The Many Lives Of Kale // or // How To Get The Very Most Value Out Of Your Vegetables, Both Nutritionally and Financially

October 22nd, 2013 - filed under: The Food » Food and Health

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I am not a wasteful person. I would say, in fact, that I am pretty much the antithesis of a wasteful person.

I have always been this way – being raised by my single mother to appreciate and to conserve, compounded by a tendency towards thriftiness that’s totally inherent. I consider this a gift, as it’s given me a whole lot of freedom, my love of secondhand treasures, and a contentedness with having less that I rarely witness amongst my peers.

So yes, I’m an economizer, especially in the kitchen. Which means I’ve had a lot of practice making the most out of leftover odds and ends, eking out a meal from the seemingly discarded bits and pieces, always determined not to let anything go to waste. And during this past year of post-separation/trying to land on my feet/trying to survive on so much less/single-mothering pandemonium, I’ve had to kick my conservation creativity up into overdrive.


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And I’ve been pretty creative. That kale up there for example? Each bunch that I buy serves me in three completely separate and wholly unique ways. Three distinct forms of food from every leaf of kale. Triple the serving, triple the nutrients, triple the savings!

It all starts with the whole leaf, as pictured above. From there the first thing I do is de-rib, by separating the soft leaves from the woody stems. The leaves are eaten, almost always as either kale chips or steamed up and served in a heaping pile for dinner, like so:


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Pasta with roasted butternut squash “cheese” sauce + mountain o’ kale


What I’m left with after that is the woody stems, but they never last long. Into the juicer they go!


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Mmm green juice. The stems from dark leafy greens are just as nutritious as the leaves (that goes for broccoli, too) so I never want to just throw them away. Juicing is the perfect solution!

The stuff that comes out of my juicer looks like this:


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Pulp! The liquid, along with many of the vitamins and minerals and antioxidants, have been extracted into the juice, but my kale isn’t finished working yet! There’s still plenty of green goodness in there, and I am determined to get it!

All the juice pulp goes into containers which I keep in my freezer, adding to them each day when I juice, until I’ve amassed a collection of 5 or six full tubs of veggie bits – that includes trimmings like carrot tops and cucumber ends, onion skins and garlic husks, and of course the juice pulp. And at that point, when I’ve got a bunch . . .


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I make vegetable broth! I put all those veggie scraps in my big stock pot, cover it with water, add salt and oil to draw out the nutrients, add a bit of kombu or dulse to kick it up a notch, and then let it simmer. What I get is a delicious, rich broth that’s brimming with vitamins and minerals to enhance all my beans, grains, pastas, soups, and spreads. Because I make broth so often I have a ton of it, so I use it in everything from homemade hummus to my breakfast pudla. I even cook Waits’s pasta in it! It adds lots of flavor, plus so much extra nutrition.

Once the broth is strained, the boiled veggie mush gets dumped into the compost bin, where, come to think of it, it continues to work for me and my family. And that, my friends, is the end of the line for good ol’ kale. Not too shabby, right?!

I’ve used kale as my example here, but of course I do this with all my produce. My vegetables are always pulling double and triple duty, between my dinner plate, my juicer/blender, and my stock pot.

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Re-growing celery (left) and romaine (right).


I’ve also been experimenting with other produce maximization methods. For example, if you take a head of lettuce or celery, you can cut off the leaves/stalks for normal use, and then place the leftover stump in a bowl of water. The stump will actually begin to produce a new plant! It’s kind of crazy, but it totally works. You can do this with lettuce, bok choy, green onions, and garlic.


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The celery after a few weeks.


Another one I’ve set my sights on is ginger! Apparently, when your ginger root begins to bud in the fruit bowl, you can plant the whole thing in a pot – bud up – and grow an actual ginger plant. I’m trying it out:


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The idea is that you can grow an actual ginger plant, so that besides just having another beautiful houseplant, you can also dig up and hack off a piece of the root every time your recipe calls for ginger. This project is still in progress, so I’ll have to check back in and let you know how it goes!

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Do you have any tricks for making the most out of your produce? I’d love to hear them, so please share in the comments. I’m sure you guys have lots of amazing ideas – let’s compile an awesome resource here!

