For the longest time, I’ve dreamed about buying a little farm. I can see it in my mind so clearly. There will be an olive grove, a little vineyard, an orchard of nut trees and another of citrus. And pride of place will go to a big walled veggie garden.
We’ll have chickens of course. And maybe my Irishman will even get into some bee keeping. I can’t wait!
The plan is to buy a place next year but luckily I have my little veggie patch here to play with in the meantime.
Since I’ve been growing some of my own veggies, I’ve been really interested in eating as much of the plant as possible. I hate throwing food away at any time, but when it’s something you’ve nurtured from tiny seeds, the urge not to waste is even stronger.
This has made me realize just how much edible food I used to throw away because I didn’t think to eat it.
So today I wanted to share my favourite edible discoveries. And if you have any others I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
7 veg you might be wasting…
1. Carrot tops
You know when you buy baby carrots, there’s no need to waste the lovely leaves! Because they look like flat leaf parsley and taste pleasantly ‘green’, you can use them most places you’d use leafy herbs.
2. Beet leaves and stems
Baby leaves are great served raw in salads but once the leaves get larger I find they need cooking to soften the texture and flavour.
I usually chop the stems finely so they’ll cook faster. My favourite method is to wash the leaves and stems and chop. Then pan fry in a little oil with some garlic just until everything is tender.
3. Chard (silver beet) stalks
I either keep the stalks to cook separately or I chop and sauté them in oil with a little garlic until they’re almost tender and then add the leaves.
4. Broccoli & cauliflower stems
Mostly when I’m cooking broccoli or cauliflower I finely slice the stems and just treat them the same as the florettes.
5. Broccoli leaves
Sometimes you can buy broccoli with tiny leaves attached. I just treat these the same as the rest of the head.
But if you’re growing your own you’ll have access to the mature leaves. I treat them the same as I would kale.
6. Broad bean leaves
I was very late planting my broad beans this year so I doubt we’ll get any actual beans. But it won’t be the end of the world because we’ll still have some broad bean leaves. They have a super fresh broad bean flavour that I adore. The texture can be a little limp though so I generally don’t use them alone in salads but will mix with other leaves.
They are lovely cooked in a pan until just wilted with a little garlic, oil and a splash of water.
7. Skins / peels
There aren’t many vegetables I bother to peel, apart from broad beans and sweet corn. Basically because I’m lazy but I tell myself it’s because much of the flavour and nutrition is in or just under the skins.
My Irishman and I once did a taste test of potatoes roasted with and without skins. The unpeeled ones were just bursting with potato flavour and we haven’t looked back!
I also love roasting pumpkin or butternut squash with the skins on and then eating the skin. So good as long as they’re well cooked!
Carrot Top Pesto
Inspired by the very good looking boys from Three Blue Ducks in Bronte. Love their new cookbook which my Irishman gave me for my birthday.
1 bunch baby carrot tops
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 small clove garlic
2 handfuls pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large handful grated parmesan
1. Whizz carrot tops, parsley, garlic and nuts in a food processor until finely chopped.
2. With the motor running pour in the oil. Stir in parmesan. Taste and season if needed.
different herbs – feel free to play around. Basil, mint and coriander (cilantro) are all excellent additions or replacements.
budget / different nuts – I often use cashews instead of pine nuts. Almonds are also lovely in pesto.
garlic-free – replace that garlicky sharpness with a squeeze of lemon.
vegan / dairy-free – replace the parmesan with extra pine nuts or other nuts.
Roast Chicken with Carrot Top Pesto
Since the arrival of Fergal, I’m a big fan of meals you can just pop in the oven to cook while you do the laundry or catch up on emails.
Enough for 2
4 chicken thigh fillets
1 bunch baby carrots
1 head garlic, broken into individual cloves, skins still on
carrot top pesto (above) to serve
1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F).
2. Place chicken, carrots and garlic in a roasting pan. Drizzle with some oil and sea salt.
3. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.
4. Serve hot with pesto on top.
short on time – use a commercial pesto instead.
can’t find baby carrots? – use regular carrots and chop them in half lengthwise so they cook in the same amount of time.
different meat – you can use chicken breasts, drumsticks or thighs on the bone. Duck would be lovely as would lamb chops or sausages. You’ll just need to adjust the cooking time.
vegan – roast large field mushrooms instead of the chicken and use the dairy-free pesto version.
vegetarian - roast the carrots and garlic and serve with the pesto and a fried or poached egg.