Growing trend to eat everything from root to stem

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018
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Are you throwing money away? Take a look in your trash can. If there are vegetable roots or stems in there, then you are throwing away perfectly good food. If you are, you're not alone.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Are you throwing money away? Take a look in your trash can. If there are vegetable roots or stems in there, then you are throwing away perfectly good food. If you are, you're not alone. Nearly half the food in this country is being thrown away and all that garbage has inspired a new movement.

At The Perennial restaurant in San Francisco, the food is amazing. What are the key ingredients? Just about everything. That's because nearly every food scrap gets used in their recipes.

"Why should I throw something in the trash that I just spent like $5 on? Three quarters of it is useful -- but we are only using one quarter of it? That doesn't make any sense to me," said The Perennial's co-chef, Michael Andreatta.

"We're trying to find new uses and new flavors for everything," added owner and co-chef Anthony Myint.

Most of the fresh fruits and vegetables get cut up, pureed, dried, or made into something entirely different.

"So for example, the little butts of brussels sprouts, you know you cut off the bottom. We pickle those, puree that, dehydrate the pulp, and use that as a seasoning powder," said Myint.

They showed us an amazing culinary masterpiece, delicious bread made from fennel scraps. Candied fennel stems top it off. From a chef's kitchen to yours, this new trend is getting a lot of attention.

"If you are buying food, like buying really great food from the farmers market -- then you should make the most of it," said Myint.

It is called "root to stem" cooking.

"And it's the idea that you can use the whole vegetable, not just what you would normally buy in the grocery store, but the stem, the leaves, the root, and everything that goes along with it," said Whole Foods regional chef, Trent Page.

Whole Foods identified the "root to stem" movement as one of its top food trends for 2018.

"Well it's a responsible trend -- food waste is a huge issue right now -- and it has been quite some time," said Page.

According to The Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of the food we buy gets wasted. The average American household of four is just tossing away $120 worth of uneaten food each month.

Preventing that isn't as complicated as it sounds. It just takes some creative thinking. Just about every vegetable can be eaten from root to stem. Take broccoli, for example.

"When you look at the amount of broccoli you're purchasing, about half of it by weight is in the stem," said Page. "Simply cut the florets off and you can peel and use the stems for all sorts of stuff. You can puree it into a soup. You can cut it up and roast it. You can eat it raw. Julienne it, throw it in salads."

Carrot stems taste similar to parsley, says Page. "Instead of just discarding them, you can blend them up into, for instance, a pesto."

Even the stems to radishes can add a little something to your meal.

"Just wash them like you would any other lettuce or green," said Page, "You could sauté them by themselves, you could fold them in with spinach, or with another green, kale or Swiss chard and you add a nice peppery bite."

Chefs say not only is "root to stem" cooking the responsible thing to do, it'll also get you bonus points at the dinner table, giving old recipes a fresh twist.

Page added, "I think that this is really important, as we move forward, to really recognize that there is tons of flavor in a lot of things that is get thrown out and wasted."

Andreatta added, "If you have it, you already spent the money on it, why not like use it? Otherwise you are just going to end up wasting money."

Written and Produced by Ken Miguel