Green Tips: A Plea for the Scrappy Veggies

Onion skins. Photo by suziesparkle, Flickr.

Onion skins. Photo by suziesparkle, Flickr.

By Shaun Daniel, Sustainability Resource Center

Spilt milk may be nothing to cry over, but a cut up onion is different. And maybe you shed a tear for those parts of the onion—the root, stem, and outer skin—that are just too course for that Sunday morning scramble.

If you are an apartment dweller like I am, you probably don’t have access to a compost pile. Even with indoor vermicompost, garlic and onion generally aren’t to the tastes of those hard-working little red wiggler worms. It’s not as if you’re going to throw those ends in the fridge for a cheese and onion sandwich either. What’s one to do?

Scrap vegetable broth. Photo by Thomas Cizauskas, Flickr.

Somewhere along the line I learned from other radical homemakers a way to make full use of all that veggie goodness: Save it for broth.

You’ll need a zip lock bag or other freezer appropriate container (Mason jars work!). Then, just gradually collect and freeze those veggie scraps until you’ve got a big batch—kale stems, carrot tops (not this one), and garlic skins included. Definitely leave out bits with mold.

When you’ve scraped together all those scraps, throw them in a big pot with three quarts or so of water and a couple of bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 40 minutes to an hour until reduced by half. Separate out the liquid with a fine mesh strainer and use the resulting broth as the base for a soup, adding other seasonings and ingredients to taste. Here’s a nice Meatless Monday recipe to test it out.

Jars of frozen broth made from veggie scraps.

Jars of frozen broth made from veggie scraps.

You can even compost the soggy leftovers if you have a pile; though, again, not in a worm bin. Don’t worry the wigglers!

But wait. There’s more… What about fruit scraps?

My worm bin is how I take care of apple cores and banana peels, but citrus rinds will unfortunately burn the worms if given in much quantity. Poor little Eisenia fetida. If you have a sunny windowsill or hot radiator (or even a proper dehydrator), you can dry those orange peels and the like to use for tea. People will be impressed.

Cheers to being scrappy.

This article is part of a series to focus on fun, practical tips for leading a more sustainable life. If you have any tips of your own to suggest, email them to

Shaun Daniel is a graduate student in Environmental Humanities and a graduate assistant in the Sustainability Resource Center.

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