Food you didn’t know you wasted

By Giovanna Lanius-Pascuzzi of the Food Committee

Food waste exacerbates the negative impact our food system has on the surrounding environment.

'It’s estimated that Dutch people throw 8-11% of the food they buy into the garbage (Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, 2010). In other words, as consumers, we are directly causing more damage than necessary for the amount of food actually going into our mouths. One of these disproportionate impacts linked to food waste includes biodiversity loss. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (2013): ‘Food wastage unduly compounds the negative externalities that monocropping and agriculture expansion into wild areas create on biodiversity loss.’

Over time, I have come to realise that many of us unwittingly and uncritically throw away various parts of our food simply due to conventions rather than the fact we can’t actually eat them- take, for example, peeling carrots. The skins are, of course, perfectly edible, just like the skins of almost all vegetables! In the case of the carrot, the highest concentration of the vitamin C, vitamin B3 and phytonutrients are all in the skin. With all vegetables, the ‘good stuff’ is found in different concentrations throughout, so by removing the skin you are excluding some of the specific goodness from your meal and missing out on some health benefits. In the case of sweet potatoes, most of the fiber is in the peel and with cucumber you lose much of the vitamins and minerals they possess, the list goes on.

Peeling carrots

I first stopped peeling carrots when I began doing much more cooking for myself during my bachelors - do keep in mind the carrots did still receive a thorough wash! This was initially motivated to save time but also to save food. For context, I was living in a shared house of very environmentally conscientious students: they taught me how to compost at home and I shared my first experiences dumpster diving with these guys.

Every time since then, coming home to my parents’ place and helping them in the kitchen, I would begin chopping carrots without peeling them. And every time, my mom would say something along the lines of ‘What are you doing? No, you need to peel the carrots!’ After years of arguing - seven to be exact - my mother has now stopped peeling carrots.

Of course, the humble carrot is but one common example of how we unwittingly waste good food and further contribute to the processes which undermine biodiversity. Below follows an expanded  list, which exclusively includes various foods that I have personally integrated in my diet over the past 10 years or so, many of which are being unknowingly wasted every day! Sometimes by finding uses in my cooking, other times by just learning to eat them, I have come to enjoy them in my food. These are, of course, just a personal selection, you can find much more inspiration online.'