Scraps, Wilt + Weeds

Scraps, Wilt & Weeds: Turning Wasted Food into Plenty by Mads Refslund and Tama Matsuoka Wong embraces the no-scrap-left- behind culinary trend with recipes that will surprise and excite you.

Refslund, the talented chef and co-founder of NOMA along with Wong, author of Foraged Flavor, provide advice on how to throw away less – from preserving food to creatively using parts of ingredients that people commonly overlook. The authors give a whole new meaning to whole food cooking. For example Skillet-Roasted Cauliflower Cores & Leaves with Brie, Broccoli Stems with Lardo & Fresh Coriander Seeds, and Flat Bread and Day-Old Bread Porridge will have us envisioning new ways to throw out far less.

For a book on trash cooking, it certainly is beautiful with photographs of dishes that would rival any fine dining experience. What is most appealing is the permission to use less than perfect ingredients for instance – ugly garlic – shriveled is fine. As cooks we are often told to use the finest most perfect ingredients and I love being told that imperfect is not only acceptable but encouraged. The advice on how to forage and find uses for those riches found in nature is very interesting. In a world where so many people go hungry, this is a book and lifestyle more of us need to embrace. 

The authors were gracious enough to answer a few questions about their new cookbook and the trashing cooking movement. Please be sure to head to our contest page to enter our giveaway for one of three copies of this cookbook open to our members in the US and Canada. 

Q: First, let me thank you for allowing me to ask a few questions about your new book for our members. Scraps, Wilt + Weeds Turning Wasted Food into Plenty is a gorgeous book. How did the idea come about to do a cookbook devoted to Trash Cooking?

A: Thank you for your interest! The book stemmed from a common philosophy that we share about discovering the deliciousness of underappreciated “wasted” foods, whether a wild weed or an unused part of a plant or fish. It’s at the core of how we each live in our separate domains: Mads as an innovative chef with respect for the whole produce as found in nature and Tama in making a living gleaning the unwanted weeds that people would ordinarily stomp on.

We’ve been working together now for years and it came up in a conversation and Mads said “oh yah Trash Cooking” let’s do it!

Q: I love the concept of utilizing normally wasted food but I am a tad put off with the term Trash Cooking – are you finding any resistance with that terminology or are people embracing it like the Dumpster Diving movement?

A: Yes well there was an ongoing debate about the title of the book for that very reason. People have different reactions and we don’t want them to be put off by choice of words.

The book is actually a push back on the use of language to make a value judgment about what we eat and what we don’t eat:  what we choose to call “Trash”: what food people “value” and what they throw out.  So what we really want is for people to question their own prejudices: why do carrot peels fall under the label of “trash” and fake baby carrots already peeled and reformed in a glossy plastic package fall under the category of “good produce”? And in fact to the contrary those peels that are thrown away may actually have more nutrition and flavor in them.

It’s also to recognize that in other times and places in the world  what Americans may perceive as  “trash” is relished as great cuisine.

Q: I’m sure it is more difficult to write recipes that involve scraps than having an entire stocked pantry and refrigerator at your disposal. Did you find you had to dig deep in your creative minds to fill this cookbook – or did the process flow easily? I, myself, am a huge leftover wizard – I love recreating something new from yesterday’s dinner.

A: Haha, frankly sometimes it was touch and go. Sometimes Mads would have “recipe” block and other times it would be “pumpkin marathon day”. But it really wasn’t that difficult because people have been cooking around the world from scraps forever: the “other ways to use” and the leftovers section are really just a compendium of time honored methods.

Q: How difficult a challenge was it to create recipes that would appeal to the masses utilizing these forgotten ingredients? In that vein, which recipe in the book was your biggest surprise success? Are there any recipes or ideas that failed?

A: Most of the recipe selection challenges ended up being ironed out through the testing process. Everything had to work in a timely manner in a home kitchen. There were definitely some flops or too difficult to recreate recipes such as one where Mads made a nuka pot with potatoes that took months. In countries where nuka is part of the regular culture it may be less of an effort to watch and turn nuka but when the testers forgot to turn it daily, and it got moldy, we decided to mention the method but not include the recipe.

The surprise success was the miso, sprout and banana recipe. Testers complained about why they had to make it and then ended up screaming about how they couldn’t believe how good it was. Or the wheat bran ice cream recipe which is crazy good. It’s another reason we included some of the testers notes in the recipes to the book so readers could experience along side testers actual reactions.

