Learn from my mistakes: Making vegetable scraps stock – Food waste mini-series #fail

Want to learn how to make vegetable stock from your kitchen scraps? Then don’t do what I did. In today’s article I’m going to look at what went wrong with my experiment, how to do it the right way, and how making mistakes is an important part of being an activist. (Right?)

I follow a lot of Eco Tips and Zero Waste pages on Instagram, and this summer I saw this post about making vegetable stock from kitchen scraps, which made me really excited. The idea of wanting to waste less food had already been bubbling through my mind, and whenever I was cooking it always made me sad throwing away the odds and ends of veggies that I felt must possibly have a use. So after weeks of saving up my scraps, I decided to give this DIY stock a go — only to find disastrous results.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

First, how do you make your own vegetable stock? According to what I’d read, you save your vegetable scraps (potato skins, bits of onion, carrot ends), freeze them until you have enough, and then boil them with water and strain them to make your very own vegetable stock. Seemed simple enough. I’d saved up for weeks, feeling a sense of excitement every time I set aside those rubbery bits of red onion, or big broccoli stalks, dreaming of the day I’d put them to good use. When that day came, it all looked good at first: I put my scraps in a big pot, along with some extra garlic, parsley, turmeric, and other spices to make it taste extra good.

But then I started boiling it, and wondered if I had gone wrong somewhere. The smell itself was pretty off-putting; it was like the whiff you get from opening your fridge which tells your sinking heart that something has gone very bad. I opened the window and carried on, not wanting to let weeks worth of saving go to waste.

Then the colour became kind of distinct… it went the same kind of brown you got as a kid when you mixed all your paints together to see what would happen. I hadn’t washed the veg before I stored it in the freezer, which I know seems crazy, but I figured I’d be boiling it anyway so it would be fine…

Then, as I poured the mixture into an ice cube tray to freeze and save, I thought maybe I should taste it, which was a BIG mistake. It tasted like a skunk had farted in my mouth. Worried this might be inedible, I brought my partner in to try it. After tasting it, even she was dubious about whether it was worth saving, and she hates wasting food. Feeling defeated, I looked up some articles on how other people had made this to see where I had gone wrong.

Firstly, you should always wash your vegetable scraps before you freeze them, otherwise it will make the stock go a bit, well, muddy. Secondly, although what I’ve read said you can pretty much save any scraps for the stock (as long as it isn’t mouldy), apparently some greens like kale or broccoli will make it taste kind of bad. I’m not sure why this is, I know broccoli is full of vitamins which is why I’d saved it, but that might have been what caused the skunk fart taste.

Also, maybe don’t go quite as overboard with the onions as I did. Me and my partner use red onions for everything, so I had saved up quite a lot of onion bits over time. This was probably was gave it such a strong smell and flavour.

But, defiantly, I did freeze some of the stock I made, and I do want to try and use it in a soup… one day. When my stomach is feeling extra strong. Stocks aren’t meant to be eaten alone anyway, maybe when it’s added to something else it will be… better? Even if this isn’t the case, I’m not giving up. I’ve started a new scraps bag in my freezer, knowing what to do now, and I’ve included some parsnip, carrot, and sweet potatoes skin to hopefully give it a sweeter flavour. Wish me luck on this attempt! If you want a good guide on how to make a vegetable scrap stock properly, this is the one I found helpful: https://ohmyveggies.com/how-to-make-vegetable-broth-with-kitchen-scraps/

Finally, why did I include this failed experiment in my food-waste series? Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was going to, since the series is meant to be positive ways to encourage us to save food and be more eco-friendly. But, I decided to in the end, because I think the best way to be a Climate Activist is to do it imperfectly. Trying to do good in the world is always better than nothing. For example, being a flexitarian and eating mostly vegan stuff, even if you can’t quite manage to give up cheese, will still save a lot more animals than not trying at all. Posting about climate strikes, even if you can’t attend them, still raises awareness. And admitting as a human race that we have made some huge mistakes for the planet, and that we need to try and change society in order to fix them, is a big example of how we recognise and learn from our mistakes to do good. No one is perfect. You’ve just got to try your best. Even if it means making skunk-fart soup.

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