Did you know that we waste over $160 billion in food each year? The most recent report from The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that these billions of dollars equal about 141 trillion calories going uneaten every year! The term “food waste” is defined as an edible item that goes unconsumed; for instance a grocery store throwing away a perfectly good zucchini because it is misshapen or bruised, or a consumer tossing out food that was left on their plate instead of boxing it up for later. According to the USDA, some of the most commonly wasted foods include meat, poultry, fish, produce, and dairy products. This makes sense, as these items are the most perishable and must be kept at a certain temperature to keep from spoiling. Food waste isn’t just a problem because of the dollars that are being tossed in the trash by way of moldy fruit…it’s actually taking a toll on the health of our environment. Food production is an environmentally costly process. It requires water, fuel, and precious land, as well as potent fertilizers, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals required to manage our food supply. Cutting back on the amount of food we waste can help reduce our impact on the environment.
As consumers there are many things we can do to reduce our own food waste. For example, buy only what you intend to eat (even a sale item is expensive if it ends up in the trash can), learn proper storage techniques for different food items, rotate foods in your fridge and cupboards so that the first to expire is the first one used, and reuse leftovers in creative ways. Fruits and vegetables are so commonly forgotten in the produce drawer, instead chop them and keep them in visible glass containers, or simply freeze produce you know you aren’t going to eat in time, then add them to smoothies later!
Another way to reduce food waste of produce is to think a little more like your ancestors. Your depression-era grandparents grew up using, reusing, recycling, and taking advantage of every last scrap of nutrition their food could offer them. We commonly fall victim to a generational attitude that certain parts of the food are to be eaten, and we toss aside the rest. Amazingly, some of the “less popular” parts of plants are edible, and quite nutritious! For example, the leaves of radishes and beets can be eaten, as well as the leaves on celery stalks! The entire green onion can be used, not just the green parts. Animal bones can be boiled for stocks and soups, and even rinds can be used! Yes, watermelon rinds!
Watermelon rinds are usually removed from the sweet, pink flesh and thrown away without a second thought. However, you can actually do a lot with that fleshy, white rind. The rind is rich in electrolytes, flavorless, and is quite versatile. Here are some ideas of how to use the “less popular” part of summer’s most popular fruit!
1. Try pickled rinds
Don’t knock pickled watermelon rinds until you’ve tried them! Simply peel off the green skin with a vegetable peeler, chop the white rind into bite sized pieces, then boil for 4 minutes in salted water. You’ll then add a little vinegar, sugar, and extra pickling spice for more flavor if desired. Your watermelon pickles will stay good for a few weeks if kept in an airtight bottle in the fridge. Check out a more detailed recipe by searching online if you need more guidance!
2. Make a fruity Salsa
Forget store-bought salsa, and be the star of the next picnic potluck with this dish! Pickled watermelon rinds can make a delicious summer salsa with the addition of few star players. Combine a finely chopped sweet onion, a few jalapeno peppers, and a little balsamic vinegar and lemon juice with your jar of pickled watermelon rinds. Season with a pinch of garlic salt, and you have a delicious and unique chip topper!
3. For a refreshing twist on coleslaw
Skip the indigestion and replace raw cabbage with raw watermelon rind. Remove the green skin then shred the white rind with a cheese grater or food processor. Season your slaw with a little rice vinegar, oil, salt, and a pinch of sugar for sweetness. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving so that the flavors can fully combine. This dish is delicious served alongside a summer barbeque!
4. Add a crunch to your stir-fry
If you’re a fan of crunchy water chestnuts in your stir fry, you’re going to love this use for rinds. After you’ve made your favorite stir-fry recipe, toss in a few peeled and cubed pieces of watermelon rind. The flavorless rind will instantly soak up the flavors of the stir-fry and add a little crisp, crunchy texture to your dish!
5. Use you watermelon as a bowl
You may not actually eat this bowl, but it’s a great way to repurpose a part of the fruit that usually just takes up space in the garbage can. By using the outer shell of a watermelon, you can create an attractive centerpiece to fill will salads, salsa’s, chopped fruit, punch, or even smoothie bowls (for mini-watermelons especially). Simply hollow out the pink flesh and scrape away as much of the white rind as you like then fill! Refrigerate until filling and the rind will help keep your food cold a little longer!
So give watermelon rinds a place on your table this summer, you’ll save money, help the environment, and be sure to impress your friends. Once you start getting creative with watermelon rinds, who knows what new uses you can find for repurposing your produce next!
About the Contributor:
Hayley is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, a part-time yoga teacher, and full-time mother. She has always been passionate about health and empowering others to make healthy living a little easier. She has worked as a health coach, fitness instructor, nutrition writer, and recipe developer. She is passionate about delicious food and making “healthy” taste good. She loves trying new recipes, eating Thai food, paddle-board yoga, and hiking in her home state of Montana. She hopes to inspire others to eat closely to the way that nature intended, capitalizing on the amazing benefits of whole, unprocessed foods. Follow her posts on @hayleyharrisnutrition for nutrition advice and delicious recipes!
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