  • Caro

    For the vegetables, I generally follow your steps (even though I don’t have a juicer and thus everything chewable goes into my smoothie and the rest in the freezer for the veggie broth).
    Another possibility is to produce pesto out of veggie leaves (for example from radish or cabbage but also out of dandelion or ground elder).

    On the contrary, I find making the most out of fruits more difficult (not so many options with a banana peel?!). However, there is the possibility of vinegar (see recipe for apple vinegar here http://www.17apart.com/2011/10/how-to-make-apple-vinegar-from-scraps.html although I try to eat my fruit with skin if possible). Maybe one could also make liqueur out of fruit leftovers … but I haven’t tried that one yet (probably not so intense).

    Old bread can be turned into a nice bread salad (as in here http://wellvegan.com/recipes/italian-bread-salad-panzanella ) or grated in order to use it for veggie schnitzel.

  • Sita B

    It’s also possible to get double duty out of an aromatic plant such as basil by cutting off a stem, removing all but the two highest and smallest leaves and putting the shortened stems + mini leaves in some water until it grows new roots.

    Once it’s nice and hardy, you can pot these in soil and grow a whole new plant! I did this extremely successfully and the new basil actually grew bigger, taller and tastier than the one I got from the shop which spawned it!

    Same thing goes with mint, although I personally had a bit less success (but it still works, was just slower for me than the basil) and rosemary.

    Also had huge success replanting the top part of a tomato plant after it got too heavy and snapped off. As with the basil, the “new” plant grew hardier and gave more tomatoes than the original.

    Avo pits can be sprouted in water and give a gorgeous, leafy plant. Where I live it’s too cold for actual avos to grow, but the plant looks great. About 1 in 5 avo pits will actually grow to a plant, from personal experience.

    This wasn’t really double duty for fruit and veg, but I hope it’s still interesting/useful!

    Another resource: http://wakeup-world.com/2012/10/15/16-foods-thatll-re-grow-from-kitchen-scraps/

  • http://www.imogenmichel.blogspot.co.uk/ Imogen Michel

    I’ve never thought of making vegetable broth out of vegetable scraps before – such a great idea! I’ve got into a habit of just composting everything to the garden without thinking it could be used again first.

  • Cate

    I stuck some ginger and tumeric root parts in my garden this summer, not expecting much. I now have several small plants! It will take a good long time, a year or more, before the roots are big enough to start harvesting chunks, but in the meantime it’s fun, and I like seeing these tropical plants in my Pennsylvania home.

  • Elizabeth

    Hah! I just made a huge batch of veggie broth last night using scraps! I love not wasting and it’s crazy how quickly they add up – with just a week’s worth of discarded veg you can make gallons of the stuff. Way cheaper and healthier than the store-bought stuff!

  • Jared Bigman

    I’ve been making veggie broth with scraps for about a year now. I’ve saved at least $75-100 from buying cartons of the stuff, and I feel a lot better about saving what I’ve been using — plus I know what goes in it, and it tastes great! I actually use my slow cooker as it is just easier for me.
    The tips of using the heads of greens and re-growing them is awesome. I’ve only ever seen it done with green onions, but will definitely be trying it with many other greens. Keep the tricks coming, Sayward!!

  • Sarah C.

    Aw, that ginger plant is so cool – I really hope it works; can’t wait to find out! I’m stoked about the celery an romaine ideas too – I’m definitely going to do this. I’ve seen this with green onions on the internet before, but not these others. I’ve been throwing broccoli stems (and even grape stems, since I’ve got a powerful enough blender) into my smoothies lately so as not to waste those nutrients, and I’ve done the veggie stock deal. I hate food waste. I really get angry at myself when I find spoiled food in my fridge that I’ve forgotten – composting helps me alleviate some of the guilt over this, but food waste just burns me up.

  • http://www.thevegancookiefairy.com/ The Vegan Cookie Fairy

    Thank you for sharing these tips – they’re just what I needed right now! Money has been tighter than ever in my one-person household; i’ve just returned from the supermarket with tins of cheap baked beans and a reduced price loaf of bread – that’s how poor I am right now. As soon as i can buy myself veggies I am going to do exactly as you do!

