Here's How To Use Every Part Of Your Fruits & Veggies!

Have you been throwing away your beet greens, watermelon rinds, and broccoli stems? Did you know they are not only nutritious but also delicious? If you'd like to give minimal waste cooking a try, here are some ideas on how to use those overlooked parts of your produce!

Video Transcript

JUNE XIE: All right, guys. Let's talk about food waste. Did you know that households in the US are responsible for the largest portion of food waste, clocking in at 76 billion pounds a year? Oh yeah, that's a lot. That weighs as much as 2 and 1/2 million city buses, or about 840,000 airplanes, or 8 million elephants. According to the FDA, about a third of all food produced is wasted at the consumer and retail level.

Today I'm going to be showing you guys how to use all of these produce from start to finish, including its tops and greens, its stems and rinds, and even its seeds and skin. Even if your produce looks less than stellar, there are ways to revive it and use it that's suited for its condition.

You've got a recipe that calls for carrot root. But what about the greens? You got a recipe that calls for broccoli florets. But what about these gorgeous stems? And that big juicy watermelon that's coming your way this summer? Well, you know how to use a fruit. But what about the rind? Do you ever use the rind? Because you can. And I'm going to show you how.

Same thing with radish and beet tops. We always use the bottom portions. But what about these lovely greens? Guys, we can use this. Anything that we can't use that's just a little too far gone can go straight into our compost bin. So it won't be necessarily zero waste per se, but it'll be darn close to it.

First up, broccoli. These things are perfect roasted, stir-fried, steamed, and souped. But what about these guys? I know you have lots of recipes for the tops. But the stems-- how do you use them? They can often be intimidating, because they look a little gnarly, very fibrous, and they can be very tough.

But as long as you trim away the ends and the outermost parts and get rid of that tough fiber, the inside is tender, creamy, sweet, crunchy, and so good in everything that you use these for. Once you have these things peeled you can also stir-fry them, roast them, steam them, or soup them. Use them as you would the florets. They're super tender and super delicious. One of my favorite ways to use it-- make some veggie noodles out of these.

First thing we're going to do with the broccoli is rinse it well. You want to make sure all of the grit is out so that you have a clean vegetable to work with. Next up, you're going to dry them off. Shake it, shake it, shake it. And then you're going to peel off the fibrous ends.

Now, once you have the fiber ends peeled off, save them. Yes, they are usable. You can actually make a veggie broth out of them, which we will be doing with a lot of our peels today. I like to trim the florets off from the rest of the stem and process them differently. For the florets, I'm just going to chunk them into bite-sized pieces and I'm going to store them in a container until I'm ready to use them.

For the stems, I'm going to trim off the end where it's tough. And then I can either use a peeler or a knife to peel away this outer bark of sorts. Now, if you see, there's a ring here. Inside the ring is tender. Outside the ring is tough and fibrous. So you want to make sure that you're peeling the skin until it reveals that tender inside, where it's crunchy enough and sweet enough that you can even eat it raw. You'll start to see this very nicely light green color. And the chalky white parts are the fibrous parts. So you want to keep peeling until you reveal this nice jade looking surface.

If you're wondering about broccoli leaves, yes, they are edible. They're just basically like tiny, tiny baby kale. In fact, broccoli and kale are in the same family, the cruciferous veggies, and they have a very similar flavor.

Once you have your peeled broccoli stems, you can go ahead and peel them into tiny little thin noodles. Or you can knife slice them for chunkier, thicker noods. Broccoli stems are actually really nice and tender and sweet, and you can even eat them raw as a part of a salad.

Or you can do what I like to do, which is plop them in a pot with a little bit of water and let them steam until they're just softened enough. And then we're going to toss them in a sauce of peanut butter, sriracha, a little bit of vinegar, a little bit of toasted sesame oil, a little bit of spice and seasoning. Mix, mix, mix, toss, toss, toss-- peanut sauce broccoli stem noodles with just a little bit of spice. Just like cooking pasta, you'll want to season your boiling water a little bit.

Because the noodles are fairly thin and skinny, they won't take very long at all to cook, maybe just two minutes. You want to make sure that they're getting tossed in the water evenly and that they turn a nice tender green. I only use a little bit of water, because there's no point in boiling a whole pot of water just to cook a little bit of broccoli noodles.

As soon as it starts smelling a little bit more like broccoli and the color looks really delicate, it's time to fish them out. And now that we have this delicious-looking veggie noodle broth, we're going to keep adding water and the rest of our veggie peels and scraps to it to make some veggie broth. You can make veggie broth with basically any vegetable trimmings-- onion skins, roots, ends, carrot peels, parsley roots and ends. Lovely. Just make sure that you're rinsing everything completely well and that there's no grit remaining.

And once you bring it up to a boil and you let it simmer for maybe about an hour, an hour and a half, all of the vegetable flavors will come together and give you a medley of flavors. Depending on the vegetables that you put into your broth, the color will be different. The smell will be different. And of course, the taste will be different. So it's all up to you. Go ahead, have fun with it. Experiment.

