Ferment Your Food Scraps

Reduce food waste by turning it into flavorful ferments that’ll add exciting new depths to your culinary craft.

Photo by Getty Images/UliU

Today’s supermarkets and grocery stores paint a vivid picture of constant abundance. Many fruits and vegetables can be found year-round, regularly shipped in from other countries during off seasons. Meat, a resource-intensive protein that’s been a luxury for many throughout history, is piled high in refrigerated cases, neatly encased in packaging that ensures it bears no resemblance to the living creature it came from.

This sense of abundance, however, is simply a veneer: That year-round produce comes with a huge environmental footprint through shipping and packaging, along with the toll of unethical labor practices that can be found on large-scale farms. Our modern-day grocery store habits have another impact as well: Bright, inviting stores with overflowing bins of produce encourage us to buy more than we need. While the convenience of a supermarket is something we can all appreciate, this model ultimately disconnects us from our food and where it comes from, and overbuying leads to a lot of items landing in a trash can instead of our stomachs.

Our Trashy Secret

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines food waste as food that reaches its final destination — either retail markets, food service providers, or the consumer — in the desired quality, but is then discarded instead of consumed. Food loss, on the other hand, refers to losses that occur throughout the supply chain.

Although food waste isn’t new, the staggering amount of waste we currently contend with is truly a modern phenomenon, both in terms of the food itself and the packaging it comes in. (We see examples of our ancestors trying to reduce waste too. Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife, published in 1615, includes examples of reducing waste by reuse in cooking or feeding scraps to livestock.)

The 2018 study “Relationship Between Food Waste, Diet Quality, and Environmental Sustainability,” published in the journal PLOS One, reports that Americans waste about 1 pound of food per person per day. What are we throwing away? According to the study, fruits and vegetables, central to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, are the most wasted foods. In fact, fresh produce accounts for 35 to 40 percent of the food discarded in American households. And it isn’t just food that’s gone bad, either. Much of what we waste is peels, stems, and other usable parts. Perhaps most frustratingly, whole fruits and vegetables will be chucked in the bin if they aren’t attractive enough.



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