Reduce food waste with these cooking tips and leaf-to-root recipes that use the whole vegetable, including broccoli stems, carrots tops, kale ribs, beet greens and more.

Breana Killeen, EatingWell Test Kitchen Manager
March 20, 2018
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The average American household wastes about $2,000 worth of food a year. Fighting food waste sounds smart, right? What it doesn't sound: delicious. That's where this use-the-whole-veg, root-to-leaf cooking approach comes in. Here are some smart ways to make the most of your vegetable bounty. 100% outrageously good food. Zero waste.

1. Broccoli Stems

Broccoli florets usually take center stage, but the hard stems cook up to be delicious and tender, too, perfect as a side or a base for your dish. Here, spiralized broccoli stems transform into tender "noodles" in this lo mein–inspired dish. If you don't have a spiralizer, use a vegetable peeler to make long strips.

You can also eat broccoli stems:

  • Mashed with butter
  • Sautéed with garlic
  • Shredded into slaw
  • Stir-fried with oyster sauce

2. Carrot Tops

Yes! You can eat carrot tops. Use them just as you would any herb. Pro tip: When you buy untrimmed carrots, cut off the tops and store separately or they'll draw moisture from the carrots.

You can also eat carrot tops:

  • Added to green sauces, such as chimichurri
  • Fried to make crisp garnishes
  • Added to salads
  • Chopped into tabbouleh
  • Tossed with parsley, oranges and red onion

3. Leek Tops

Recipes usually tell you to discard the dark green leek tops. Show them some love! Cooking them a bit longer makes them meltingly delicious. They're also high in fructans, a type of prebiotic fiber that contributes to good gut health.

You can also try leek tops:

  • Sautéed with sesame oil and peanuts
  • Roasted under a chicken
  • Caramelized into onion jam
  • Stir-fried with celery, pork and cashews
  • Added with other onions to French onion soup

4. Kale Ribs

Think kale ribs are too tough to eat? Think again. After a good charring in the skillet, kale stems add a tender-crisp bite and touch of smokiness.

Try kale ribs:

  • Roasted with balsamic vinegar and tossed with Parmesan cheese
  • Wrapped with prosciutto and baked
  • Baked into a quiche
  • On top of a pizza

5. Cauliflower Stems

Love cauliflower rice? Get the most out of your head. Dice the ribs and cut the greens into slivers and throw them in. Because they're thicker, the ribs take a little more time, so cook in oil for 2 to 3 minutes before you add in the rest of your "rice" and the leaves.

Other ways to enjoy cauliflower stems:

  • Pureed with leeks to make a creamy soup
  • Steamed and pureed with roasted garlic
  • Roasted with olive oil and rosemary
  • Spiralized and roasted, served with aioli

6. Collard Stalks

Woody collard stalks just need a little extra prep to show their softer side. For instance, a quick pickling turns collard stems from trash to a treasure, adding a pleasant tang to these leaf-wrapped spring rolls.

Some more ways to enjoy collard stalks:

  • Sautéed with bacon and cider vinegar
  • Stir-fried with fish sauce and lime juice
  • Braised with white wine and herbs
  • Added to an omelet
  • Added to split pea soup

7. Beet Greens

The entire beet plant-roots, stems and greens-is edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. In this stunning appetizer, the beets are roasted then pureed with goat cheese for a creamy ruby-red spread. The greens and stems are sautéed with olive oil and garlic for the topping.

Some more ways to enjoy beet greens:

  • Tossed in a salad with cooked beets
  • Sliced up for a veggie slaw
  • Sautéed with olive oil and garlic
  • Added to borscht

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