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How can we avoid wasting those fresh herbs we’ve forgotten at the back of the fridge? And how much do we know about how food waste affects climate change? Some answers right here...

Those of you who read my blog regularly, know how food waste is an issue I find extremely important. I have written about it before, and shared ideas for using up leftovers too. I have also written articles for other websites. I really hate it when I see food being wasted. Nowadays the issue has gone far beyond being “a shame” or “bad for our wallets”. Food loss and waste have become a major, complex problem with clear repercussions for the environment.

The quantities in question are inconceivable. Did you know one third of all food produced is lost or wasted, somewhere between production and consumption? (1) In terms of weight, we are talking about 1.3 billion tonnes (2). Every year. Just one quarter of this food would be enough to feed the 800 million hungry people of this world (3).

Reports show that households in the United Kingdom waste an estimated 77 kilograms per person per year, with the equivalent figures for the United States being 59 kilos, for Canada 79 kilos and for Australia 102 kilos per person per year! (4)

What’s all this got to do with climate change you ask. A lot, when you consider how many natural resources (land, water, energy etc) are required for the production of food, and how this production affects the environment (pesticides, emissions, toxic waste etc). Same applies for its storage and transportation. And then we have decomposition of wasted food in landfills which releases methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas.

Let’s see some more figures to put this all into perspective:

Greenhouse gases: Lost and wasted food is responsible for about 4.4 gigatonnes of GHG emissions; that’s 8% of total human-generated emissions (5). If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitting country in the world after China and the USA (5).

Water: The quantity of water required for the production of food that is later lost or wasted, is about equal to the amount needed for all households in the world, for a whole year! (6)

Land: It is estimated that the land needed to grow all the food which never actually reaches our plates, would make up a country larger than China (6).

The numbers are alarming.

But what is the difference between food loss and food waste? Food loss refers to food that spoils or is lost before it reaches the consumer. It usually happens during the production, storage, processing, and distribution stages of the food chain. For example if a large quantity of milk in a factory goes bad due to improper storage temperature, that constitutes food loss.

Food waste refers to perfectly good food that is thrown away after it has reached the retail or restaurant/catering sectors, or consumer households. Reasons usually include “ugly” appearance, poor planning, incorrect understanding of expiry dates, negligence etc.

In developed countries waste is more prevalent than loss. Waste also has a larger footprint and negative impact on the environment as it includes the processing and transport stages of foodstuffs. For example a tomato being thrown away in the field is not the same as a prepared tomato sauce being thrown away in a supermarket or our kitchen, as harvesting, processing and transport of the sauce have already created extra emissions.

The per capita food waste footprint on climate in high income countries is more than double that of low income countries (7). It’s obvious that we as consumers play a very important role and more awareness on these issues is absolutely crucial.

There are many ways we can reduce food waste, most of them being obvious and requiring just a bit of common sense. Sometimes however it can be useful to be reminded with small tips; a nudge in the right direction shall we say. I’ll go over the main tips in another article but for now, I suggest we all take a look at our own mindset and habits.

Do we over-order at restaurants? Do we go shopping on an empty stomach and end up with more than we need? Do we prefer to get a take-out rather than spend some time creating a new dish with our leftovers? Well it’s time to adjust our way of thinking and wake up to reality. Food waste is a huge problem that we all need to pay attention to. Starting in our own homes.

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And now as promised, some ideas on how to use up fresh herbs such as parsley, dill, basil and spearmint. It’s these that usually end up all sad and wilted in the back of my fridge.

I recently ended up with some vegan cream cheese that was pretty awful. I have drastically cut down on cow dairy and I’m in the process of looking for a good plant based alternative. This one did not make the cut. Even so, I was not going to throw it out so I looked for a way to make it a bit more palatable. Just when I thought I would have to resort to adding a whole load of sugar, I remembered to check Pinterest. And sure enough, it gave me the idea for this dip. And it meant I could use up some herbs I had lying around too… win win! (Details in the recipe section below)

I also had some spearmint so I thought I’d look for a similar solution. I found this delicious chutney that is perfect with poppadoms or naan, or even homemade pitta chips (make sure they are salty, recipe here). If you eat meat you could try it with lamb. I adjusted the quantities according to what I had on hand and ended up making about half the recipe with a little less onion. You can start with small amounts and adjust as you go on (e.g. a bit more sugar, a bit more vinegar etc). See the cream cheese dip and mint chutney in the photo delow.

Dips with Leftover Herbs and an Article on Food Waste www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: a ceramic platter with two small bowls of dips on it. Around the bowls are some homemade pitta chips.

For leftover fresh basil I urge you to make this gorgeous vinaigrette here. Drizzle it on a galette like in the recipe or mix it into a summery pasta salad with ripe tomatoes and peaches! Yum.

Dips with Leftover Herbs and an Article on Food Waste www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: A small bowl with a vibrant green dressing made with basil. To the left a piece of galette with a spoon full of vinaigrette lying next to it.

For fresh thyme and rosemary check out my olive oil dip here. If you have lots you can double or triple the recipe without the oil and balsamic, then divide the mixture into an ice cube tray, cover with some olive oil and freeze. When frozen, pop the cubes into a freezer bag. Then whenever you feel like some dip you can defrost a cube, add evoo and balsamic, and hey presto!

Dips with Leftover Herbs and an Article on Food Waste www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: A small ceramic plate with olive oil dip in it, the chopped herbs in the centre are separated from the oil and there are a couple of vinegar drops on the oil surface.

With a bit of imagination we don’t need to ever waste herbs!

Let’s see that cream cheese dip:

Ingredients

plant based cream cheese (or regular)

parsley, roughly chopped

dill, roughly chopped

garlic, raw or roasted

sea salt

pepper, freshly ground, black or white

cayenne pepper (just a bit)

olive oil if necessary (just a bit so the dip doesn’t go runny)

Step 1

Place the cream cheese, parsley, dill, garlic, salt, pepper and cayenne in a food processor and whizz until incorporated and spreadable. Add olive oil if desired.

Step 2

Serve with vegetable sticks, pitta chips, rusks, bread or anything else you fancy.

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