Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Food Issues: Watching The Waste

Waste is a big deal. Think about everything that goes into your food. The water it takes the crops to grow, fertilizer, perhaps pesticides, labour, transport, packaging, storage, the electricity the lights the shops and runs the fridges so you can buy it. It's a big effort. It costs you money and time to stock your fridge and cook your food. It's great to have a well stocked pantry and fridge, especially if you are food obsessed like me, but not to trow things away before they get a chance to be delicious.

There are plenty of ways you can look at what you are eating, cooking and buying to minimise food waste but what I want to talk about is imperfection. If you have grown food or bought from small organic places you may have noticed something. Not all food looks supermarket perfect. Shocking I know. According to supermarkets we'll only eat the most perfect looking food. We may be so confused by a small broccoli or a carrot with legs we wouldn't know what it is. It would terrify us. Or not.

Feeling Green? Try Swiss Chard and Green Olives

Volunteering at Occombe I often get to take home vegetables that are too ugly to sell like leafy greens with massive holes in them or courgettes grown too big to be a delicate treat. One of my favourite ways to eat this garden waste is to cook some pasta and toss the vegetables with it. It works after a long day of volunteering and makes even the most hole filled piece of chard look fab. It's also great to clear out your leftover bits and bobs. Think of it as cupboard pasta remixed with a little fresh veg.  Here be a rough guide. Pick things from each category and go for it.

Anything Pasta
(serves... whatever) 

80-100g of pasta per person (depending on how much of everything else you put in)
extra virgin olive oil

And Anything, Especially From The Following:

Tomatoes, best de-seeded, halved and cooked until the skin blisters or add raw at the end
Peppers, diced and cooked until slightly softened
Onions, cramalized or diced and lightly cooked
Chard, shredded and cooked until slightly wilted, if you are using stems they take longer
Perpetual Spinach, as with chard
True Spinach, cooked until slightly wilted or added raw at the end
French beans
Runner Beans

Sun dried tomatoes
Roasted red pepper
TVP Peperoni


1. Cook the pasta

2. While said pasta is cooking heat about three tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and cook the rest of the ingredients too you liking

3. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the frying pan

4. Toss the pasta with everything and season to your liking
Feeling Red? Try TVP peperoni, roasted red peppers and fresh cherry tomatoes

So that is my hidiously rough guide to feeding yourself quickly with things that taste great but don't look it. So go out and buy, or otherwise acquire the imperfect vegetables. Don't let them be relegated to the compost heap, or the bin, when they will be fabulous on your plate. Use them in everything. Give yourself permission to experiment with whatever comes your way.

And if you think I've missed anything that you would throw into random pasta dishes then post in the comments.


  1. I heard recently that the apples you buy at the grocery store are FOURTEEN months old! Isn't that disgusting??? I don't even want to know what makes them stick around that long... What a great post! And the part about carrot with legs--I brought a funny looking carrot into work and the ladies are STILL talking about it in disgust. REALLY??? I love this post. I could talk all day about this stuff :)

  2. Thanks! I think I've met those ladies you worked with, they are probably the same ladies who pulled a face when I offered them salad grown on my balcony.

    Depending on the variety apples can store really well. Which means if the right varieties are grown you can have a year round supply of natives.

    But by fourteen months the new crop should have come in right? I doubt God knows how supermarkets decide these things...

  3. Wow, you HAVE met those ladies! ha. Scrunching their faces when I eat purple lettuce. What? Lettuce can be purple! And I didn't know about the apples--thanks for that. I still wanna hate grocery stores though, so I will... haha. P.S. I want to come over for a salad grown off your balcony! In fact, I wanna see a pic of that :)