A professional gardener’s guide to growing food at home
Dream job alert!
Hands up if you knew that Australian households toss out five bags of groceries each year…
When you think about all the celery leaves, prawn heads, and bread that earn a one-way trip to the bin each week, it sadly makes sense; but there is a way to combat unintentional food waste.
Say it with us: “If I can eat most of it, I can use all of it.”
By no means should you eat a chicken bone out of spite, instead, make a broth! Or if you’re about to pour that ho-hum shiraz down the sink, take note from local food blogger/avid home cook, Amanda Mapp (aka @brisbane_foodie): “If there’s ever a bottle of wine I don’t love, I freeze the remainder in jars to use in cooking (a tip that’s also great for half-tins of coconut milk).”
Besides making a risky wine purchase appear less intimidating, Amanda is also an advocate for utilising leftover produce. “I can never get through a whole bunch of celery, so I freeze sofrito for easy cooking! Simply dice brown onions, celery, and carrots, and freeze in snap bags. When you’re ready to use it, add olive oil in a pot straight from frozen, then sauté all the water out until browned, and continue APU with your ragu/casserole/soup,” she says.
While you’re there, make room in the freezer for your new favourite seafood addition! Shellfish is a premium ingredient that Dan Miletic from One Fish Two Fish loves as much as you do, but do any of us really know what to do with the scooped-out shells?
Dan recommends freezing the shells if you don’t have a use for them right away. When the time is right, pop them out and create a stock (this can easily be frozen again in ice-cube trays to use at a later date).
“There are other things that can be made which will up your home cooking game!” says Dan, and we’re all ears.
“Shellfish oil is perfect to drizzle on a risotto or a simple pasta, shellfish butter can be used in a hollandaise for something a bit different, and shellfish powder is most often used as a seasoning for cooking fish.”
If the goal is making things last to avoid wastage, pickling deserves a mention, too! Callum Gray, from the soon-to-open Agnes (yes, the place doing the donuts and cheesecakes atm), says pickling and preserving is “a great way to add a new dimension of flavour to your food, and is so much easier than people realise.”
If you’ve bought too much fresh produce but can’t bear to see it turned to landfill, pickling (whole or pieces) is an easy and delicious solution. Callum’s go-to pickling liquid is an easy 3:2:1 ratio of water:vinegar:sugar, to which you could add flavours like peppercorns, mustard seeds, or cinnamon sticks.
Much like pickling, fermenting is a simple way to use excess produce that might be intimidating to some. Callum says it’s as easy as cleaning and prepping produce, and keeping it in 4% of its weight in salt until it tastes good!
“Autumn and winter vege like pumpkin and persimmon take to fermenting really well,” he says. “Fermenting will change the texture of your vege, so it’s best to start with something a bit firmer.”
If you rarely whip up anything beyond the likes of sandwiches, there are still ways to fight food waste in the kitchen. According to food rescue organisation OzHarvest, the top five wasted foods are everyday ingredients including bread, bagged salad, potatoes, bananas, and meat. Be a household hero by saving as much as you can with these tasty tips.
Think twice before you toss, and feel all the better for it!