April is Earth Month, which is a time to raise awareness about the environmental issues impacting our planet due to the climate crisis. In that spirit, vegan cook Priyanka Naik is sharing her sustainable kitchen hacks that will not only help you reduce waste but also help you save money (a win-win!) — including creative (and tasty) ways to use fruit peels, skins and rinds, which are typically destined for the trash. (As they say, "One man's trash...")
1. Use mango peels to make an easy chutney.
Mangoes are a part of every Indian person’s DNA — I don’t make the rules. In India, it is customary to eat every part of the fruit/vegetable if it’s edible (aka the original zero-waste cooking). This chutney is commonly made in South India, eaten as a condiment with chapati and dosa, on sandwiches — literally anything! Our home is full mangoes during mango season, so this is how we use up all those delicious peels and turn them into something tasty. Any combination of spices will work in this chutney.
2. Turn banana peels into "pulled pork."
We all know we can make banana bread with ripe bananas, but what about the peels? During the pandemic, I wasn’t able to go on my usual compost runs to the farmers market, so I began doing research on what commonly discarded food scraps are safe to eat, and discovered that banana peels are among them (organic and thoroughly washed, of course!). And, using a fork to shred the banana peel, you can create an interesting texture that is similar to that of shredded chicken or pork. I have never eaten a pulled pork sandwich, but I imagine it tastes something like this. Either way, it's delicious — and cuts down on food waste.
3. Use watermelon rind to make pickles.
Watermelon has got to be one of my favorite fruits — it's so underrated. When I was young and traveled to India every summer, I was fascinated by all of the veggies, fruits and chilies being sun-dried in our gardens and on our rooftops, which would eventually be used to make chutneys, snack mixes and more.
The one fruit that stood out to me was watermelon rind — something deemed inedible by so many. My mom told me it was being sun-dried to make pickles! She taught me when I was older how to make this pickle, and it is now a staple in my house.
4. Turn citrus peels into candies.
When I was little and we went shopping, we would always stop by the Godiva chocolate store to pick up a little treat. Something I would always get would be the dark chocolate-covered orange peels — sweet, slightly tangy and decadently chocolaty. I loved the combo, and as I started cooking more, I realized it was a great way to reduce waste. Thusm these candied peels were born — they are great for topping desserts and cocktails or even as a refreshing and sweet after-dinner bite.
Here's how to make 'em:
- Remove any flesh and white skin from the rinds of grapefruits, lemons, limes, oranges or any citrus fruit.
- Bring equal parts sugar and water to a boil, place the peels in and cook for about for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly softened. Remove and place onto a parchment-lined tray.
- Dip into or sprinkle on granulated sugar, or cool completely and dip one end into dark chocolate.
5. Turn citrus peels into homemade cleaning solution.
As I began doing more research on how to minimize common household waste, one thing that kept coming up was homemade cleaning solutions. I was always thought these were difficult to make, but it literally only takes two ingredients! It's so easy and satisfying — plus, it'll make your house smell delightfully citrusy.
Here's how to make it:
- Fill up a large Mason jar with orange, lemon and/or lime peels. (You can mix and match the peels.)
- Pour in white vinegar to the top. Close tightly and place in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks.
- Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a spouted bowl.
- Pour into a spray bottle and use as your cleaner!
6. Use pineapple peels to make tea.
Use the rinds as a reason to buy whole pineapple rather than presliced — you can make a tropical tea with them that can aid in digestion and reduce inflammation.
Place pineapple peels into water and bring to a boil for 4 to 5 minutes, then pour through a sieve into a mug.