There are a few local coffee houses where I get work done when I want to get out of the house, and in the cooler months I usually buy soup for lunch while I'm there. On the side of the soup, both coffee houses serve baked bagel chips made from day-old stale bagels that could have been thrown away. Instead, the would-be trash was turned into an edible treasure, a way of making sure perfectly good (but imperfect) food doesn't go to waste.
As tasty as they are, I wouldn't call those bagel chips premium products, but I'd say they are similar to the foods Jessica Leigh Hester refers to in NPR when she writes about the trend of scraps being turned into premium products — one of the many fronts in the battle against food waste. It's sort of like "upcycling" food, turning it into something more appealing than it was before.
Here are a few yummy products being made from scraps, ugly produce and more.
Just Peachy Salsa
Just Peachy Salsa is made from rescued peaches, and the proceeds from its sale benefit The Food Bank of South Jersey. (Photo: Campbell's Soup)
Ugly produce is a hot topic these days. Traditionally, much of the produce that doesn't look perfect ends up being trashed, but with the renewed emphasis on curbing food waste, many stores are starting to sell less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables at a discount.
Where I live in South Jersey, peach farms are plentiful, but wasted peaches no longer are. Imperfect peaches that had been sent to the landfill because they weren't desirable, have found new life in a salsa with a social conscience. These rescued peaches become the star of Just Peachy Salsa, a collaboration between The Food Bank of South Jersey, local farmers and Campbell's. The proceeds from salsa sales benefit the food bank.
Once fruits and veggies are juiced, there's no way to know the ones used in Misfit Juicery's drinks were ever imperfect. (Photo: Misfit Juicery)
Like the toys on the Island of Misfit Toys in "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," who just wanted to fulfill their destiny and become Christmas presents, produce that's grown and harvested just wants to fulfill its destiny and become nutritious food for people. Misfit Juicery helps produce live out its dream by using 70 to 80 percent recovered fruits and vegetables in its cold-pressed juices. The company uses the trimmings and scraps from foods like carrot sticks and watermelon cubes, and they use produce that's the wrong shape, size or color to be sold at retail.
Cooper River Distillers Single Run whiskey
About two years ago, Camden, New Jersey, got its first legal distillery since prohibition when Cooper River Distillers opened its doors with one finished product: rum. The distillery now has several products including its Single Run whiskeys made from local beers that have a minor flaw. Instead of being dumped down the drain, Cooper River Distillers' James Yoakum takes the beers and distills them into one-of-a-kind whiskeys, then ages them in barrels. These premium whiskeys curb food waste by saving the malts, hops and, of course, water that went into originally producing the beer.
Back to the Roots mushroom farm
Homegrown mushrooms thrive in leftover coffee grounds. (Photo: Back to the Roots/Facebook)
It's well-known that used coffee grounds make great fertilizer for gardens, but the Back to the Roots people don't send the grounds to the garden. They put them in a box and send them back into kitchens as a mushroom growing kit. Gourmet Oyster mushrooms climb out of the box right on the window sill, nourished by what most of us throw out each morning after we've had our cup of joe.
These producers show us that what we've traditionally thought of as waste doesn't have to end up in the trash. With a little ingenuity and a willingness to see the possibilities in imperfections, new foods can be created, curbing food waste.