Bruised apples, bell peppers covered with pock marks and scratches, dented cans…we’ve seen it all in the grocery store, and if you’re going to be honest, you probably just walked right by the damaged goods.
Then, when you saw the deliciously perfect blueberries and the shiny, waxy green beans, you didn’t think twice about tossing them in your cart. Don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. Many humans with a steady income have become accustomed to perfect-looking, flawless food. As a result, we’re wasting tons of it every year.
Edmonton pop-up restaurant SalvagED is looking to buck that trend, one dish at a time. The shop (which is open only on select occasions, usually for a three-hour period) provides its customers with a culinary feast using food that would have been thrown out to create decadent, delicious menus for your eating pleasure.
The goals of the pop-ups, in addition to serving some incredible eats, are to encourage consumers to waste less, and propel food suppliers to buy less and to donate more to crisis food centres that desperately need it.
Missed the latest pop-up in Edmonton? Not to worry. The Loop spoke to the folks at the Alder Food Security Society (the people behind SalvagED pop-ups) to get some primo tips and tricks for making that wilted food into something spectacular.
How does someone properly prepare discarded/otherwise “unusable” food?
When prepping food that would otherwise be wasted, the key is to cut away any bruised or very soft bits first. Then, it depends on what type of produce you’re working with, the timeline you have before it can be used, and your space available.
For food that you can use right away, cut away the bits of the food that are clearly “bad,” then, if they’re vegetables, soak them in cold water for a few minutes to firm them up a bit. For fruit, prepping them in a way that focuses less on texture and more on flavour — think purees, smoothies and jams — is a good bet.
If you aren’t able to use the food right away (like if you see some sad-looking produce in your fridge but aren’t going to be able to eat at home until the weekend), cut away the “bad” bits and freeze it. Fruit is great for this, since many people pay a lot of money for frozen fruit blends at the grocery store. For vegetables, freezing can work, as can putting them in a plastic resealable bag with a dampened paper towel to restore moisture to the food.
Do soups and stews work best for this kind of food?
For those who aren’t as adventurous with cooking, soups, stews, smoothies and the like are a fantastic place to start with wilting produce. What’s great about those items is that you can freeze them once they’re been cooked and bring them for lunches! Juicing is another great option for those who have access to the equipment, as the juice itself can be frozen to add to soups and smoothies in the future, and the pulp can be seasoned and baked into long-lasting crackers.
For old bread that’s gone a bit stale, toasting it can make it delicious again, as can allowing it to dry completely and turning it into bread crumbs or croutons.
What are some suggestions for people doing this at home?
The first step is very simple: don’t buy food you aren’t going to be able to eat!
Of course, we all go overboard when shopping sometimes, so the next steps are keeping a good eye on the state of the fruit and veg in your fridge and freezing/juicing/soup-ing them once they’ve started to go. For families that are very ambitious and looking to utilize the wasted food of others in their lives, we would suggest going to farmers’ markets to ask the vendors for their culls. Fruit stands usually have bruised apples, etc., to give away, and vegetable stands will likely have carrot tops, beet tops, and the odd bag of potatoes that could be given away.
That said, some of the vendors have policies against giving things away in market hours, so don’t push it if the vendors say no!
For more information on SalvagED and getting the most mileage out of your food, watch the video, above.