  • http://lightweighteats.com/ Michaela@The Lightweight Eats

    We stuck some green onion ends in the garden and turned 25 cents into a year’s supply of fresh green onions. I’ve also been known to just stick particularly tasty tomatoes that have gone squishy out in the ground and hope for the best.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    These are awesome ideas, thanks so much for sharing Caro! I’m actually saving apple scraps to start making my own apple cider vinegar this winter.

    You can also dry out citrus rinds to make potpouri. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Ooh, I want to do this with basil and mint! Thanks for the tips and the link, Sita. ♥

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    oh homemade veggie broth is the absolute BEST! The key is to store them int he freezer until you have enough to make a really big batch. Much more efficient that way. Here is my recipe: http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/2009/01/recipe-making-vegetable-stock-from-scratch/

    That’s the first recipe I ever posted on this blog! ;-D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Oh brilliant! Love it, totally doing this with turmeric and galangal.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Sooo much bette than buying the boxes! I’m so happy to hear so many people are doing this, yay! Especially now that it’s soup weather, mmm.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I never did the math but you’re right, and that’s wild. That is a HUGE savings out of somethign that would otherwise just go to waste. Man, that’s the sort of stuff that just totally gets my rocks off, haha. =D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I’ll definitely share the ginger experiment when I see how it turns out! And I feel the same way about food waste, it breaks my heart. but you’re right, at least it can feed the compost. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I hear ya, I live on tinned beans and gifted veggies. That’s why these tips are so important right now! We’re all tightening our belts and trying to make it last a bit longer. But I hope things get easier for you soon, sweetie.

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I’ve never done the green onion ting but since I’m currently obsessed with them, I’m *totally* going to start doing that!

  • daoine o’

    epic seemingly endless post follows… :-/

    cannot believe how happy i am to find you online again! i was following you for *so long* when you announced your taking leave of the ‘net…i was so sad. :( i inadvertently stumbled upon you again recently and was thrilled to see you’d returned and i played catch-up for quite a ridiculous time reading your new posts since your return,

    and

    *so*!!! (been meaning to relate my excitement at seeing you back in the land of the web, but never found the words…) and now desperation sets in…

    now i am begging you for the recipe in your recent post picturing “pasta with roasted butternut squash ‘cheese’ sauce”.

    i tried googling and only found recipes for butternut squash with cheese sauce. so *not* what i’m looking for. :(

    all my attempts at a ‘creamy’ cheesy non-cheese sauce have been nothing but a separated broken watery mess…how *did* you make this??? it looks absolutely rich and ‘creamy’ and ‘cheesy’ and amazing…indistinguishable from the ‘real’ thing. could it be? my favorite comfort food…made vegan and accessible again? pinch me!

    welcome back! best wishes and continued happiness and prosperity! and…help! making a non-cheese cheese sauce!

    (apologies for the epic length…i’m pretty darned excited to see you back!)

  • Emma

    You can also use fruit/veg scraps as beauty treatments – rubbing a spent lemon rind or stringy squash guts on your face, then leaving it on to dry while you continue your food prep. I suspect even veggie stock remnants might be worth doing this with before throwing them on the compost. I tried using the fruit pulp left over after making blackberry jelly as an exfoliating scrub; it didn’t turn out that great for me, but well worth a try. My next experiment is to rinse my hair with tea made from reused tea bags – no-poo is great but I’m getting a little bored of my hair always smelling like vinegar!

    Do you not find that your veg stock ends up kind of dirty, if you’re throwing in carrot tops and onion roots etc.? I try to save scraps for stock sometimes, but most of the time when I have scraps at all it’s either because they’re dirty (like I’d only peel my carrots or potatoes if they were too dirty to scrub) or bitter/otherwise un-tasty (like yellow inner celery stalks) and in either case I wouldn’t want them in my stock. Any tips/insights?

  • skeptk_vegan

    Awesome post! I HAVE to try re-growing my veggies!! Do you change the water out as they grow?

