11 January 2011

15 wickedly nifty, eco-friendly ways to recycle fruit & veggie scraps

1) Most of us already know that the peel of just about any citrus fruit can be transformed into a tangy candied confection and then dipped into dark chocolate to boost its glam-factor. Rinds of all sorts can also be pickled for a lip-smacking treat that truly does make the most of the whole kit-n-kaboodle – just try to stick with organically grown produce or vigorously scrub any conventional versions with white vinegar, baking soda and water.

2) Add citrus or apple peel to a container of woefully rock-hard brown sugar and be amazed the next day when you are able to scoop to your heart’s content, no muscle-flexing necessary.

3) Leftover vegetable trimmings from organically grown carrots, potatoes, celery, broccoli and other crunchy goodies can become the foundation for a human-friendly soup, stew, or pet-friendly addition to regular mealtime fare.

4) For a zippy culinary twist, use a vegetable peeler to remove pith-free sections of any tangerine, orange, lime or lemon. Allow the pieces to air dry and then add them to your next Asian-inspired stir fry dish, plunge them (while still fresh) into various types of plain alcohol, olive oil and vinegar for sensational gourmet infusions or make your own flavoring extracts. Even better – enhance the effectiveness of your homemade white-vinegar-based cleaner with a little citrus boost.

5) Organic potato skins can (and should) be transformed into a nutrient-rich snack by tossing them with olive oil and seasonings before baking them in the oven at 400 degrees until they are crispy -- all the good stuff is in the exterior!

6) Those with a penchant for delving into creative projects can turn fruit and vegetable scraps into homemade biodegradable paper.

7) Impart a citrus punch to your normal cuppa tea – just place thoroughly scrubbed, organic peels in a pot of water along with your tea leaves of choice, bring to a rolling boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

8) Use citrus peels as naturally biodegradable, individual serving-sized bowls for party-worthy snacks, salads and desserts or beverage cups for your homemade fruit-based punches or full-throttle liquorious libations. At the end of your soiree, be sure to chop up the leftover peels thoroughly before adding them to your compost pile so they can break down at relatively the same rate as your other black-gold destined goodies.

9) Citrus skins possess the surprising ability to restore the gleam to non-ferrous metals such as copper and brass due to their naturally high level of acidity. Boost their cleansing power by sprinkling a bit of baking soda on prior to rubbing – and don’t forget to try this natural scrubbing powerhouse on your dingy stainless steel kitchen sink, too.

10) Allow orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit peels to air dry and then use them as fragrant kindling for your next winter fire. (Ditto for apple peels, although you might use the antioxidant-rich skin and cores in a batch of homemade jam, instead.)

11) Live close to a zoo, nature preserve, pet store or other animal dwelling? Don’t you think that most critters would appreciate your produce cast asides? Your child’s favorite pet rodent shouldn’t be forgotten, either.

12) While the white pithy interior of a banana skin is hardly tasty, it yields delicious results when used as a natural tooth whitener, household plant fertilizer and creamy silver polishing agent.

13) Got a green thumb and a soft spot for Mother Nature? Then save your bucks by starting this season’s veggie seeds in the comfort of your own home using naturally biodegradable fruit and veggie skin ‘pots’ rather than purchased plastic versions. Consider the merits of hollowed-out citrus halves, avocado skins, and pretty much anything with a durable exterior (especially winter squash…once you remove the mellow yellow insides, of course).

14) Break the mainstream air freshener habit – many brands are loaded with toxic chemicals that actually pollute indoor air, anyway – and instead simmer fruit peels on your stovetop in water for a naturally uplifting scent.

15) When in doubt, create succulently a-peeling art ;)

Elizah Leigh | @elizahleigh
Elizah Leigh's master's degree in education combined with her passion for the written word and deep-seated interest in environmental issues has proven to be the ideal trifecta for her present status as a green journalist. Currently commissioned to write a reference book on vegetarianism, Elizah hopes to inspire people through her words. Follow Elizah on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/zendritic