Skins, Shoots and Leaves: 5 Surprising Things You Can Actually Eat

beets

Cut kitchen prep time, reduce waste, and boost your nutrient intake with these easy-to-follow tips:

1. Kiwi: Yes, You Can Eat the Skin!

I recently did a segment with Dr. Oz touting the health benefits of this tart and tasty green ball of energy, but did you know that you can also eat the kiwi peel? That’s right – eating the whole fruit, including the peel, will more than double the fiber of the fruit, as well as help to preserve its vitamin C. With especially ripe kiwi, the rind can actually help hold the fruit intact, making snacking on a slice that much easier.

2. Baby Beet Peels and Greens

I love the sweet, earthy taste of beets, but I’m always looking for an excuse not to have to cut them. Not only does it save me a step in the kitchen, but as anyone knows who’s sliced into one, the dark red pigment of beets (called anthocyanins) can be messy and leave dramatic stains on cutting boards and countertops. There are two reasons baby beets are a great choice. First, their outer skin is tender enough that you don’t need to peel it before you eat it (providing a fiber boost). Secondly, if they are small enough, you can cook them whole – which means less work. And remember not to toss the tops! Fresh beet greens are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and calcium. You can add a few raw to your salad, or sauté in a little olive oil for a quick and easy side dish. Other root vegetables such as carrots, parsnip and potatoes can usually also be eaten with the skins on if well scrubbed. Especially, if they are smaller.

3. Pineapple: Store the Core

Pineapple skin definitely falls into the category of peels you should compost instead of eat. However, use the core to naturally sweeten a pitcher of filtered water or green (or herbal) tea for an easy and refreshing drink that will help you stay well hydrated and energized throughout the day.

4. Perfect to Pickle: Watermelon Rind

This Southern-inspired tradition is a fun twist to try if you enjoy pickling, and if you already have (or are willing to buy) canning equipment. As a chilled snack or side dish to the grill, summer is the perfect time to try this, as watermelons are in season, taste their best, and are at their least expensive. You can find all sorts of recipes online, so find one that best suits your palate for spice and tartness. Bonus points: The flesh packs antioxidants (such as lycopene), potassium and vitamin C.

5. Best Zested: Citrus Peels

Ok, so this one may not be surprising, but I’m surprised at how many people miss the chance to use more lemon and orange zest in the kitchen. The rind of lemons and oranges are rich in a powerful class of cancer-fighting compounds called limonenes. And research suggests that one in particular, called d-limonene, is a powerful driver of the body’s natural detox processes, helping protect cells against a range of carcinogens, including tobacco smoke. Makes sure to rinse and scrub the rinds thoroughly.

Stock up on citrus and use liberally throughout the day:

  • Use lemon and orange peels to flavor water (and add a squirt of the fruit to provide a dose of flavor and vitamin C to water)
  • Add their zest to grilled vegetables, fish or poultry dishes, or salad dressings
  • Try making Mediterranean-style lemonade for maximum flavor. Slice whole lemons, skin-on, into eighths. Add to blender with a handful of ice/some water. Add a teaspoon or two of sugar or natural sweetener of your choosing. Purée. Pour through a fine sieve into a glass and enjoy! The taste and health benefits are much greater with the peel!