Leftovers neglected no more, and other tales of declining food waste


This year, I've gone crazy for preserves, spending each weekend madly mashing berries and standing expectantly over pots of simmering water waiting for pickles or jam or chutney to be ready to lift out and label. As I've become more connected to the state of my pantry, I've also been taking a closer look at the fruit trees and vines in my neighborhood, instead of thinking "what a mess!" when I see squished cherries all over the sidewalk, instead, I assess the tree for pickability. This past week, I picked 10 or 15 pounds of apples from my neighborhood for jelly, and harvested grape leaves (to pickle for dolmades), grapes and plums from my sister-in-law's new rental house.

I know I'm not the only one paying attention to whether or not our "food capital" is being wasted. Not only do I have company on my wild blackberry-picking expeditions, but major European grocery chain Sainsbury's has "discovered" that people are eating their leftovers. 62% of consumers are "concerned about food waste" due to rising cost of groceries. As such, they're digging into their fridge and finishing off that leftover casserole; definitely a good thing for all involved.

One lesson I've learned this year, in penance for my past wastefulness (how many half-used veggies and fruits have I let rot in the fridge? too many to count), is how to preserve leftover produce with simple techniques like lacto-fermentation and vinegar or brine pickling. When I have too much zucchini or green beans, I'll throw some in a crock and start a batch of delicious spicy pickles or relish. I recommend Wild Fermentation and Blue Ribbon Preserves as places to start if you, too, want to stop wasting your precious food resources!