Making the Most of Your Fresh Ontario Produce: Use Your Clean Kitchen Scraps

Kitchen produce scraps

Are you trying to make the most of your local Ontario produce, to reduce your food waste, or to save a few dollars? There are many reasons to try and cut down on kitchen waste, but whatever your reason there are many ways to get the job done. From repurposing kitchen scraps into meals, regrowing vegetables or even using those scraps as compost materials – it’s not difficult to find a method that you can easily work into your lifestyle.

Recipes using Kitchen Scraps

It’s easy to throw out those little scraps of food that don’t seem to have much value like potato peels, parmesan rinds, and old berries. We even throw away vegetable pieces like broccoli stems, onion peels or cauliflower leaves that we don’t usually eat because most people don’t know all the different ways you can use them. Once you start reusing those little kitchen scraps, you’ll be amazed at how much you were throwing away before.

Some of the easier ways to use up those kitchen scraps include: flavoured salts (use leftover lemon peels, or herb stems), stock (can use up almost any scraps), pasta sauce (can use scraps, or even the pulp from juicing), and bone broth (you can use frozen or fresh bones).

There are many parts of vegetables that we usually discard that we can make use in some unexpected ways. Cauliflower leaves or the outer leaves of brussel sprouts can be crisp roasted and salted for a nutty healthy snack. Broccoli stems can be spiralized into noodles, potato peels make crispy thin fries, apple peels can be dried for snacks, and swiss chard stems can be pickled.

If you want to put a little more effort in, you can make jams from too-soft berries, or bread from old zucchini, squash or bananas. You can even make some tasty limoncello using leftover lemon peels, or a fruit shrub to be sipped in the hot summer months.

Grow Your Own Local Food

There are quite a few fruits and vegetables that you can use the ends of to replant and grow yourself, either indoors during the winter months or outside in your garden. This helps reduce your kitchen waste, continues the local food cycle, reduces your grocery cost and helps keep them on hand when you need them.

Depending on your garden set-up you may only be able to regrow window herbs, but even this small step can be rewarding. Another unexpected food you can grow indoors are mushrooms, they love dark, cool and moist environments like your basement or under your sink. If you have a larger outdoor space you’re able to set your sights higher and get a little more ambitious. Vegetables with a base are usually the easiest to try and regrow such as lettuce, celery, and onions. Simply leave a good base on it and stick it into water, after some time you’ll notice tiny white roots starting to grow and you can carefully transfer it into a pot or the ground.

Another way to continue the local food cycle at home is to collect seeds from vegetables like pumpkins, peppers, bean sprouts, apples, peaches, lemons or chestnuts. Germinating them is the first step, then plant them in your outdoor space!

Compost your Local Food Scraps

If you have kitchen scraps that you can’t repurpose, a great alternative to throwing them away is to create a home composter. Placing your composter in a sunny location with good drainage that is easily accessible year round.

Compostable Items

  • All vegetable and fruit wastes
  • Coffee grounds and paper filters, tea bags
  • Crushed egg shells
  • Grains
  • Corn cobs and outer husks
  • Anything made from flour (bread, noodles, pizza crusts etc)

Non-Compostable Items

(These items will attract rodents and maggots, will cause your compost to smell, and will create an imbalance in the breakdown process.)

  • Any kind of meat or bones etc
  • Any part of a fish
  • All dairy products (cheese, butter, yogurt etc)
  • Grease or oils

Thinking Local is Good for the Environment

According to a report from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, every Canadian on average throws away 170 kilograms of food a year. That makes Canada one of the biggest food wasters on the planet, higher than both United States and Mexico. Buying local at farmers markets, picking your own and repurposing food scraps are all ways to reduce food waste, while at the same time helping yourself and your family. We hope to see you back here at the farm soon to enjoy more delicious local Ontario produce.

5 Ways to Preserve your Local Ontario Produce

Preserving fresh fruits

Many of us are doing our best to eat local Ontario produce, but one of the major difficulties in the Canadian climate is how to continue this throughout the year. Whether you’re buying your fruits and vegetables from farmers markets in Ontario or you’re growing your own, preserving the nutrient-rich produce is a concern. Try your hand at food preserving this year, and read on to find out our top five ways to preserve your food.

Fresh Food Storage

The easiest way to store you local produce is by fresh storage. All that this straightforward option requires is a cool, dark space such as a root cellar, basement or garage. Produce such as onions, garlic, root vegetables and apples last a long time in conditions like this.

