dad! It was one of my favorites to write so far. We have used some of that broth already and it is really good!

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  3. A great idea! I think I will try this!

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  4. That's great! I'd love to know how it turns out. I've started freezing my veggie scraps and when I get a gallon freezer bag full I make broth. Just did it again last night and the house smelled awesome. :)

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