To loosen your dressing, just go ahead and add a little bit of water and stir it in. Cold water works best in this case. Depending on how saucy you like your noodle, go ahead and just mix in as much of that dressing as you want. If you feel like being fancy, go ahead and add in some sesame seeds for topping, as well as some chopped green onions.

How does it taste? Well, crunchy, nutty, spicy, sweet-- and above all, nearly zero waste and super nutritious.

Now, if you have some broccoli that's starting to look like it's yellowing and you're like, oh, I don't know if this is still good, you're fine. As long as there's no visible mold and there's no white fuzziness or dark green sludginess, this broccoli is still good. What happens when the broccoli gets a little bit yellow here is that it turns a little bit bitter. My favorite thing to do with yellowing florets is to roast them, because roasting at a high temperature in the oven crisps them and caramelizes the edges a little bit. It's bringing that bitterness into a more nutty territory.

All you need to roast the perfect veggies is to turn your oven to 375. And then you're going to coat your broccoli florets in a little bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatever else seasoning you want going on. These little stem ends that were too stubby to turn into noodles, I'm also going to throw in with our florets and roast them. Any way you cook your florets in, you can also cook your stems in. Give them a nice big toss and make sure that everything is evenly coated and seasoned.

You want to make sure that every one is spread out on the sheet tray so that they all bake evenly and they get a chance to crisp up nicely. And depending on the size of your florets, it may take anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour. Probably not an hour, though. Just keep an eye on it.

I like to set a timer. Check in at 20 minutes. Give them a flip. Observe how they're cooking. If you've never had roasted broccoli leaf, you're missing out. Now, obviously, once they're roasted and delicious, you can eat them straight. You can eat them in a salad. You can eat them with rice. You can eat them with whatever. My favorite way, though, is to pair them with cheese.

What I like to do is take a slice of cheese, put it in my cast iron skillet, let it melt, put some roasted broccoli on top, and wait for that cheese that turn into a cracker. And then you have a broccoli cheese cracker. This is the perfect vegetable snack that you can feel good about and enjoy eating, crunching down all the same.

When it comes to watermelon, we all love to eat it during the summer. But what do you do with the rind, especially that tender white part that's not quite sweet but also not quite trash? First things first, in order to eat the rind you're going to have to give it a nice good rinse. After you get your choice trimmings for your sweet watermelon treats for the summertime, keep your rinds.

Now, out of a 14-pound watermelon that I got, I yielded about six pounds of just rind. So let's do something with this, huh? That's about half of the watermelon. There are two things you can do with watermelon rind. One I grew up with-- my mom wood trim off the dark green parts, sliver the remaining tender white parts, and stir fry it. It kind of tastes a little bit like cooked cucumber, and it's absolutely savory and delicious.

The second method is to pickle them. Also trim away the green parts, because they can be a little fibrous. Just a little tad. And then you can make your hot solution. Admittedly, most watermelons sold today are seedless, so there's not a lot of seeds. But if you do have seeds, you can go ahead and roast them like you would pumpkin seeds.

Some recipes do use this dark green rind. But for me, it's just a little-- well, depends on your watermelon, of course. But most of them are a little bit too fibrous. This one is actually not bad. Whoa.

If you do end up with ones that are way more fibrous than this, go ahead and trim off the dark green piece. I recommend using a sharp knife to slice between that white part and the dark green part so that you get all of that fibrous toughness out. Of course, you don't have to cook this. You can just snack on it. It's crisp. It's refreshing. Chewable water.

Once your dark green peel is off, go ahead and slice your pieces to whatever size and shape you desire. For me, the perfect sauce to toss this in is a sweet and sour sauce. So we're going to go ahead and stir fry these into sweet and sour watermelon rind. I'm going to bust out my cast iron pan, put a little bit of oil in there. And then I'm going to toast up some of my garlic and my ginger, just a little bit until they're golden.

Once the garlic and ginger is toasty, we're going to fish them out. We're going to pour in our scrambled eggs. We're going to let them cook until mostly set, and then we're going to remove the eggs too. I'm going to put a touch more oil in there, and then we're going to go in with our watermelon rind. For an extra bit of color, we're also going to go in with a little bit of chopped carrot, as well as a little bit chopped broccoli stems. See? They really can't be everywhere.

Once our veggies are a little bit softened, I'm going to go in with some soy sauce, a little bit of rice wine vinegar, a little bit of sriracha, a little bit of brown sugar, and we're going to toss, toss, toss until everything's nice and glazy.

We're going to go in with some spices. Whatever you want is fine. Black pepper, perfect. We're going to go in with a little bit of our revived scallions. And then we're going to toss in just a little bit of toasted sesame oil. This goes in at the very end so that you don't burn that oil and you don't have any nasty flavors in your stir fry.

