No-waste veg guide

In our ex­clu­sive interview, Hugh Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall shares new ways with veg on the plot and the plate, to help you en­joy more of what you grow

Gardeners' World - - Contents -

Hugh Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall re­veals ways to grow and cook for zero food waste

We’re ad­dicted to waste. We throw away 5.8 mil­lion pota­toes and 1.5 mil­lion toma­toes ev­ery day in the UK. House­holds are bin­ning £13bn of food, ev­ery year, that could have been eaten. And, de­spite the huge fi­nan­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal costs of this waste, it’s a prob­lem that shows no sign of going away. Which is why chef Hugh Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall launched his cam­paign for change, with his TV pro­gramme War on Waste, and now he’s call­ing on gar­den­ers to play their part in tack­ling the food waste moun­tain. “I think peo­ple are highly mo­ti­vated to not waste veg when they’ve grown it them­selves,” says Hugh. But it can be a chal­lenge, when har­vests all come at once, to use ev­ery­thing up. “We need to stretch the ways in which we use fa­mil­iar veg,” he says. Hugh in­sists that the more we en­joy veg and un­der­stand how to cook it, the less we’ll waste, whether it’s home­grown or bought. We need to change the way we shop for veg­eta­bles, as well. The su­per­mar­kets’ strict vis­ual cri­te­ria means farm­ers leave fields of full of veg to rot. “The su­per­mar­kets’ ex­cuse is that their cus­tomers won’t buy blem­ished roots,” says Hugh. “We have to prove to them that we will.” As any gar­dener knows, it’s not un­usual to get a forked car­rot or bent parsnip, but the pri­or­ity for home­grow­ers is flavour, not looks. So when we buy veg, Hugh urges us to keep flavour rather than looks in mind. “Class II veg is from the same field as Class I – it’s not sub-stan­dard – it’s just a slightly dif­fer­ent shape or size,” he says. You’ll find the class marked on bagged fruit and veg – Class II veg are of­ten sold through the low-price ranges, mean­ing they’re cheaper too! The more that su­per­mar­kets re­lax their cri­te­ria, the less waste farm­ers will cre­ate. “The worst ones for waste are car­rots and parsnips, where the ideal of the straight and per­fect is ap­plied in an ex­treme way,” Hugh says. As con­sumers, we can show su­per­mar­kets we are happy with wonky veg. Home­grow­ers can help by let­ting noth­ing go to waste, es­pe­cially as a stag­ger­ing 71 per cent of food waste comes from house­holds.* This food waste goes into land­fill and cre­ates meth­ane, a green­house gas more po­tent than CO2. Com­post­ing waste helps, but doesn’t solve the prob­lem. The re­sources that went into grow­ing it – seeds, com­post, wa­ter and the en­ergy used to trans­port th­ese – are wasted when that veg ends up in the bin or the com­post heap. And that’s as true for home­grown veg as it is for shop-bought.

The first step to­wards min­imis­ing waste on the veg plot is pick­ing the right veg to grow. “The im­por­tant thing is to grow stuff you re­ally en­joy eat­ing and that doesn’t take up too much space,” Hugh says. The more we en­joy the veg­eta­bles we grow and eat, the less we’ll throw away, he rea­sons. “There are con­ven­tions that we eat cer­tain veg raw, oth­ers we boil and then a few things like parsnips and pota­toes, we roast. Why aren’t we roast­ing cau­li­flower flo­rets or whole Brus­sels sprouts? And if we’re roast­ing those, what can we mix them with that would be de­li­cious? What veg are we cook­ing that’s also great raw – such as parsnips – es­pe­cially young ones. Or how about fresh kale, mar­i­nated in salt and vine­gar? “We know that carameli­sa­tion makes meat and fish de­li­cious so let’s try with veg.” Hugh sug­gests cut­ting a cab­bage into wedges and putting the cut side in a hot fry­ing pan to blacken. “You’ll have caramelised edges and raw in the mid­dle. Serve with spicy hou­mous and you’ve got some­thing with so much flavour.” And while we might add salt or but­ter to veg, Hugh cham­pi­ons us­ing a range of flavours, such as lemon, gin­ger, honey and spices. “I like us­ing one or two spices rather than a blend that steers you to­wards curry – whole cumin seeds or fen­nel seeds give you a pop of aroma. Cumin goes bril­liantly with root veg and starchy veg, such as squashes.” Armed with fresh home­grown veg and in­spir­ing recipes, there is lit­tle ex­cuse to waste any­thing. “None of th­ese things are hard to do,” Hugh says. “You can use th­ese tech­niques on lots of veg that we don’t think of cook­ing in those ways. Put flavours to­gether you don’t ex­pect, like squash, sweet­corn and plums. You get the pop of the sweet­corn and rich­ness of the squash with the tart­ness of plums.” It’s easy to help pre­vent waste, in­sists Hugh, sim­ply change the way you look at veg, in your gar­den, in the su­per­mar­ket and in your pan. As he writes in his lat­est book, Much More Veg, “If I were to choose just one thing we could all do to be health­ier and feel more en­er­gised, to have a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with food and with our en­vi­ron­ment, it would be this: eat more veg.”

Why aren’t we roast­ing cau­li­flower flo­rets or whole Brus­sels sprouts?

One cause of waste is har­vests all com­ing at once – avoid this by spread­ing out your crops into small sow­ings to har­vest in suc­ces­sion

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