Fruit and vegetable scrap recipes and cooking techniques that cut waste and boost flavor

I pick up a butternut squash in my left hand and pull a peeler across its curves with my right, letting the ribbons drop to the cutting board. I switch to my sharp cook’s knife and hack the squash in half lengthwise, then scrape out the seeds and stringy pulp with a spoon. After chopping the bright orange flesh, I swoop the results of my work into two piles: cubes on the right, everything else on the left.

[Kicking your paper towel habit is easier than you think]

On one side, it’s raw food, destined for the oven; on the other, detritus, destined for the compost bin.

As I consider a drumbeat of statistics about the world’s food-waste crisis, however, the line between those two piles has started to blur. These days, I look for ways to cook the whole vegetable (or fruit) from skin to seeds — and to perhaps redefine the very idea of “scraps” along the way.

The stakes are high: According to a report from the United Nations issued in March, in 2019 households worldwide discarded 11 percent of the food they bought, with food services wasting 5 percent and retail outlets 2 percent. That adds up to a staggering 930 million metric tons of uneaten food, enough to load up more than 23 million 40-ton trucks. Food waste accounts for 8 to 10 percent of global greenhouse emissions, but perhaps most strikingly it occurs against the stark backdrop of hunger, experienced by some 690 million people worldwide in 2019.

In a news release announcing the report’s findings, Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, put it succinctly: “Reducing food waste would cut greenhouse gas emissions, slow the destruction of nature through land conversion and pollution, enhance the availability of food and thus reduce hunger and save money at a time of global recession.”

Plenty of strategies can help you reduce food waste at home, starting with cooking more of what you already have before shopping, keeping an inventory and storing food properly to prevent spoilage. But once you’re at your cutting board, it’s worth also looking for ways to use a higher proportion of the produce you buy — by putting peels and stems and seeds to work as valuable ingredients unto themselves.

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