Let’s talk about compost…Growing up, we always fed our food scraps to the chickens. Here in Seattle, we are lucky to have free curbside composting. But, I know that for many people composting isn’t mainstream or easy and can feel daunting. So, I wanted to share some information and some options with you in case you’re interested in composting but don’t know where to start. I am by no means an expert on this topic and hope that those of you with more experience will share your wisdom with us in the comments. With that said, here’s my guide to compositing as well as the recipe for these Curried Black Lentils with Roasted Cauliflower…
According to the USDA, the majority of the waste in our landfills is food. Crazy right!? Most of that is household food waste or produce that never even makes it to the grocery store. Not only is this troubling in the face of increasingly widespread hunger, but is also problematic when you consider the amount of resources that go into food production that can’t be recovered once food is thrown out. That’s where composting comes in. Composting is an aerobic process in which organic material breaks down much more quickly, producing a nutrient rich product that can be used to boost soil health, conserve water, sequester carbon from the air, and grow more food, offsetting some of the costs of food production and completing the cycle of life. By contrast, food that ends up in landfills is sealed off from oxygen and breaks down slowly, through a process of anaerobic decomposition, resulting in the release of methane gas which is thirty times more potent than C02 and a huge contributor to global warming and climate change.
REDUCING FOOD WASTE
Before we talk about composting I feel like it’s important to acknowledge that the best thing we can do is to simply waste less food. I big part of the problem is cultural and economic. The abundance of relatively cheap food, an obsession with perfection, and misinformation about expiration dates are just some of the reasons we waste so much food. I could probably write a whole post about how to waste less food, but here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Get your produce from Imperfect Produce.
- Plan meals for the week and buy only what you know you’re going to use.
- Know how to store your produce properly to make it last.
- Repurpose food scraps by turning nut milk pulp into flour, making broccoli stem fritters, freezing odds and ends for broth, or whipping up some carrot top pesto.
- When in doubt, freeze leftovers before they go bad and thaw them out next time you come home from a trip to an empty fridge.
But, no matter how hard we try, some food waste is inevitable. Knowing what to do with those food scraps is the next step…
COLLECTING FOOD SCRAPS
There are lots of options for collecting your food waste. I’ve used a five gallon bucket with a lid that I kept under the sink, a ceramic crock with a lid, and stainless steel compost containers, but you can use pretty much any container you want as long as it has a lid. Side note: Someday I’ll have a stainless steel compost container inset into a drawer to free up counter space and keep the kitchen feeling minimal and clean. #kitchengoals. I know some people like to use biodegradable bags to make it easier to take food scraps out and to reduce clean up. Personally, I just dump my food scraps into the curbside bin or the worm bin then run my container through the dishwasher or wash it out by hand.
WHAT TO COMPOST
You can compost pretty much anything although dairy and meat are best reserved for municipal compost facilities. Paper and cotton products (parchment, cheesecloth, paper towels, paper bags, dryer lint), hair, biodegradable sponges, organic material like flowers and leaves, grass clippings, and wood are all fair game.
- Many cities around the country provide free, municipal composting. This is the easiest option out there for sure and more and more cities are offering this service to their residents. A simple google search will tell you whether or not this is an option where you live.
- The hungry bin is a great option if you have room for it. We keep ours in the garage, but you can leave it in the backyard or even keep it on a patio or deck. The worms in the bin eat your food scraps and turn them into castings that can be used in your garden or to amend the soil in potted household plants. The bins are clean, odorless, and easy to use. Plus, it’s kinda fun to feed the little critters.
- Backyard chickens are a fun option if you have the space. They’re pretty darn easy, they love food scraps, (although there are certain things that you shouldn’t feed to your chickens like citrus, avocado, potato, and onion) and you get fresh eggs out of the deal. I’m constantly in awe of the fact that my food scraps get turned into eggs. Kinda mind blowing when you think about it.
- Another option is to donate your compost to a nearby farm or community garden. Chickens and pigs love to gobble up food scraps and many farmers are more than happy to receive donations. Many community gardens have compost bins and are happy to take your food scraps as well. Tip: freeze your food scraps in brown paper bags then make one big weekly/monthly drop off at your nearby farm or community garden.
- If you have the space you can compost in your backyard. There are lots of ways to do this. Check out this article for a description of the options. These options all require space and considerably more time and effort but if you’re an avid gardener this might be a good fit for you since it’s a good way to make a lot of compost quickly that you can then add to your garden.
- If municipal composting isn’t an option for you and you have limited space, consider a compost pick up service. This site lists organizations around the country who offer composting services.
HAVE A WONDERFUL WEEK. XO
P.S. Don’t forget to sign up for my Ayurvedic Spring Cleanse Workshop here in Seattle. This cleanse is one I learned from my teacher and have been doing twice a year for the past eight years. It has been transformational for me and I’m excited to share it with you. It includes internal oleation, a week long kitchari cleanse, daily epsom salts baths and self-massage, and herbs and teas to encourage cellular detoxification, healthy digestion, stable blood sugar, and lymph flow. During the workshop we’ll cover the basics of Ayurveda, how to make ghee, and go over the cleanse protocol in detail. You’ll leave with recipes, resources, and a take home cleanse kit with everything you need to get started. This cleanse is an opportunity to set the stage for optimal health and well-being by adopting a simple diet, nourishing the body and mind, and letting go of old habits and patterns in order to come closer to your true nature.
You can learn more about the cleanse and register HERE. Space is limited so sign up before it’s too late.
*Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and tag photos of my recipes #tendingthetable.
Curried Black Lentils with Roasted Cauliflower
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
1 20-oz can fire roasted, crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 cup black lentils
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 head cauliflower, cut into 1-2 inch steaks
cilantro to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion until translucent. Add the curry powder, oregano, and coconut sugar and fry until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and coconut milk and stir to combine. Transfer the curry to a high-speed blender and puree until completely smooth.
Meanwhile place the lentils, bay leaf, and garlic in a small pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 25-30 minutes until the lentils are cooked through, but not mushy. Remove from the heat, drain the lentils, discarding the bay and garlic, and set aside.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Season the cauliflower steaks with salt and pepper then sear until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender, 15-20 minutes.
Serve the curry and lentils with the cauliflower and chopped cilantro.