Q: For someone new to this idea of Trash Cooking which recipes would you point to first in the title? What tips would you give to the home cook on how to get started utilizing all of the components of a particular ingredient?

Try the celery scraps pesto. Its so easy and Tama’s personal favorite. We made it so many times and the romaine lettuce bottoms recipe with the romaine lettuce sauce!

Tips are not to become too much of a slave to a recipe. We realized that a lot of waste is if you a recipe calls for ½ cup of parsley but you have only 1/3 cup and you don’t feel you can make it unless you go to the store and buy more. Also, if you are cutting off the stem of broccoli to cook the flowerheads, put the stems back in the fridge  in a plastic bag and make it a few days later. You don’t have to cook everything all at once.

Q: I appreciate the movement you have started – and have the utmost respect for you as chefs and writers. We here at, Eat Your Books, are cookbook lovers – can you tell us about your favorite titles or culinary heroes?

We don’t wish to take any credit for starting a movement. Rather, our approach is to express humbleness for time honored traditions and cultures that do not waste food.  Our hope is that this book can serve as an initial blueprint to, give people some inspiring and practical tips as to how they can eat better, have an impact on an enormous world problem of food waste, and have a little fun doing it.

Tama: loves Ottolenghi’s Plenty More!  Also Fuschia Dunlop’s cookbooks. The Wongs cook a lot at home so we want books that are a bit “beyond basic”. We also still cook from Foraged Flavor every year as the seasons come and go. The recipes are pretty classic and not trendy.

Q: Thank you again for your time and for creating this beautiful book? Tell us, are there plans for a sequel? 

We put so much content in to this book we are not thinking of any sequels!



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  • Nancith  on  March 23, 2017

    I would definitely give that cauliflower core & leaves with Brie recipe a try!

  • Nancith  on  March 23, 2017

    To actually answer the giveaway question, I used to sort of avoid waste by composting, but now we live in a condo building w/ no means of composting. I definitely feel more wasteful.

  • sgump  on  March 23, 2017

    To avoid waste in cooking, I don't allow prepared food to be thrown out (picky eaters are not allowed at my dinner table). Leftovers are always simply eaten or repurposed. (I can't understand why some people don't like the idea of leftovers!)

  • tangaloor  on  March 23, 2017

    I find simply making sure that things get used is the biggest hurdle. Once it's cooked, it'll be eaten. But too often have forgotten bits of produce languished in the crisper until soggier. Keeping track of what's in there and making a plan to use it is the biggest impact thing I can do to reduce my waste.

  • monique.potel  on  March 24, 2017

    i basically freeze most of my peeling for the next pot of broth

  • gjelizabeth  on  March 24, 2017

    The top shelf of my refrigerator is dedicated to "use it soon, next, or now" items. Also, I regularly sort my pantry and donate items I realize I am not going to use BEFORE they near their expiration date.

  • edyenicole  on  March 25, 2017

    I use only what I need.

  • lebarron2001  on  March 28, 2017

    I use fruit that is past its prime to make smoothies.

  • fiarose  on  March 29, 2017

    buy organically and nearly never peel my veggies, just a good scrub! and everything I absolutely cannot use, I compost, or turn into lovely stocks.

  • hippiechick1955  on  April 1, 2017

    I make foods I know won't go to waste. What does get wasted is peels, the ends of celery and carrots, apple cores, and such.

  • Uhmandanicole  on  April 4, 2017

    I hate when food goes to waste! I try to save everything or find some kind of use. Can't wait to read this book!

  • Siegal  on  April 6, 2017

    I try to make soup with all my old veggies

  • t.t  on  April 8, 2017

    i try to only buy what i need, so it all gets used up

  • ltsuk  on  April 8, 2017

    Biggest thing is to not over buy produce and shop more often.

  • trudys_person  on  April 14, 2017

    I try to buy only what I need, and store it carefully … but this book sounds great for stretching what you buy even further!

  • Aproporpoise  on  April 15, 2017

    I freeze scraps for broth, and I make a point to cook a while ingredient if possible – beets and beet greens get cooked together, and cabbage bits get sliced more finely to be sauteed in butter.

  • lgroom  on  April 15, 2017

    I always save all cooking water for soups and all veggie scraps and peelings for broth. I keep a bag in the freezer for bread scraps which become bread pudding or dressing.

  • imaluckyducky  on  April 21, 2017

    As far as veg scraps go, I tend to thinly slice and make quick-pickles of the scraps. I eat them out of the jar because I'm an addict for brine.

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