A couple of years ago I learned that 40 percent of the food in the United States goes uneaten — more than 20 pounds per person every month. According to the NRDC, reducing that waste by just 15 percent could feed more than 25 million Americans every year, no small feat when one in six Americans is unsure of where their next meal is coming from.
With that in mind, I have challenged myself to eat what I may previously have tossed in the trash or composting buckets. Beet greens now get sautéed, mushroom stems get turned into soup stock, and squash seeds get dried and toasted.
A few weeks ago, as I was enjoying the first watermelon of the season, I recalled eating watermelon rind pickles as a child. They came from the grocery store in tall, skinny glass bottles and, because they were expensive, they were a once or twice a year treat. I loved them.
This resurrected memory prompted me to ask myself why I was throwing out the rind. Why wasn’t I turning it into the beloved pickles of my childhood? After trying a recipe sent to me by a friend, I know I’ll never make that mistake again. Eating “garbage” can be indescribably delicious!
An August farmers market is a seemingly endless variety of color, aroma, and textures. Among the familiar and expected, there are always two or three little surprises that virtually beg to be tried and embraced. One day, red shishito peppers, purple okra, and little Japanese turnips all found their way into my kitchen. I placed them in old ball jars and added a variety of fresh herbs, dried spiced, onion, garlic, salt, sugar, and vinegar. Then I put them all in the refrigerator and waited. Not long. After all, I hadn’t boiled the jars and sealed them with paraffin. I had no intention of saving these homemade pickles for the long, cold winter. I was planning to eat these pickles as soon as possible. And I did. And — with every bite — I thanked those red shishitos, purple okra, and little Japanese turnips for begging me to take them home with me.
When two people share a 450 square foot apartment, there’s not a lot of room to “put food by” the way our ancestors did ― and the way our country cousins still do. As a result, pickling for us is of a more temporal nature, and is really nothing more than marinating fresh vegetables in different vinegars, sweeteners, salts, spices, and herbs. The need to eat them within a few days to a week isn’t much of a burden; we probably couldn’t refrain from eating them much longer than that anyway.