  • http://practicalecologist.blogspot.com/ Rachel

    I’m loving this post, and I love all the tips! I had been wondering if I could use juice pulp in stock, and here is the answer. Done and done. I don’t know if this has been mentioned, but I always put the water I soak my beans in on my houseplants. Someone should get the nutrients that leach out of the beany goodness, and I can use it as fertilizer on my food plants with no fear.

  • Ginger Baker

    I am so gonna try regrowing some of the super delicious, way-better-than-store bought CSA celery I got this week! Also found this serendipitous as you posted this just as I started making kale chips :). Meanwhile, thought you might enjoy my citrus life cycle flow chart: http://easierthanyouthink.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/citrus-flowchart/

  • Deirdre

    I love the life of your kale…and I presume the compost for the ginger came from your stock leavings. Full circle. Very inspired to make some winter soup stock!

  • Sarah C.

    Oh, and I just remembered the coffee grounds on the garden thing. I wonder if there isn’t some other way to re-use coffee grounds too?

  • Elizabeth

    Hey, can I ask whether you still use your Champion? Does it work fine for green juice made w things *other* than wheatgrass? Everything I’ve read suggests that it is not suitable for that (am contemplating getting a juicer). Thanks in advance!

  • Jessica Baker

    I would love your recipe for the “cheese” sauce!

  • kung fu tofu

    if I may interject here, I may be able to help you out with delicious butternut squash cheeze sauce (or, as my husband calls it, “squeso.”

    We use this recipe as a base, and play with the ingredients to modify it to taste on occasion. It also works with sweet potatoes or pumpkin or other squash varieties, instead of the butternut, but the b’nut certainly is my favorite: http://ohsheglows.com/2011/10/03/butternut-squash-mac-n-cheeze/

  • souperbee

    Awesome tip to use the juice pulp for veggie broth. Question, when you use pulp for broth, do you need to strain everything into a nut milk bag or something similar?

  • daoine o’

    kung fu tofu, i <3 you! ;)

    i've visited ohsheglows.com before, but didn't see this post…can't wait to try it with the last cute little butternut squashy-baby i got from our garden!

    thank you for 'interjecting'! :-D

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    HELLO! It’s so good to hear from you, Daoine! And yay, welcome back to BA!

    I wish I had that recipe for you, but it was the first run of something I’m working on for Waits, so I don’t have anything solid. But that Oh She Glows recipe looks great, pretty similar. I also just made this roasted rd pepper mac n cheese from Isa last night and it was amazing. – http://www.theppk.com/2013/10/roasted-red-pepper-mac-cheese-video/ (watch the video, she’s hysterical!) (also, can you tell Waits is on a mac n cheese kick? ha!)

    SO great to hear from you again! ♥

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Hmm, I never notice a dirtiness. I throw EVERYTHING in there, even stuff I wouldn’t otherwise eat (like carrot greens). I never notice a dirtiness or a bitterness at all!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yes! Great question, I do change the water out every few days. Also sometimes the outer edge gets funky since it’s constantly submerged, so I just remove any funkiness. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Great tip about bean water for houseplants! Love it!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    This is fantastic! Soooo good!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I use it for everything! It does the job. Sometimes it gets hot so if the 100% raw thing is a big deal to you, it may be a problem. Its masticating which is always better for greens than a centrifugal juicer, so it’ll be better than something like a Hurom or a Breville. But if you can afford a masticating (they’re more expensive), I’d say go with the Omega or Green Star.

    Hope that helps!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Still in testing! I’ll have it wrapped in a couple of weeks, I hope. =)

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    Yup, I always strain my broth through a fine mesh sieve. A colander lined with cheese cloth works great as well!

  • Elizabeth

    It is very helpful–thank you, Sayward!

  • skeptk_vegan

    Ah! Thank you! My celery just started growing!

  • Chaya Kurtz

    This is awesome. You are motivating me to save my scraps for veggie broth. Odd tip: I once ate cake made with the pulp from someone’s juicer, and it was really good cake. Carrot cake from juicer pulp! Who knew?!

  • http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/ Sayward Rebhal

    I used to make crackers from juicer pulp, but never cake. I bet it was good though! Carrot pup is already so light and fluffy. =)