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This Trick Makes It So Easy To Eat (And Enjoy!) All Your Food Scraps

Emma Loewe
January 21, 2019
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
Image by Hung Quach / Stocksy
January 21, 2019

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 sharing a tip that'll cut down on your food waste.

During a recent mbg potluck lunch, the hype for my contribution was real.

Not to brag, but verses of "Wow, this is so beautiful" harmonized a chorus of "I can't wait to try this!" as we gathered around the counter. When one co-worker turned to me and said that my beautiful creation reminded her of a bouquet of flowers, I couldn't help but think that I had duped everyone.

This dish wasn't some elaborate keto dessert or avant-garde avocado burger. It had taken less than five minutes, minimal knife skills, and probably $2.50 to make. Oh, and it involved food scraps.

The problem: too many veggies, too little time to make them.

As anyone trying to live a healthier life will tell you, I've been known to go a little gung-ho in the produce department—piling my cart high with whatever loose (I'm trying to avoid plastic) veggies and fruits catch my eye that day. I always think I can somehow sneak them into a stew or blend them into my smoothie before they go bad, but alas, my eyes are almost always bigger than my stomach. And then comes the inevitable wave of guilt over not using up every last morsel of food and playing into the massive waste problem we have on our hands in this country.

Then, last year, I stumbled upon a little secret that has helped me tremendously in the food scraps department: Everything tastes good pickled.

The "one small thing" solution: Pickle them.

That "dish" I brought in for the potluck was nothing more than a jar of quick-pickled red onion and green beans. A bright, refreshing, not to mention gut-friendly addition to any salad, burger, or bowl, pickled fruits and veggies are as versatile as they are easy.

To make them, I start with a Mason jar filled with a cup of water, a cup of apple cider vinegar, and about 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt. Depending on what I'm cooking that week, I'll then throw in that half of an onion I didn't use or carrot stems I was just going to throw away. From there, I've been known to go crazy and add different seasonings based on the time of year (ginger and garlic are yummy immunity boosters for these winter months), cravings (sometimes I want to dye my food orange with turmeric), or current fridge status (it's so hard to use up entire herb bundles, so I'll throw those in too).

And then, I throw it in the fridge and wait. Sometimes as little as one night, sometimes a couple of days—but I usually cut things off at a month. The resulting brew is flavorful, healthy, and just about the most foolproof way I can think of to force myself to eat something that would have otherwise gone uneaten.

Though my quick-pickling habit might not stop climate change or shift the culinary scene as we know it, it is a nice reminder to myself that there are plenty of ways to avoid waste—some of which also happen to be delicious. I encourage you to play sustainable scientist in the kitchen too. Who knows, you might just develop a pickled pineapple with cayenne and cilantro addiction come summertime.

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Emma Loewe author page.
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.