Being Eco in the Kitchen: Storing Summer Scraps for Fall and Winter Broth Making

If you read any of the popular health and wellness blogs this past winter, the craze was broths. Beef bone broth was the key focus, but fish and chicken broths fall into this category of "bone" broth. In NYC there was a restaurant that opened specifically with a "sipping broth" menu! 

Last winter, I succumbed to the fascinating world of bone broth, but it wasn't because of the trend. It was after reading a lot about the health benefits for the body, but especially for women's fertility health.  Once I started, I couldn't imagine going back to packaged broths. I started drinking the broth in the morning before my coffee, but after my water, with a smashed garlic clove and lots of pepper. The spiciness was a nice jolt in the am. I used some of the broth in soups and saucy dishes, but I mostly reserved them for my morning drink.

Besides being delicious, bone broths are healing in many ways. We all know that immediate feeling of relief when having chicken soup while fight a cold; we can thank cysteine, a natural amino acid, found in chicken which thins the mucus in your lungs and makes it less sticky to expel more easily. Making beef and fish stocks from scratch offer similar benefits.  According to Sally Fallon, writer of Nourishing Traditions, "Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons--stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain." 

What does broth have to do with saving your vegetable scraps, you may be wondering?

Well, in order to make a good broth, you need to add a mirepoix - onion, celery and carrots (and more, you do not have to limit your vegetables to these three) and let them simmer for a couple of hours, 24 hours max, to get the rich broth that helps heal the gut, promote healthy digestion and strong bones, healthy hair and nail growth and fight infection and inflammation.  I find it wasteful and expensive to buy brand new vegetables for the simmering process. (A lot of people do, in fact.) My solution has been to keep a bag in my freezer with my applicable (Tomato tops? No. Those are composted.) summer and fall produce scraps. When it comes time to make broth, I have onion pieces and peels (many don't recommend the peels because of the dirt, but I strain my broth once finished and well, dirt isn't all that bad, right?), carrot tops and flesh, celery bottoms and stalks to use.

Now that we're in the peak abundant summer season of produce, you may find that you're buying more produce, or receiving more from your CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share. If you're not using all of the produce fast enough, or you have too much produce odds and ends going into compost, you can, and should, start to store these for future uses such as your fall and winter broth base.

In a past post, we discussed composting and you should always compost scraps as you need, but I would hang on to as many produce scraps as possible. Those herbs you may have gotten that are going bad (but not rotten or moldy, please) - Freeze them! Especially parsley. Parsley is used in finishing off bone broth, so save it. I recently made some chicken broth and threw in old dill and cilantro that I had on hand instead of parsley.

If you're vegan or vegetarian, the more produce scraps you have, the better. Vegetable broth is similar - using filtered water and the scraps in your bag, you can easily whip up a new batch of broth for your various needs.

Suggested vegetables (wash and save roots, stalks, leaves, ends and peelings): Leeks, scallions, garlic, fennel, chard, lettuce, potatoes, parsnips, green beans, squash, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, and asparagus. Corn cobs, winter squash skins, beet greens, and herbs like parsley and cilantro are good additions, too!

Suggested vegetables to avoid (these can overpower your broth and turn it funky colors):  Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, artichokes. Beet roots and onion skins (although I use them) should also be avoided.

For those wondering what to do after you use these scraps (they can not be composted in the NYC compost drop off collection), I recommend burying them. They are easily degradable at this point, as all the nutrients have been removed, so insects will break them down faster. The other option is to give the bones to your dogs to chew.  In fact, when making the broth, the top layer of fat that is skimmed off, I mix with my dog's food and he loves it - he doesn't care if it's chicken or beef - he finds it delicious!

If you're interested in making broth at home, I highly recommend using the recipes from Nourishing Traditions mentioned above. Sally's chicken and beef broth recipes are my go to now and they're super simple and adaptable to the contents of your produce scrap bin. I also recommend using bones from animals that were raised and killed humanely and fed natural diets instead of grain-based diets. (In fact, I order mine from my CSA farmer. The quality is superb and I trust my farmer.) Their bones contain more of the nutrients our bones need. 

Once you make stock at home, I doubt you'll ever go back to buying stock at the grocery store. Especially since you can freeze what you don't use for future use.  If you have experience with broth or a recipe you'd like to share, please let us know in the comments!

Happy scrap saving and broth making!

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