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Use it all – stem, leaves, peel, seeds

It’s easier than you think to make use of the stems, leaves, peel and seeds of different fruit and veg when cooking. These clever tips and thrifty recipes will help you cut down on waste at home and make use of all of those so-called ‘rubbish’ leftovers, stretching ingredients to their fullest and making you a smarter and more conscious cook along the way.

  1. Stem

    Rather than chopping up your broccoli, use both the stem and leaves in this broccoli and bacon carbonara recipe. Make this vibrant Chinese chicken and broccoli recipe for a family favourite midweek meal. Or try using the entire leek in this leek and cheese soup to cut down on waste. If you’re still struggling for inspiration, these 10 root-to-stem recipes will help you get the most out of your vegetables.

  2. Leaves

    Leaves are more versatile than you might think and can be used for grilling or roasting many different kinds of meats and vegetables. Try roasting cauliflower leaves in this crispy chipotle cauliflower tacos recipe. Leaves can also be rolled around food, or used to help bulk out a meal, like this Turkish-inspired spinach menemen recipe, or tossed through this dairy- and gluten-free griddled nectarine and ham salad. Or for an all-round dressing that works well with salads, try crushing or blitzing leaves, as in this zingy watercress pesto with stuffed peppers.

  3. Peel

    Not all vegetables require peeling, and most can be used as they are (skin-on mash is game-changing!). If your recipe does require you to peel veg, use up any leftover peel to make baked veg crisps: all you need to do is drizzle a little oil, season, then bake. Try out this carrot fries recipe, and use any leftover peellings to add flavour to a stock. While it may take a little more time, try using pared citrus peel in preserves, like this recipe for orange and cardamon marmalade, or to flavour sauces and desserts. You can also use citrus peel to garnish desserts, like these lemon cupcakes, while watermelon rind can be made into a sweet-sour pickle.

  4. Seeds

    Instead of throwing out seeds and stones, experiment by mixing them with flavourings such as paprika or soy sauce. Pumpkin or squash seeds are a good place to start, and can easily be made into a tasty snack when mixed with cumin and smoked paprika, like this spiced pumpkin seed recipe, while poppy seeds are used here to decorate these pretty pineapple 'sunflower' cupcakes. There’s no need to throw away stone fruit pits either, as these can be simmered whole with equal parts sugar and water to make a flavoured syrup that’s perfect for cocktails or desserts – just make sure not to crush them.

  5. Tips

    Not every part of every fruit or veg is edible – avoid rhubarb and aubergine leaves, avocado skin, apple pips, crushed stone fruit pits and green potatoes. If in doubt, look it up, or don’t eat it.

    Stone fruits can also be frozen, which helps to loosen their texture, so they won’t be ideal for eating raw but are great in crumbles and compote desserts.