There IS such a thing as Free Lunch, if you already bought it once..
by Wyzyrd, Editor-at-large
My apologies to the late Mr. Robert Heinlein for misusing this famous “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (TANSTAAFL) ” from his novel, “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress”. (If there is a sign that says “Free Lunch” at the bar, the drinks are going to be more expensive.)
Hopefully, we are all using as much fresh produce and meats as possible in our diets, both for taste and for health reasons. Again, hopefully, all the “kitchen waste” (aside from the meat scraps, which attract rats and other pests) end up in your compost pile, and back into your garden soil, next season. Here are a couple intermediate steps between cutting board and compost pile that can save you money, and generate some ‘free food’ for you and your family.
If you pull or purchase green onions/scallions for your kitchen, “sacrifice” getting to eat the bottom ½ -3/4 inch of the white root end (with as many roots intact as possible). Just plant them in a pot, or back in the ground, with the tips just protruding above the soil. About 95% of them will sprout again and give you a second crop, ‘for free’. If you trim the green part of the leaf vs. pulling, they will keep producing all season. Depending on location, they may even overwinter and produce larger ‘spring onions’. A couple that I planted last summer are producing flower/seedheads this year.
Most supermarket onions are not dried sufficiently to really store all winter. If you end up with some in the fall that are just on the edge of going soft (e.g. a 20lb bag that I bought for a chili cookoff that got cancelled because of a tropical storm), peel them, leaving the roots intact, and plant them. Water, mulch and ignore until Spring. You’ll get some wonderful tender spring onions, that only require pulling, hosing off and tossing, greens and all, on a hot charcoal grill. Delicious. There are apparently towns in rural Spain that have Spring festivals based solely on cooking and eating these (with Romesco sauce and a lot of red wine – info via Anthony Bourdain ).
Sometimes, you have a few garlic cloves that end up falling to the bottom of the basket, and drying out too much for cooking purposes. Soak them in water overnight, and plant. I find about 40-50% will sprout. The young, green garlic sprouts are delicious, and if you leave them in the ground, you get a new bulb.
Celery is NOT easy to grow, so I’ll assume it comes from the grocery store :) Cut off about 2 inches of the white root end. Cook with the rest :). Cut an “X” about 1/4” deep in the root end, and place upright in a bowl with about 1 inch of clean water, and place in a well-lit location. Change the water every couple days. In a couple weeks, you should have a 4-6 inch tall new plant, with decent roots. Cut away all the brown yukky-looking old stem material (there WILL be brown yukky-looking old stems) but leave roots intact. Plant in a sunny spot and water . Celery is extremely ‘picky’, so I usually cut them back when pretty small (8-10 inches), and cook the young, tender leafy stalks. If luck is with you, about 1 in 10 plants will sprout again. If you’re a Jedi gardener, you could end up with a whole new bunch, and a celery root (celeriac) to eat.
Free Freezer Feast
(note: originally published (by me) in a different form as “Garbage Soup” on “The Survival Mom” (http://www.thesurvivalmom.com) website
If you cook, you end up with a lot of compostable veggie scraps. Carrot peels, onion skins and roots, tater peels, parsley stems, bell pepper cores, woody broccoli stems, cabbage cores, etc. You probably also end up with a lot of chicken carcasses, beef and pork bones, fat, shrimp shells, etc. that you DON’T want to compost, unless you really like rats and possums as neighbors.
Here’s a pre-compost pile step to consider: Put ’em all in zip bags, squeeze out most of the air, and stash ’em in your freezer. When you have a couple big bags of “waste” veggie material, dump them into a big stockpot, cover with water, add some black peppercorns, an extra onion (don’t toss the papery skins, unless you make your own dyes, they add great color), some garlic, and your fresh herbs of choice. Bring to a boil, reduce to heavy simmer and let it go about 3-4 hours. (DON’T add salt now – please believe me, and go light on broccoli/cabbage/bell peppers/tater peels – they can overwhelm everything else- unless you’re planning on broccoli or potato soup…. You’re the cook – taste it and see what you like.).
Strain out the cooked veg, cool a bit, and compost. If you have a “hot” compost pile, the cooked veggie mess will break down almost before your eyes. You can freeze or can the vegetable stock at this point.
If you want a protein stock, thaw your chicken bones, skin and fat, or shrimp shells or bones, or whatever, brown the heck out of them in a pan with a little oil, add to the hot veggie stock and simmer another 3-4 hours. Strain out the meat scraps/bones and skim excess fat, then freeze, can or just make soup now :)
This is “bassackwards” from classical stock-making, but you don’t want meat, bones fat, etc in your compost pile. Pretty tasty for something that is made out of water, and stuff that is taking a detour on the way to the compost pile or the dumpster :)
We’re all in this together.
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