Root to Leaf: Reduce Food Waste and Jazz Up Your Menu

Posted by Patrick Maness +


For as long as anyone can remember, people have been alarmed at how wasteful Americans can be. The food industry is seen as the biggest waste producer, outpacing plastic, paper, metal and glass. By some estimates, almost 40 percent of America’s food supply ends up in a dumpster, according to The Washington Post.

Seeing how much edible food is thrown away on a regular basis has prompted several movements, the most notable of which being the nose-to-tail movement. This effort sought to use all of the parts of a given animal that were normally thrown out — the guts, hooves, ears, etc.

What this movement did with animals has now carried over to plants. But what’s surprising about the root-to-leaf movement, as it has been called, is that it isn’t really a way to reduce vegetable food waste; rather, it’s an exciting way to create delicious dishes.

Let’s take a look

How can a menu made up of garbage be appetizing?

First off, marketing your restaurant as one that employs root-to-leaf cooking methods is a great way to appeal to millennials and others who are concerned about sustainability. Second, updating your menu is a wonderfully effective way to create some excitement. That’s because in our age of culinary experimentation, patrons actively seek out new dishes. Many curious diners will be attracted by the idea that what was once thrown out can actually be used as a delicious ingredient.

What are some of these flavors and dishes being concocted?

Take stalks, for example. Many chefs have found that braising the stems of chards and beets creates a crunchy texture to offset the softness of cooked greens. Additionally, diced up broccoli stems can serve as the main ingredient in an amazing broccoli-slaw.            

If you have a lot of tops from vegetables that you don’t know what to do with, use them to make a vegetable broth. This is perhaps the easiest and simplest way to reduce restaurant food waste and participate in the root-to-leaf movement. Such a homemade broth is a great way to introduce this culinary philosophy to your customers and present your restaurant as an eco-friendly establishment.

For more in-depth coverage of what chefs across the country are doing with vegetables, check out this New York Times article, which profiles some of the movement’s most important figures.

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