Four Flawless Nectarines: Food or Food Waste?
By Chef and Storyteller Jonathan Bardzik
I have a food waste problem. In my refrigerator are four perfect nectarines from a Sunday morning visit to Washington, DC’s Eastern Market. Their sweetness and bright acidity inspired this shopping splurge which included two thick-cut pork chops and an Italian corno di toro sweet pepper bound for a Thai stir-fry.
But quarantine life gets in the way. One night we decided to order delivery to support local restaurants. The next night we ended up eating the leftovers, followed by an evening that got away from us and it was too late to start cooking. You can see where this is going. If I don’t carve out a free night, and fast, I’ll be tossing the pork chops in the freezer and those ripe nectarines in the trash.
Like me, America has a food waste problem, too. Each year we throw away 133 billion pounds of food according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. And this food waste is costing us more than just food. Almost 4.2 trillion gallons of water, 5.6 billion pounds of fertilizer and nearly 780 million pounds of pesticide annually go into growing the crops that are being thrown away. On top of this, all the water, fertilizer and pesticides are applied using fuel-burning tractors and other equipment.
What can we do at home to reduce that number and its impact on our environment? As a local storyteller, cook, and author with a passion of farm-fresh, seasonal cooking at home I’m not going to advise you to just order out or buy canned and frozen foods with longer shelf lives. So…
First, buy a little less rather than stocking up fresh fruits and vegetables, which account for nearly 40% of our food waste. By buying less and reducing the amount that is sold you can impact how much is produced which directly reduces those water, fertilizer and pesticide numbers.
Second, learn more about when food really goes bad. My nectarines are super-ripe and bruise easily. Even a couple big brown spots are no reason to throw them away. I’ll do what Mom used to do and cut them off. Your wilted salad greens often perk right back up when you soak them in cold water for 5–10 minutes.
Squeamish about browning fruit? Well, another way to reduce that fruit waste number might be with a new apple. According to the U.S. Census Bureau we each throw away 17 apples a year on average. Altogether, that’s 1.7 billion pounds of a crop that requires a lot of water and spraying. Why so many apples? Well, we all get squeamish about sliced apples that are starting to turn brown, but this is just a natural chemical reaction and often doesn’t mean the apples have gone bad. (Try telling that to a 5-year-old!)
There is a new kind of apple just starting to appear in grocery stores called Arctic apples. Breeders have figured out how to use GMO technology to reduce one of the chemical compounds that make apples go brown. That’s right, you just leveled-up your fruit plate! And, a study by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine found that GMOs pose no risks for our health or the environment. Enjoy your non-browning apples worry-free!
While we’re talking about waste and GMOs, let me mention that GMO crops have allowed farmers to produce the same amount of food using millions and million fewer acres of land. That’s a greatly reduced environmental impact!
So, fill up your cart a bit less at the grocery store, hold onto some of that food a little longer and grab a few non-browning apples while you’re at it. If we each pitch in a little we can make a big dent in our food waste problem.
Now it’s my turn to hit the kitchen and cook up that stir-fry.
During this time of COVID-19, Jonathan has shifted from in person events to online cooking demos and online chats. He hosts daily lunchtime chats at 11:45am Eastern (US) and live cooking demos Tuesdays at 7:30pm Eastern (US) and Saturdays at 1pm Eastern (US) on Instagram Live on his Instagram feed @JonathanBardzik. The videos are also available on his IGTV page and YouTube channel. In keeping with the spirit of minimizing food waste and using ingredients that are never out of season along with what you may already having in your spice rack, here’s a recipe from one of his most recent cooking demos.
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Join me for fresh fish on Instagram live today at 1pm. Greek-inspired compound butter and tuna poke fresh and bright featuring DC locals @linderafarms and @profishltd. . . . . . . . . . . . #fish #freshfish #poke #farmersmarket #farmfresh #seasonal #food #foodie #foodporn #cheflife #cooking #foodstagram #getinmybelly #delicious #instagood #chefsofinstagram #shoplocal #buylocal #eatlocal #instagarden #healthy #healthyeating #healthylifestyle #forkyeah #dceats #feedfeed @dcfray @metrocookingdc @metroweekly @centralfarmmarkets @lobstermaineia @freshfarmdc @easternmarket_dc @thehepburndc @thebozzutogroup @thewoodleydc @collectiveapts
Fish with Greek compound butter
This compound butter – a mixture of butter and other ingredients – combines Greek flavors of olives, lemon, dill and capers. Quick to make it is a simple and delicious way to top fish, steaks, chicken and just about any green vegetable you can think of from broccoli in the fall and winter to summer zucchini and green beans.
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbs chopped dill
8-10 leaves mint, finely chopped
4 sprigs parsley, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
6 Kalamata olives, finely chopped
2 t capers, rinsed and chopped
1 cup butter (8 oz)
Directions for Greek compound butter:
Mix everything together in a bowl, blending with a spatula, pastry cutter or your hands. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for a week or the freezer for up to 6 months.
To serve with fish, place whitefish filets on foil. Top with several slices of the butter and a lemon round or 3. Close foil over fish sealing ends of packet tightly. Bake on a rimmed sheet pan in a pre-heated 400 F oven until done, about 7-14 minutes depending on the fish and the thickness of the filet.
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Foil-baked cod with a Greek-inspired compound butter. With compound butters in the freezer this dinner is ready in under 20 minutes! Join me Saturday at 1pm for my all fish Instagram live demo.Recipe link in bio. . . . . . . . . . . . #fish #freshfish #Mediterraneandiet #tbt #throwback #greek #greekfood #butter #farmersmarket #farmfresh #seasonal #food #foodie #cheflife #cooking #foodstagram #getinmybelly #delicious #instagood #dinner #chefsofinstagram #shoplocal #buylocal #eatlocal #healthy #healthyeating #healthylifestyle #forkyeah #feedfeed #dceats @profishltd @aasriolo @gardeners_gourmet @freshfarmdc @centralfarmmarkets @easternmarket_dc
Jonathan Bardzik is a storyteller, cook, keynote speaker and author based in Washington, DC. From his start doing weekly farm market cooking demonstrations with local, fresh, seasonal ingredients Jonathan now cooks and speaks in front of home and business audiences on storytelling, overcoming adversity and living your dreams. Jonathan’s new TV series arrives on Amazon Prime Video later this year. Find out more, including 250 farm-fresh recipes at JonathanBardzik.com.