Have you looked in your fridge lately? What food items do you discard most often? Do you have any vegetables or herbs that might be a little past their prime? In the United States, nearly half of all food produced is never eaten; about half of that comes from households, consists of fruits and vegetables, and adds up to about $150 a month wasted. Just because a fruit or vegetable isn’t perfect or might be riper than we prefer, that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe or inedible. Often, our first thought is to discard it into the garbage, but are there other options?
I love to go to the farmer’s market on the weekend and get excited about all of the fresh produce available. I buy it, stick it in the drawers in the fridge, look up recipes with the best intentions of making something yummy. Then life happens, and those best-laid plans and recipes never make it to the table, but the food remains in the fridge. As a result, this week, I had zucchini, eggplant, bok choy, carrots, radishes, and cilantro that had “seen better days” but still had some life left. This has happened more than I would like to admit, but it has forced me to be creative and find alternative ways to utilize the food that I have on hand in an effort to save it from the garbage or compost bin.
If you also find yourself in this situation, there are several yummy second-chance options that will allow you to use less than perfect produce. My favorite is a fritter because it is so versatile and can be adapted to meet a variety of dietary needs.
The basics of this 2, 1, ½, ¼, or “descending recipe” are chop/shred/dice vegetables; add egg, cheese, spices, and optional flour; mix well. Form into patties or pour the entire mixture into the bottom of a hot greased pan using your favorite oil or butter. Cook until done on both sides, or place in the oven on 350 °F for 20 minutes or until done.
2 cups chopped/diced/shredded veggies
1 cup cheese
½ cup flour or flour alternative (not required)
¼ tablespoon each of 4 spices to meet the flavors you desire
Oil or butter for pan-frying/baking
Sour cream or Greek yogurt or other sauce for dipping
Green veggie for garnish- parsley, chives, green onion, cilantro
Place ingredients into the bowl and mix well, place in well-greased pan and cook until crispy on both sides, top with your favorite dipping sauce or salsa.
This week, I made a Latin-inspired fritter using cumin, garlic, chili powder, salt, and Colby-Jack cheese topped with Greek yogurt and parsley, but there are endless possibilities. You can make a fritter to meet your taste, no matter what the mood. Before you toss your veggies in the garbage or compost, I encourage you to experiment with flavors and spices; give your veggies a second chance.
For more information, see HGIC 3877, Food Waste.