Fridge Food Storage

Using your fridge is a similar storage option to fresh storage, but the temperature and moisture levels are lowered. Food items like carrots and beets do very well in this manner of storage. You can place them into large freezer bags and eat them as you need.

Freezer Food Storage

Freezing your local produce is a great option that will preserve the closest flavour and texture to fresh. If you are planning on using this option often, it is recommended that you use a chest freezer because it doesn’t have the usual defrost cycle of a kitchen freezer.

Some vegetables will require you to blanched or steamed first to stop the enzyme action (which will cause loss of flavour, colour and nutrients), but others can be stored raw. Foods such as peppers and kale store great in freezer bags or containers.

Pickling or Fermentation Storage

This is a little more of an involved storage option, but one that can help foods last for over a year in fridge storage. Fermented foods retain a lot of their nutrients in storage, more than canned foods, and has the added benefit of bacteria that is excellent for your gut health. Pickling options that work the best are cabbage, onions, carrots, eggs, and cucumbers.  

Canning Storage

The final, but most complex storage option is canning. Using a large stockpot with a lid you’ll cover your jars with water to sterilize them. You can use this method to preserve your fermented foods longer, as well as jams and jellies, or tomatoes. You can use a pressure canner for lower acid foods such as carrots, beans, sauces, broths and soups but you will need to purchase one specifically for this.

Local Produce is the Best Reward

Keeping your fresh foods as delicious as the day you brought them doesn’t have to be a difficult as you might think. Choosing which storage option appeals to you most can make this process easier and thus more likely for you to continue. Being able to eat your home grown foods in the depths of winter will be a satisfying reward for your hard work. We’re looking forward to seeing you back on the farm in the spring.

What do you do in winter – part 2

This weekend, with the help of my two younger children, I made some nest boxes for American Kestrels, which are small falcons that prey on mice, voles, grasshoppers. earthworms, songbirds and other small prey. They are beautiful birds, and will be returning to our area once again in late March or early April. Females (left) are larger and have brown wing feathers. Males (right) are slightly smaller than females and have blue/grey wing feathers. Having them around the farm is a great way to naturally keep mice populations down. Mice can do significant damage in the apple orchard by chewing the wood around the base of the trees.

We built two boxes, and I will try and build a couple more to erect near the orchard. Starlings like to use these boxes as well. If kestrels really want a next box, they will evict the starlings. Having more than one box, however, will allow the starlings to have nesting boxes to use as well as the kestrels, and save the kestrels the trouble of fighting for their preferred box.

Now that the boxes have been made, I will need to put them up near the orchard in February or March before the kestrels return from their wintering locations in southern North America and Central America. I’m fairly confident we will have a pair nesting this coming spring. I’ll try to get some photos, and at the very least update you on the project.

Now I’m off to continue with ordering seeds and plants for spring!

 

What do you DO all winter?

That’s the most frequent question I’m asked once the farm is closed for the season. What do you do all winter? So as a new year is upon us, I’ve decided to post weekly (hopefully) blog updates to let you know what goes on behind the scenes here at the farm.

Today, I’m beginning to get plant orders placed. Just before the New Year, I had some quiet time in my office to get field rotations planned. The only fields that never change are the blueberries. Dad planted his first planting of blueberries in 1982. We have since planted again in 1990 and once more in 2004. Every year I order a few more to replace the plants that have died or have been removed due to disease, and a few to sell to home gardeners. The blueberry plants I order will come from a nursery in Michigan. The main large blueberry nurseries are all in the USA. It’s important to start off with the healthiest plants possible, free of virus and disease. I have been ordering from DeGrandchamp Farms for many years now. They provide high quality plants and are friendly to work with. In order to import plants, I must first apply to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) for an import permit that lasts for 5 years. My permit expired last year, so I will need to do this once again early on 2019 to be ready to import the plants in April.

All of the other crops except apples, are planted in different fields from time to time. Changing what is planted in each field, each year, helps with disease control, weed control and soil fertility. In the photo below, you can see I have the fields all marked out using Google Earth. This is a really great tool that helps me know just exactly how many plants to order. Using Google Earth’s ruler function, I can measure my fields exact length and width. I can determine the number of rows per field and number of plants per row.

So I will start by ordering blueberries strawberries and raspberries. Apple trees were ordered last fall. Next week I’ll get on to seed – peas, beans, sweet corn and pumpkins.

Only about 130 more days until the farm opens with fresh asparagus!

Farmer Morris