Food waste is a massive problem around the globe and you have likely contributed in some way. Tossed out old fruit in the back of your fridge? Thrown out half eaten plates of food? Your food choices and habits can affect both your health and the environment.
Zero-waste cooking has become a light at the end of this tunnel in this crisis. Zero-waste cooking means that no foods get left behind in the kitchen. Chefs share tips on how to reduce waste in the kitchen.
Nondyebo Mgoboza, known as Chef Gee, from Bertha House in Mowbray, believes that wasting food means wasting the energy and water that went into producing fresh produce. She prefers to cook her vegetables without peeling to lock in those good nutrients that come for peels.
“After completing a permaculture course, I realize there is no need to discard anything, including eggshells, bones, vegetable peels, vegetable stems,” she says.
According to Mgoboza, food scraps are a kitchen treasure and can be used to create other meals, including stocks. She says if you are preparing meaty boneless meals in the kitchen, discarding bones is a waste, those bones can be used to make delectable soups and even stocks, which can be frozen for later use. Some peels and scraps can even be used in smoothies, and seeds can be replanted in the garden she adds.
‘Edible plants all around us‘
Jane Nshuti is a plant-based African food educator and also the founder of Tamu by Jane. She believes that there is no solidarity when it comes to sharing information about our foods. Nshuti is also the head chef at Bertha House.
Nshuti says that when her family moved from Rwanda to South Africa in 1999, they lived in Mpumalanga, Kanyamazane. She discovered a bush brimming with amaranth plants one day, and they were maturing. “To our surprise, it appeared that no one had harvested them or even knew about their nutritional value,” she says.
The next day, the entire family decided to go into the bush and collect amaranth leaves to add to ground peanuts for a taste at home. As people passed by, they appeared perplexed by the fact that the Nshuti family was harvesting unknown plants in the forest. She adds that some people inquired as to the purpose of these plants. They were astonished when they were informed that they would be served for supper.
How to avoid food waste
Some nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, can be found in food scraps, according to celebrity chef Siphokazi Mdlankomo, but nothing that is rotten or expired should be consumed.
“Rather than discarding potato skins, roast or deep-fry them to make potato chips.”
Soon-to-perish vegetables should be chopped, placed in plastic freezer bags, and frozen for later use, she advises.
She suggests that in order to stop food wastage, people should routinely divide and store vegetables in freezer bags, so that when they are pressed for time, they can simply take ready peeled vegetable bags from the freezer and defrost them.
“We can reduce food waste by adding leftover vegetables such as carrots, baby marrow, fruits, butternut, and spinach to bread dough when making vegetable bread, pies, or muffins.”
She recommends cutting stale bread into cubes and baking them to make croutons for soups. Or place the stale bread in a blender, blend it into breadcrumbs, and freeze the mixture for chicken or fish schnitzel.
Therefore, she asserts that almost everything can be recycled in the kitchen.