Six ways to use the stems, skins and tops of fruits and veggies

Don't throw away those scraps! There are lots of ways to use the parts of fruits and vegetables that you might think are headed for the compost bin.

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Most stems, skins and even leafy tops of fruits and veggies are loaded with fibre and nutrients, but too often, people just toss them out. You may not realize it, but these parts usually carry even more nutrients than the fruit or vegetable themselves — particularly the roots, which gather extra nutrition from being in the soil. If you are going out of your way to buy beautiful, fresh, maybe even local and organic produce, then why waste a quarter to half of it? Unless you are composting, you are just getting rid of essential nutrients that could be benefit your health.

For vegetables such as kale, collards, parsley and Swiss chard, don’t get rid of those precious stems. The skin of most fruits and vegetables — such as apples, oranges, potatoes, squashes and even kiwi — contain antioxidants, fibre and other health-promoting properties. And then there are the tops of vegetables like beets, carrots, or any other vegetable that sprout a leaf or anything green. These tops are full of vibrancy and nutrients, so don’t just cut them away. They are useful and can be a great contribution to your diet.

Depending on the type of fruit or vegetable — whether it’s a leafy green or root veggie — there are different uses for their “scrap” parts.

How and why to use the skins, stems and tops
1. Stems make a great stir-fry base: Add in broccoli and Swiss chard stems at the beginning, along with your onions and celery, to give them time to soften and absorb lots of flavour.

2. Use stems as the base for a soup stock: This is a way to make use of the stems of collard greens, kale, and parsley. Let them infuse in your water for an hour or so, and then remove. They will leech all of their nutrients into your soup stock.

3. The skins of citrus fruits contain bioflavonoids:
These bioflavonoids are amazing antioxidants. Use the zest of an orange when baking cookies and muffins, or add it to your yogurt.

4. Put them through your juicer: You can do this with the stems of any fruits or vegetables that you’d like to use, from collards, kale, broccoli and chard to carrots, beets and apples.

5. Bake your potatoes and squash with the skins on: Potato skins have potassium, iron and vitamin C.

6. Keep greens on the side:  Sauté tops of beets and stems of Swiss chard to make a tasty and colourful side dish. Beet root tops are loaded with calcium, magnesium and iron.

Garlicky green stem sauté

3 cloves of garlic
2 large bunches of whole beet root tops and Swiss chard
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Fold green leaves in half lengthwise and cut away the leaf from the inner ribs or stem.

2. Chop up the stems into small pieces and set aside.

3. Pile five or six leaves on top of one another, and roll into a tight roll.

4. Starting at the top and cutting across the leaves, slice the leaves into needle thin strips.

5. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.

6. Add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds.

7. Add the stems, season with salt and pepper, and saute for five minutes or until soft.

8. Add in the green leaves and cook until they are bright green and are just short of their wilting point.

Do you know any recipes using fruit or veggie scraps? Please share here!

Marni Wasserman is a culinary nutritionist in Toronto whose philosophy is stemmed around whole foods. She is dedicated to providing balanced lifestyle choices through natural foods. Using passion and experience, she strives to educate individuals on how everyday eating can be simple and delicious.