You can top that all with some sesame seeds. Or if you really want extra credit, go ahead and pan roast these watermelon seeds until they're nice and crackly, and then top your dish with that. You can use watermelon rind in almost any stir fry as a substitute for cucumber or bell pepper. It just won't be quite as flavorful as those two, but it still adds a little nice crunch.

I also like to chunk them up and put them in soups-- nice, hearty bean-y soups with maybe a little bit of chicken broth. Just spice it well. The world is yours.

It smells savory. It smells beautiful. It looks beautiful. There's a nice little glaze on top of our watermelon rind. Oh yeah. That sweet and sour profile is just perfect with this texture. A little bit of crunchiness, a little bit of fruitiness, a lot of savory, a tiny bit of spice Oh man. Oh my. Mm-hmm.

For our pickles, we're going to take a heat-proof jar and we're going to slide our sliced carrots and our sliced watermelon rind in there. Go ahead and give your jar a couple of taps on the bottom to settle all of the vegetables so that they're nice and compact. We're going to take a small pot, and we're going to heat up our brine.

The brine can be whatever you like. You can use any brine for any pickle with the watermelon rind. It really doesn't matter. For me, I'm going to go with a little bit of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, a little bit of sriracha, as well as some brown sugar and black pepper. And we're just going to bring it up to a simmer.

Once it's nice and hot, we're going to slide that liquid straight into the jar slowly, making sure that it's covering the brim of the vegetables. Give it a couple of good shakes. Make sure every single bit of vegetable is being covered in that delicious brine marinade, and you're set to let this rest in the fridge for overnight up to, I don't know, probably two weeks. But these won't last that long. If you find yourself with just way too much rind to eat, well, you can always just have a snack. Put a little bit of light seasoning on there and just have at it, guys.

Whether it be herbs or carrot tops that look really sad and limpy, the best way to revive them is in cold water. I like to rinse them clean and then soak them in an ice bath until they perk up. Just give it some time. Sometimes it takes 30 minutes, 40 minutes. But they'll come back to life.

I cannot stress enough the importance of rinsing your beet tops, your radish tops, your carrot tops really well. Grit gets trapped in there, because keep in mind, these are root vegetables, and they did come out of the dirt. So inevitably, there will be grit. You want to make sure you're shaking it, you're massaging it, and you're loosening up all of that dirtiness.

I'd also like to recommend that you rinse them at least three times. The first time is just a rough wash. The second time, you can get into it a little bit more. And the third time, you want to observe the water. Is it completely grit-free on the bottom? Yes. If it is, good to go.

When it comes to carrots, my favorite way to cook them is roasted. Easy. Olive oil, salt and spices, toss it in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes until they're nice and caramelized and nice and tender. If they look pretty clean, I don't even peel them sometimes. But when I do peel them, I save the peels for my veggie stock.

And then you're left with these beautiful greens. They smell fragrant they smell almost a little bit like green onions and dill and parsley had a baby. And while you can eat them, they're a little bit fuzzy and a little bit fibrous. I find that the best way to use them up is to make some pesto.

I go ahead and I separate the carrots from their tops. I trim away that little bit between the carrot and the tops that are a little bit gritty, and I throw that away into my compost bin. For the rest, we've got a plan.

For our pesto, we're going to take our carrot tops, we're going to roughly chop them, and then we're going to put it in a food processor with some garlic, a little bit of herbs if we have them, a little bit of nuts, toasted-- any kind-- and a little bit of parm for that added umami. We're going to salt and pepper to taste. We're going to let it grind until it's tiny, tiny, tiny little textured pieces of nuts and herbs.

Pro tip-- if you want to grow some free scallions, make sure you save about an inch off of your root end, and then go ahead and repot it in some soil. It will grow. Towards the end, you're going to drizzle in some olive oil until that pesto is the desired consistency. The pesto pairs wonderfully with the carrots for a delicious, savory bite that has all the carrot, all the nutrition, and all the color.

If you're looking to cook your greens instead of eating them raw, you certainly can do that too. One of the best ways to do that is stir fry or braise. I like to take my leaves, chop them up into bite-sized pieces. I'm going to oil my skillet, put a little bit of garlic, maybe a little bit of sausage. Let those get nice and toasty and golden, and then I dump in all of my greens and stir, stir, stir until it wilts. After that, you cook it until you think it's cooked to your desired consistency. Season it with a little bit of salt, pepper, whatever else you've got, and that's your greens.

The key here is to not think of them as a byproduct or wastage. The key here is to look at them like their ingredients, because they are. We just don't tend to use them very much, but they're perfectly edible. This looks so good. I don't even want to plate it. Let's just-- you can dig right in.

We've got garlic. We've got meaty sausage. We got some nice beet greens well-seasoned with radish greens. And this, this is a complete meal, y'all. I hope you enjoyed cooking along with me today to figure out how to use every part of everything. And if you have more tips for us, please write it down in the comments below and share the wealth.

Thank you so much for tuning in. We'll see you next time. And let me know what secrets are there for zero-waste cooking.