I spend a lot of time searching out really great produce so I’m very motivated to use every part of it I can. “Frugal” sounds a bit dowdy to me; I prefer to think of myself as adventurous, always trying new ways to reduce waste and maximize flavor and variety.
Here are some of my favorite underused parts of common fruits and vegetables, plus recipes that can get you started enjoying them.
Root Vegetable Tops
Next time you pick up a bunch of beets, turnips or radishes, don’t just twist off and discard the leafy tops. They’re a goldmine of flavor and nutrients and as versatile as kale or collards.
I like to cut them into ribbons and add them to soup or give them a braise in broth spiked with a little vinegar and red pepper.
For a beet tour de force using the root, stem and leaves, try this uniquely delicious Tangy Buttered Beets and Beet Greens with Dijon.
Those delicate, yellow-green celery leaves you see on inner stalks are too tasty to throw away.
Their bright, fresh flavor makes them perfect to use as you would an herb for garnish. Or you can coarsely chop them and incorporate them in salads or slaws.
They take a starring role beside sweet winter squash and toothsome pasta in this unusual Butternut Squash with Celery Leaves and Orecchiette recipe.
If I’m prepping broccoli florets I’ll usually cut off the stems, peel off the tough skin, and munch the crisp, surprisingly sweet core as my own personal treat.
But the stem can also be cooked right along with the flower tops as it is in this Broccoli Salad with Walnuts and Currants, an ideal recipe for broccoli fans.
I’m also fond of shredding the stems on a box grater and tossing them into slaws for color and crunch.
Winter Squash Seeds
Around Halloween pumpkin seeds get a lot of love, but you can also roast the seeds of just about any winter squash for a fabulous snack or garnish.
Use this recipe for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds as a base anytime you’re preparing butternut, acorn or delicata squash.
The seeds are excellent sprinkled on soup or over salads or just munched by the handful.
Sure, the sweet red flesh is the flashy part of a watermelon, but the white rind shouldn’t be overlooked.
Its mild flavor and super crunch makes it a natural for pickling, where it absorbs the flavor of its surrounding liquid beautifully.
This easy recipe for Pickled Watermelon Rind with Radishes is a great introduction to its virtues. (And don’t throw out those radish tops!)
Finally, I discovered this Melon Seed Aqua Fresca recipe a few years back, and it’s still one of my very favorite ways to get the most out of a melon. Give it a try next time you have a cantaloupe or honeydew.
What unusual produce parts do you like to use?