Put Down the Peeler
A Case for Scrubbing Your Veggie Skins
Save Time, Waste Less & Get More Bang for Your Nutritional Buck
How often is the easiest thing to do also the most healthful, economical, tastiest, AND best for the environment? Not often says my inner pessimist (…I let her out every once and a while…)
Here’s good news: Washing, not peeling, your veggies hits all of those marks!
Just look at these shining garnet yams after a quick bath.
I freely admit that the top reason I don’t peel is laziness. It probably started when I was cooking for hundreds of people every day, seven days a week. When you’re staring at three 40 pound cases of potatoes that need to be peeled, when you also write the recipes and pay the labor, you start rethinking the step that is going to take someone hours to complete and results in throwing away a portion of the food you just purchased.
Whether you’re shopping at farmer’s market, Whole Foods, or your basic local grocery store, you’re going to want to wash the peels. I like this wooden and natural fiber brush;, but in researching I saw this sweet japanese tawashi scrubbing brush; and bought it. I’ll report back on Instagram. But, a clean terrycloth towel does the trick just as well unless your produce is really dirty (sunchokes, some potatoes).
In addition to saving time by skipping a tedious step, there are other compelling reasons to eat the whole thing:
NUTRITION – In a shortcut way to make snap nutrition judgements, color equals vitamins. Its why a common healthy eating guideline is to “Eat the Rainbow” (not just for a sugary cereal!). Keeping your skins means you also retain the vitamins and antioxidants you paid for! Many fruits and veggies have more vitamins in the skins than in the flesh of the item.
Fiber is also highly concentrated in the skins. Fruit and vegetables contain fiber – it a big reason they’re so good for you – but much of the insoluble fiber is in the peels only. Insoluble fiber is necessary for digestion and a healthy diet; you need to eat it. Wouldn’t you rather have delicious skin-on smashed potatoes than wash your skin-less mashers down with a glass of Metamucil?
STYLE – I have a “rustic” cooking style, even when catering fancy events. I like food to look like itself and the hand-chopped, farm fresh look is beautiful and appetizing. Often the skins are a darker color of the same shade as the vegetable and make a gorgeous contrast in your finished dish. Some veggies have a completely different color skin and the results are striking.
TEXTURE – cooking is all about dichotomies. Great flavor in a final dish a balance between hot-cold, soft-crunchy, smooth-chewy, fatty-acidic, etc. Keeping the skins on is an natural way to incorporate interest into your dish.
- Squashes with hard skins are not tasty and occasionally inedible – that’s your butternut squash, kabocha, pumpkin, and other gnarly winter squash (that said, just harvested small butternut squash and pumpkins can have edible and tasty skins). I LOVE delicata squash skins.
- Aging or very large beets. Beets skins are hit or miss for me. Small delicate beets shaved thinly over a salad are great but sometimes you just want a tender roasted beet salad prepared traditionally – save larger tough beets for this purpose.
- Knobby conventional cucumber skins can be unappetizing; I’d probably peel these but save the peels for your morning smoothie!
- Carrot peels are some of the easiest to eat, most of the time. Very large over grown carrots or carrots that are far from harvest day can taste very bitter. If you peel your carrots save for stock!
I saw this recipe on Kitchn.com while checking out what others have said about veggie peels – I’m definitely going to try this soon! Yum!
Recipe: Roasted Salad with Garnet Yam, Apple and Fennel
- 2 scrubbed, unpeeled, Garnet yams (or sub any sweet potato variety on hand)
- 2 apples (any kind works!)
- 1 bulb fennel and fronds
- 3 tablespoons butter (can omit, but why?)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (add more oil if omitting butter)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 tablespoons other herb – whatever you have – parsley, chives, oregano, basil
- 1 lemon
- Dice yams, apples and fennel to about the same size dice (do your best, it doesn’t matter too much. If anything, make the apples bigger than that yams because they cook faster).
- Toss together with butter and oil, salt, pepper to taste.
- Place parchment on a baking sheet and spread veggies into one layer.
- Roast at 425 degrees for about 18-25 minutes or until all veggies are soft but not mushy.
- Chop fennel fronds (and any other herbs you have) and zest the lemon. Toss with veggies. Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed.
- Serve hot, warm, at room temperature. Great as a side for fish, chicken and pork! Or add cooked quinoa or garbanzo beans and make it a complete meal.