Feb 20, 2020

There is no act too small in the movement to minimize food waste. 

According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), an estimated 2,175 tons of food scraps are thrown away on a daily basis in Metro Manila. A huge chunk of this comes from households, with fruit and vegetable peelings being recognized as the most common kitchen waste.

Unbeknown to many is the potential of peelings to go from being discards into useful, sustainable byproducts. It’s crucial to take note that these fruit and vegetable skins and trimmings are actually brimming with nutrients. Many also contain beneficial antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber and a long list of vitamins. For some vegetables and fruits, the peels are even more nutritious than the flesh. Those potato skins heading to the trash? They could have been a reliable source of iron.

So take a step back next time you find yourself peeling fruits and vegetables and throwing all those skins away. Here, find easy ways to reuse and repurpose those peels at home.


Reuse in recipes 

The easiest way to repurpose vegetable and fruit peels is to get creative in the kitchen and cook up new dishes and food items using them. Stocks and broths will benefit greatly from these peels. The result is a flavorful liquid that is a versatile base for many soups and sauces. Of course, these peels can be coated and fried until gold and crisp like tempura. Kids won’t even notice that they’re eating vegetables this way.

Photo by Dmitry Bayer on Unsplash

Grated or diced peels can be added to baked goods, pasta dishes (think lasagna), and creamy salads. They can be turned into jelly, jam, pickles (watermelon rind, please) and candies with the addition of a few pantry staples. They can be infused into oils and seasonings like salt and pepper. Beverages can also benefit from peels. Steep skins in water and other aromatics to make tea, or blend them into protein shakes and breakfast smoothies.     

Repurpose in house upkeep

Cleaning the house can take a toll on one’s energy (and budget). All the chemicals found in cleaning materials also do no good for one’s health and the environment. The perfect solution? Something natural and good-for-you: peels. Fruit and vegetable peels possess good cleaning properties that will help in the upkeep of one’s home.

flat lay photography of sliced pomegranate, lime, and lemon
Photo by Bruna Branco on Unsplash

Start off by making an all-purpose spray cleaner by combining vinegar, water, and citrus peels. The same citrus peels are also effective bug repellants, while lemon skins are great for scrubbing skinks, bathroom tiles and anything stainless steel. Ants are averse to cucumber peels so use them to block off any holes and gaps. Wipe off plants and leaves with banana peels to give them a nice shine. Or why not sun-dry fruit peels and turn them into a natural air freshener. 

Add to compost

Recycle peels into potent organic fertilizer through composting. By mixing the peels with other biodegradable waste, one can easily make natural plant food. There are several types of composting and many are manageable in one’s own household. One of the most popular is vermiculture, which uses worms to decompose food waste. Its result is a material filled with nutrients that can effectively sustain plant growth. Worms feed very well on citrus peels, melon rinds and carrot skins. 

Photo by Heather Gill on Unsplash

Another form of composting that is gaining popularity is bokashi. Here, beneficial microorganisms found in inoculated bran are used to breakdown food waste. The resulting compost is odorless and even produces a liquid that is also an effective natural fertilizer.  

Turn into feeds

Caring for animals in one’s own household can also mean extra expenses, especially in terms of sustenance. Many feeds in the market come at a hefty price, and they’re not even necessarily natural and good for animals. So why not turn to natural feeds made out of vegetable and fruit peels? Chickens will surely benefit from this. And even pets like dogs and rabbits, who will enjoy the peels chopped up into tiny pieces.   

Recycle into household materials

A bit of innovation can turn food waste into a brand new household product. It will even help cut down household expenses and ultimately help in avoiding any more wastage. Just think of the humble orange. Its skin can do wonders inside the house.

beets on white plate
Photo by Natalia Fogarty on Unsplash

Cut the orange in half and turn the peel into a bowl for serving desserts like ice cream. This can also serve as the perfect vessel for candles. The absorbent properties of the orange peel make it usable as a sponge in the kitchen, too. So many possibilities! Fruit and vegetable peels in deep, vibrant colors can be used as a natural dye to color items and make artworks. The same peels and skins can also be reused as brushes and stamps.   

Use in skincare

There’s no denying the rise in demand for skincare products that promise a cure and solution to every concern. But this has also resulted in an increase in waste care of production and packaging materials. Enter: Peels to the rescue. Fruit and vegetable peels have natural properties to help in taking care of one’s skin.

slice of avocado
Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash

Boil sweet potato skins or apple peels in water to make a natural toner. Avocado skins can be applied as a face and hair moisturizer, while banana peels can be used as a body scrub. Orange peels can be used as a teeth whitener, while chilled potato skins can help heal dark and puffy eye bags. Onion and garlic can also be boiled in water, then applied to alleviate any itchiness. Or combine any and all peels, chop them up into tiny pieces, and mix with yogurt or honey for an all-purpose cream. The possibilities are endless!   


10 fruits and vegetables don’t peel need peeling at all

No, no, no! Don’t peel these fruits and vegetables next time a recipe calls for them. Yes, yes, yes! There are numerous edible purposes for peels, too.

Garlic: Include the skin next time you make fried rice or lemon-butter sauce.

Cauliflower and broccoli: Those leaves can be grilled or roasted, too. 

Cucumber: Keep the vitamin K and potassium in by not peeling the skin for salads and salsas. 

Eggplant: Not for tortang talong, but definitely for eggplant lasagna. 

Ginger: Don’t touch the skin for a more fragrant and flavorful arroz caldo. 

Grapes and berries: Fresh, frozen and dunked in cream. Score! 

Tomatoes: Skin-on tomatoes are perfect for grilling to keep all the juices in. Pair with steak, tapa or fried fish.

Kiwi: Surprise! That fussy skin is actually edible. Fresh fruit salad perhaps?

Watermelon: That rind is a versatile work of wonder that can be turned into pickles, jams and smoothies. Try it in a grilled watermelon steak, too. 

Mango: Big surprise here! That skin is packed with fiber, vitamins and a long list of good-for-you nutrients. Blend it up for your next mango graham float.


This story originally appeared on Southern Living Fixed Forward Issue 2020

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Read more:

Give greener living a go with The Nolisoli Sustainability Guide

Should you start raising worms?

Food for thought: This is what happens to food waste

TAGS: food waste fruit peels peels vegetable peels waste reduction zero waste cooking