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Creative Composting

By Kim Robson:

Compost is like miracle soil. It helps sandy soil hold nutrients and moisture, and loosens heavy clay so plants can breathe. The beneficial microorganisms in compost help your plants grow strong and healthy. As it decomposes, compost feeds your plants naturally and organically.

Those of us who tend backyard gardens should already be composting to create our own rich, dark soil while also keeping garbage out of the landfill. Getting the right proportion of “browns” to “greens,” however, can be tricky. Often, we wind up with too much green material and end up tossing it.

I have one of these attractive compost crocks that sits on the kitchen counter and collects fruit and veggie scraps as I’m prepping meals. It’s also convenient for coffee grinds, tea leaves and eggshells. The contents stay odor-free and the crock is dishwasher safe. When it’s full, the scraps go out to the pile. But here are some creative ways to use up those excess veggie scraps that can’tgo on the compost pile.

● Use carrot tops and peels, kale or Swiss chard stalks, broccoli trunks, potato peels, tomato peels and jelly, and celery or squash trimmings to make homemade vegetable stock! Freeze in ice cube trays for easy storage and portioning.

● Save potato peels or sweet potato peels and make chips in the dehydrator.

● Regrow veggies on your windowsill! Click here to learn how.

● Make all-natural fabric dye. Yellow or red onion skins, beet peels, red cabbage or spinach stems are just a sampling of the scraps you can use. Click heret o learn more.

● Mince leftover herbs and blend with oil or water, then freeze in ice cube trays for easy storage and portioning.

● Rub the inside of a banana peel on your houseplants’ leaves to remove dust and make them shiny.

● Simmer lemon, orange or lime peels in a little water to make your home smell incredible. Or spin them in the garbage disposal to chase away lingering odors.

● Or you can dry those citrus peels and add them to your DIY all-purpose cleaning solution for added antibacterial effect. Click here to view recipes for natural cleansers.

● Soak a few banana peels in a bucket of water for a few days. Pour the resulting potassium- and phosphorus-rich “compost tea” on your indoor and outdoor plants. 

● Finally, here’s a crazy idea that chef José Andrés added to his new cookbook, Vegetables Unleashed, called “Compost Potatoes.” Basically, you layer used coffee grounds in a baking pan, then nestle the potatoes in the grounds, and cover them with the contents of your compost crock. Roast for an hour at 400 F. Technically, it’s not actual compost — you’re using fresh veggie scraps BEFORE they decompose in the compost pile for obvious safety reasons.

Do you have any creative ways to use food scraps? Share with us in the comments!

About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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