The root-to-shoot method helps make the most of every ingredient
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Cooking root to shoot is a practice that is rooted in many cultures—French, Italian, Scottish, Chinese and even in India. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations one third of the food produced is wasted every year. With such an alarming figure and a global food crisis on the rise, the practice of using all parts of an ingredient is a need of the hour.

Ayurveda practice also talks about food being treated as medicine for the body and to consume it in a responsible, says Diwaker Badoli, Executive Sous Chef at Ananda in the Himalayas. So, no more discarding stalks, heads of broccoli and lopping off carrot heads. Get the best of your produce by eating more of it without causing wastage.

Back to basics
“Cooking root to shoot ensures that we utilize the nutrients in the stems and peels of the fruits and vegetables too. Normally, we throw away these important parts of the fruit, also binning all those nutrients, ” Dr Raghubansh Singh, Senior Ayurvedic Physician, Ananda in the Himalayas. Being methodical with you produce can help a great deal on the path to sustainable living.

Badoli shares his kitchen tips:

  • Make budgets before purchasing and stick to a budget.
  • Try to buy fresh vegetables and fruits on daily basis to avoid over stocking and wastage.
  • Buy vegetables with stalks, roots, leaves in the form they grow, a good way to ensure freshness of vegetables as these parts wilt first.
  • Store peels or trimming of vegetables in a box in refrigerator and use it to make stocks.
  • Left over trimmings or unused cuts of vegetables can be cooked for pets instead of throwing in bin.
  • Practice FIFO (first in first out) theory with your refrigerator.

Be innovative
The idea of cooking with every part of doesn’t just encourage mindful cooking. Cooking root to stem encourages you to be creative and utilize everything from peels to stalks, stems and even leaves and flowers,” says Singh. Instead of using standard chickpeas, replace them with chard stalks to make hummus. Unused cuts such as broccoli and chard stems can be pickled for later use, says Badoli.

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Health quotient
“Ayurveda—the holistic healing system believes that food is one of the most important parts of better health,” shares Singh. This means that every part of a food item be it a fruit or vegetable has essential nutrients. Greens—such as broccoli leaves, celery stalk and radish greens are the most versatile components—as they add not just add vibrancy but nutrients as well. You could use much ignore radish greens to make pesto—just blend the washed and dried radish tops, with three cloves, half a lemon, and 1/3 cup of olive oil, some salt and pepper.

Love kale chips but don’t want to burn a hole in your wallet? Instead try turning Broccoli leaves into chips—set the oven to 175 degrees Celsius, cut off the leaves, sprinkle with salt and olive and bake till crisp.

Fringe benefits
Eat your fruits and vegetables with the peel intact. When we eat an apple, we have a tendency to peel it and discard out of habit or to reduce exposure to pesticides. “However, removing the peel may result in removing one of the most nutrient-rich parts of the plant,” shares Singh. An apple (with skin) a day really keeps the doctor away: Singh says: “A raw apple with skin contains up to 332% more vitamin K, 142% more vitamin A, 115% more vitamin C, 20% more calcium and up to 19% more potassium than a peeled apple”.  “Vegetable peels also contain significantly more fibre and antioxidants. For instance, up to 31% of the total amount of fibre in a vegetable can be found in its skin,” he adds. Don’t take the skins off of a potato. “While, a boiled potato with skin can contain up to 175% more vitamin C, 115% more potassium, 111% more folate and 110% more magnesium and phosphorus than a peeled one,” adds Singh.

Prep the parts
Shoots, carrot heads, carrot greens, chards may taste a little different than what we are used to. For instance, shoots are usually bitter so have to be blanched first before cooking. “Carrot heads are best roasted or blanched to make spreads, while cauliflower and broccoli stalks should be peeled and blanched before used in stir-fried dishes,” shares Badoli. Fruits can also be prepped.  Raw banana skins are best to make fritters and apple peels can be used to make jams, adds Badoli. If you’re wondering what to do with the dark parts of Romaine lettuce that have no crunch while are loaded with nutrients, Tara Duggan, author of Root-to-Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable cooks with them in soup with peas. Zucchini heads, asparagus stalks, and broccoli stocks are also great for making soup. Don’t know what to do with tomato skins? Badoli also recommends frying them for garnishing.

Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

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