ROOT TO STEM COOKING Try our new favourite foodie trend.
This new trend is all about getting the most from your veg, to boost your wellbeing and save the planet
You’ve likely heard of nose to tail cooking; it’s the food movement that started to make tracks in foodie circles after chef Fergus Henderson opened St. JOHN restaurant in 1994, putting offal firmly back on the menu to encourage those of us who eat meat to minimise waste. Now, as food waste concerns meet the rise of plantbased diets, ‘root to stem’ is the new trend that promises to both boost our health and help save the planet.
Across the world, chefs are creating wastefree menus, from Andrea Reusing of Lantern in Chapel Hill, North Carolina to chef Laura Pensiero at Gigi Trattoria in New York and Tiny Leaf in London’s Notting Hill. They are all striving to use every last zest, peel, top, skin and husk in their dishes to feed a new generation of plant eaters who are also concerned about the environment.
According to a recent survey by Compare The Market (www.comparethemarket.com), more than 3.5 million British people now describe themselves as vegan, compared with 150,000 in 2006 recorded by the
Vegan Society, and more than seven million are vegetarian. The survey, which was supported by Professor Carolyn Roberts of Gresham College, London, suggests that environmental concerns have been key in driving the rise in veganism, as more of us look to reduce our carbon footprint. “From farm to fork, and beyond, food accounts for about 20 percent of all of our greenhouse gas emissions,” explains Carolyn. “Estimates suggest that if meat eaters switched to a vegan diet, it would roughly halve total greenhouse gas emissions associated with food.”
We also need to look at how much we throw away. According to WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme), there’s a direct correlation between the food we put
“Root to stem cooking shows us that there’s still goodness in those odds and ends”
in the bin and CO2 emissions. “If we stopped binning all the food that could have been eaten, the environmental bene t would be equivalent to taking one in four cars o the road,” states WRAP. “Saving food saves money and helps to slow down global warming and deforestation. Reducing the amount of food that ends up in the bin also means that you can say goodbye to unnecessary packaging waste. If we all make a few small changes and start using up the food we buy, together we can make a big di erence.”
Other initiatives are starting to tackle the problem, too. Food sharing app OLIO (www. olioex.com), was set up by entrepreneurs Tessa Cook and Saasha Celestial-One to reduce food waste in local communities by sharing surplus ingredients. And it worked – OLIO has had 350,000 users sign up since 2016, and just secured $6m in funding.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that food waste is one of the largest problems facing mankind today,” explain Tessa and Saasha. “Globally, over a third of all the food we produce is thrown away, which is worth over $1 trillion. But what a lot of people don’t realise is that in the ‘developed’ world, over half of all food waste occurs in the home, compared to just two or three percent... at a retail store level.”
According to OLIO, UK households bin over £12bn of edible food per year, at a cost of £700 to the average family. Moreover, 800 million hungry people could be fed on just a quarter of wasted food from the UK, EU and USA. Factor this in with an increase in people accessing food banks (500,000 people in the UK last year) and a growing population, and you can see why food waste is an increasingly hot topic.
It’s no surprise, then, that the concept of root to stem is gaining momentum, with forward-thinkers coming up with creative solutions. Hannah McCollum is one such entrepreneur. Previously a private chef, she founded ChicP (www.chicp.co.uk) in 2015, creating hummus dips that help prevent food waste by using ingredients that are considered ‘un t’ for supermarkets but which are completely edible.
“Root to stem cooking is showing us that
there’s still goodness and avour in those odds and ends,” she says. “It’s cooking sustainably and not unnecessarily wasting any of the wonderful produce we have. For a lot of people, it’s probably also about being creative and trying new avours and textures that they may not have tried before.
“We’ve unfortunately been educated to only use the parts of the plant that we have known to be edible, and this has left us with years of wasting some of the most interesting and delicious parts. They’re there for a reason, so don’t waste them unless you know that it really can’t be eaten,” she adds.
“We don’t all have to start pickling rinds and trying to make soup out of onion skins, but simply using up a whole broccoli or cauliflower when we buy one would be a step in the right direction,” she says. “Here’s hoping that changing the way we view our veg will get through to the supermarkets and result in more ‘real’ and natural-looking food on the shelves.”
A sensible starting point is for us all to reduce the waste we create individually. Read on for recipes to help you use up every leaf, stem and stalk in your cooking.