This Gut-Healing Ingredient Tastes Kinda Gross — But This Tweak Makes It Delicious
The U.N. warned us: We have 12 years before the damage we've done to the Earth becomes irreversible. Instead of letting reports like this paralyze us, let's use them to empower us. The experts are saying it's going to take a mix of large-scale change AND individual action to save our planet—and we want to help you do what you can. Consider our new series your no-excuses guide to cleaning up your act, one step at a time. Today, we're heading to the kitchen to serve up a simple (and super-healthy) way to cut down on your food waste.
If you want to know how you can become a more eco-friendly consumer, you don't need to look further than your trash can. After all, once you recognize what you're constantly throwing away, you can start looking for ways to use less of it. Chances are, two common stars of your trash pile are food odds and ends and plastic packaging. Today's tip will tackle both!
The problem: 1.4 BILLION tons of food is wasted every year.
The amount of food that's grown only to end up in a landfill is pretty staggering. In developing countries, most food is wasted before it ever makes it to a plate (it goes bad on the farm or spoils on the way to a retailer), but in developed nations like the United States, our kitchen habits are to blame. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 50 percent of seafood, 48 percent of fruits and vegetables, and 38 percent of grains in the United States are tossed in the trash, oftentimes with the plastic packaging that they came in. Reducing the amount of food you throw away will save you money and time at the grocery store and guilt. Think of it like a game: Every week, challenge yourself to find a new way to use one ingredient you'd otherwise toss, like asparagus stalks or potato peels.
The "This One Thing" solution: Cut food waste in your own kitchen by infusing your vinegars.
Get started with this tip straight from Cooking With Scraps, a new book by food writer and sustainability buff Lindsay-Jean Hard. Check out her recipes for dialing up the flavor of vinegar, the wellness world's favorite gut-healing ingredient, and read the rest of the book for more creative ways to use healthy food scraps in your cooking routine:
It couldn't be easier to make your own flavored versions of this pantry staple: Take your flavoring agent, place it in a jar, cover with vinegar (my default is white wine vinegar), and let them hang out until the vinegar is properly infused (check this by tasting it: Some blends might need only one week; others might need three). Strain the vinegar, transfer it to a clean glass container with a lid, and store in a cupboard or other cool, dark place. Vinegar has an indefinite shelf life, but since it's possible everything might not get strained out of yours, plan for a three-month life span (though it could last longer). Flavored vinegars are lovely in vinaigrettes or sprinkled on any dish that could use livening up.
Herb Scrap Vinegar
Make herb-infused vinegars with lingering herbs on their last legs or the stems from woody herbs like thyme or rosemary. I tend to stick to one herb at a time, but feel free to go crazy and make your own herb blends.
Fruit Scrap Vinegar
Try making fruity vinegars with your fruit scraps: strawberry tops in champagne vinegar, orange peels in apple cider vinegar, little nubs of ginger in either.
Chive Blossom Vinegar
I was introduced to this vinegar thanks to Marisa McClellan’s blog, Food in Jars. My love for this vinegar necessitated the addition of chives to my garden, so I'd always have a supply of blossoms. If you don't grow your own, pick up an extra bunch at the farmers market—you'll want enough to make some vinegar for yourself and some to give as gifts.
Ingredients (makes 1 jar)
- Chive blossoms (at least 1 medium-size bundle, but I like to put in as many as I can get my hands on)
- White wine vinegar or other light-colored vinegar, like distilled or champagne vinegar (see Step 2)
- Put your chive blossoms in a jar. Pick a container that you can fill at least halfway with blossoms—I go even farther and fill mine two-thirds to three-quarters full of blossoms. Use a container with a wide enough neck that the blossoms will easily come back out—I use glass canning jars, from half-pint up to quart-size, depending on how many blossoms I have.
- Fill your jar with vinegar. You want to stick with a clear or light-colored vinegar, so you don't miss out on the delicate purple color the blossoms will impart. You can use either a single type of vinegar or a blend. I generally do a mix of part white wine vinegar and part distilled vinegar, but I'm also partial to a blend of mostly distilled vinegar with a small amount of ume plum vinegar.
- Let your jar hang out in a cupboard (or other cool, dry place) for a week or two (stick to two weeks if your jar is only half full of blossoms), then strain the vinegar, discard the blossoms, and transfer the vinegar to a new jar.
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