Editor’s note: This story was originally published on momaha’s sister site, LiveWellNebraska.com
• View a full list of area farmers markets
• Ways to save and use those scraps
• Recipes to try with your scraps
More in the Omavore blog: Veggies, root to tip
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By Sarah Baker Hansen
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
When Terra Hall tells her farmers market customers that she’d rather leave the tops on the beets they buy, she sometimes faces confused stares.
“They’ll just tell me to take those tops off, and I’ll tell them ‘No, you want those,’” said Hall, who runs Rhizosphere Farm. “I tell them to take those home and cook them and they will be amazing.”
Very few people who try it don’t like it, she said.
Hall’s advice is becoming more common. These days, there’s lots of focus on eating animals “nose-to-tail,” creating less waste and finding new uses for the parts of the animals that used to be tossed.
The same thing is happening with fruits and vegetables. The peels, stems and leaves now are finding a place on the table instead of in the trash.
Hall said when she and her husband, Matthew, started taking Rhizosphere produce to farmers markets around Omaha four years ago, offering unusual or unrecognizable vegetables was a risk.
“People didn’t want to take chances on something they didn’t know how to prepare,” she said.
But this year at the market, people are on the hunt for the unusual. Customers want to experiment.
She said Rhizosphere, in Waterloo near Elkhorn, has done well selling the strangest of vegetables, including kohlrabi, a member of the turnip family with an edible bulb and leaves.
“Kohlrabi almost doesn’t look real,” Hall said, laughing. “It’s so waxy and shiny.”
Kohlrabi can be eaten raw or cooked and added to soups, stews and stir-fries. If the leaves are separated from the bulb, they can be kept for up to four days. The bulbs will last around ten days.
Once people realize they can just slice the bulb and eat it raw, Hall said, it makes them more comfortable with trying something new.
“They end up really getting into it,” she said.
Danelle Myer, who runs One Farm out of Logan, Iowa, eats beet greens all the time and encourages her customers to do the same.
She roasts the beets and eats them with the skins on.
“I think the skin makes them taste earthier,” she said. “It gives it a more dirty beet flavor, which I like.”
She sautes the beet tops in a cast-iron skillet with a bit of hot oil and caramelized onion or garlic. She tosses the greens quickly with tongs, lets them wilt and then sprinkles them with salt, pepper and sometimes, balsamic vinegar.
Hall also suggests using the tender leaves at the top of a stalk of celery as part of a salad, a final addition to a pasta dish or even in a stir fry.
“They have a celery flavor that might be more powerful than the stalk,” she said, “but the leafiness melds into a lot of different kinds of dishes.”
Some of her customers have put carrot and radish tops on sandwiches instead of lettuce, or in addition to it.
“They add a real bite. The flavor is radishy and mustardy,” she said.
Both Myer and Hall said their customers look to maximize what they buy at the farmers market. But they’re also becoming more comfortable with “ugly” vegetables.
“People can just cut off the hole or the black spot and use the rest of the vegetable,” Myer said. “These days it’s more about diversity, not uniformity.”
This year, Hall said, some of the most popular vegetables have been unusual: purple carrots, black radishes, parsnips, turnips and daikon radishes.
Black radishes date back to ancient Egypt and are larger than traditional radishes. They have a coarse, soot-black skin and crisp, white flesh inside. They can be mild, medium or stingingly hot.
Hall said they can last for up to a month in the refrigerator. She eats them raw with olive oil, salt and pepper; stir-fries them; or roasts them like a beet.
Myer said if people are uncomfortable with using vegetable scraps or with buying unusual vegetables, they can start with an heirloom tomato.
“Once you become an heirloom tomato convert, you get it,” she said. “You stop caring what it looks like. You just know it’s going to taste good.”
Save and use those scraps:
Before you toss rinds, peels or tops of fruit and vegetables in the trash, consider using them in one of these creative ways:
>>Chop leaves from carrots, celery or fennel finely and mix with parsley for garnish, use in salsa and mix into salads. Make sure to taste for bitterness before mixing.
>> Take starchy potato peels and deep-fry large pieces in 350-degree oil to make chips. Sprinkle the finished chips with salt and paprika, or the spices of your choice.
>> Use peel from citrus fruit ground with a microplane grater to add acidity. The peels can also be oven-dried at 200 degrees and stored for use as seasoning later.
>> Watermelon rind pickles are nothing new. But the rind from any melon can be trimmed of the hard outside and used instead of cucumber in chilled soup or salad.
>> Cook the leaves from turnips, cauliflower or radishes in the same way you’d cook kale or other greens.
>> Steep the skin from peeled ginger root in water to make tea or use it to flavor a vinaigrette, but strain before serving.
>> After cutting the kernels from corn cobs, cook the cobs with onions to make stock, or add them to chowder to enrich the broth.
>> There are lots of uses for tomato scraps and leaves. Steep the leaves and stems for 10 minutes in soup or tomato sauce to bring a strong, garden-scented flavor. Strain the leaves before serving. Salt tomato scraps and place them in a mesh sieve to collect the juice to use for bloody marys or gazpacho.
Beet Greens with Bacon
4 slices bacon, chopped
4 scallions, sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
Cut greens off beets; discard stems and chop leaves. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until golden brown, 6 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate; pour off all but 1 teaspoon fat from skillet. Add scallions and cook until softened, 1 minute. In two batches, add beet leaves and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and stir in bacon. Serves 4. (Recipe courtesy Martha Stewart Living)
Roasted Radishes with Radish Greens
3 bunches small radishes with greens attached
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Trim the radishes and wash the greens; pat dry. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the radishes, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the radishes for 15 minutes, until crisp-tender. Return the skillet to the burner and stir in the butter to coat the radishes. Add the radish greens and cook over moderate heat until they are wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and season with salt. Serve the radishes right away. Serves 8. (Recipe courtesy Food and Wine magazine)
Bibb Lettuce and Celery-Leaf Salad
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
2 lb. Bibb lettuce (10 small heads), leaves separated
2 cups celery leaves (from 2 bunches celery; both top leaves and inner leaves from tender pale ribs)
Whisk together vinegar, shallot, salt and pepper in a small bowl, then add oils in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified. Toss lettuce and celery leaves with just enough vinaigrette to coat in a large bowl. Serves 10. (Recipe courtesy www.epicurious.com)
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