The crisis of food waste is a hot topic in the media. And rightly so. The quantifiable value of food waste in Canada is $31 billion per year, though the true value of food waste is much higher because it doesn’t occur in isolation (VCMI, 2014). When food is wasted, the energy, labour, water and other resources used to create and market that food are also lost.
When you consider where food is lost through the supply chain, in developed countries about 50% is thrown away once it reaches consumers – so once food is brought home. As shoppers what can we do about this unfortunate state of affairs?
Let’s use broccoli as an example.
Although broccoli looks like a sturdy vegetable, it is prone to spoiling – especially when wet. Maintain the freshness of your broccoli longer but storing unwashed broccoli loosely in a bag or a ventilated bag, in the crisper drawer of your fridge, for up to 5 days. It’s not recommended that the bag is air-tight because broccoli requires some air-flow to stay fresh.
Use all the parts of the broccoli! Did you know that broccoli has two edible parts? It’s true!
Many people believe that only broccoli florets are edible, so they throw out the stem. This is a shame because the truth is that broccoli stalks are not only edible and nutritious, but tasty too! They just need a tiny bit of preparation before you add them to your favourite dishes.
How to prepare broccoli stems
Use a sharp knife trim off the very bottom of the stalk, which may be dry and hard. The rest of the stalk is sweet and crisp, and can be enjoyed raw or cooked. If the outside of the stalk is a bit tough, you can peel it away with a sharp paring knife or a vegetable peeler.
If you plan on using the stalks and florets in the same dish, begin cooking the stalks 1 to 2 minutes before adding the florets, as the stalks take longer to cook.
How to cook broccoli stems
After trimming and peeling the stems, you can cut them into smaller pieces to enjoy them raw like a celery stick or add them to your favourite recipes. Try stir-fries with other vegetables, or sauté them before adding to omelets or frittatas. Steamed broccoli stems are delicious when dipped into butter, while raw broccoli stems are tasty with Caesar or ranch dressing. Broccoli stems can also be chopped finely for soups, or used in larger pieces for making stocks or broths.
Did you know?
Produce Made Simple feature member, Mann’s is an innovator with regard to food waste. They created the original Broccoli Cole Slaw 25 years ago (in 1991) to avoid wasting the stems from their fresh broccoli.