Getting more bang from your box

Some of you may be old hands at using vegetables to their fullest in your kitchen.  Some of you may not have seen carrot leaves before this season of CSA and farmer’s market shopping.  I keep finding new ways that I’m underutilizing the veggies that I bring home, and most of what I don’t eat is fed to my chickens and turned into eggs!  Here is a short list of tips and tactics to get more bang from your box (and for several items you might not have seen yet but that you might have brought home from the market).

* Compost it.  If you don’t already have a compost bin or don’t have room, but you do have a flower or garden patch, try burying your veggie scraps in strips between your plants.  Bury a little, then move over six inches and bury the next batch.  Your soil will improve.

* Soup stock it.  The bottoms of lettuce, peels of carrots, ends of bok choy, wilted but not liquified spinach leaves, outsides of onions, and general leftovers from chopping things up have a lot of flavor and nutrients in them.  Save them in a bag in the freezer until you have several big handfuls, then boil them for half an hour or so in water to cover.  Strain it, salt it, and freeze it in baggies, and you’ll have flavorful stock that beats a bouillon cube any day.

* Drink the broth.  Any time you’ve blanched or steamed a veggie, a significant portion of the nutrients have gone into the water.  Drink that as a clear soup, or use it to start a soup stock (see above), so that you’re not losing all those healthy bits.  At the very least, let it cool and water your houseplants.  (This is one of my guiltier items — I always get lazy and just drain the veggies so I can eat them.)

* Eat the tops.  Beet greens are a lot like chard — be sure to cut them off before storing the beets, and you can simmer, sauté, or turn a soup red.  Carrot greens are remarkably tasty and hold up well to all kinds of treatment — soup additions, mixed into a stir fry, or tempura battered and deep fried.  Onion tops are just as edible as leeks and scallions, though they get a little sunburned and thick late in the season.

* Freeze it.  Squishy or bruised fruit isn’t a pleasure to snack on, but it eats all the same because it is just very ripe.  Freeze apricots and berries that arrive too ripe and put them into muffins or smoothies later.

Do you have any tips or ideas?  Post them in the comments!