Edible Packaging: part one

Isn’t that just the greatest concept? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the food we bought came in edible packaging? Guess what–it does!

veggies

Nature provides the ideal package for protecting the flesh inside, letting it breathe and mature at its own pace. As far as possible, I try to select food that is loose in a display, where I can see and feel what it’s really like on all sides. I can think of little in a grocer’s that annoys me more than a shrink-wrapped cucumber, which seems firm in the shop but turns out to be hours away from liquid as soon as you get it home. But I digress.

I do go on a bit about keeping the skins and peels on fresh produce. Just wash and use, I say.  Much of the time, this works fine, whether you’re eating the food raw or cooking it. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t eat the skins of  raw apples, yet it’s standard instructions to peel them when making a pie, so I felt quite rebellious the first time I decided not to. Yes, the texture is different, and if the pieces are very big you might get a spot of chewiness here and there. But keeping the  peels adds colour and retains more of the minerals and fibre that make apples (and so many other foods) good for us. So either make the pieces smaller, or make a virtue of your new texture discovery!

The other day, I tried to make a list of all the foods whose skins I routinely eat versus those I don’t, compared with how other people treat them. It was too complicated. But I remember having been shocked upon learning that an aunt of mine ALWAYS peels her mushrooms. What?! Why? They are so delicate, you’ll destroy them and  lose all the flavour in the process. I hadn’t really been conscious of skins on mushrooms, but I could at least imagine what my aunt was doing. On the other hand, a year or so ago when my MIL suggested peeling celery, I was completely flummoxed. What is there to peel??

So, on the possibly surprising side, I routinely  cook and eat the skins of zucchini (courgettes/marrows), eggplant (aubergine) and (sometimes) even winter squashes.  It is a matter of having sufficient moisture, thin enough slices, and/or produce that is not so mature that the skins are tough as leather. I love the opportunities for controlling the shapes on my plate that keeping the skins on affords.  Stuffing these veggies with whatever kind of stuffing you like and slow-baking them, covered, is a good way to improve digestibility of the skins.  They look really pretty, and if your knife and fork ‘accidentally’ rip through the packaging, you have a chance to find out if it’s to your taste.

And yet, I still routinely peel carrots, particularly for eating raw. Except if they’re very young. There is a touch of bitterness in carrot peel that I don’t like.

What about you? What peels do you usually eat that might be surprising? If you avoid peels that other people often eat, why is this? Tell me!

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I'm an American living in the UK, combining rural Mid-west ideas about food with a suburban coastal British reality. It's fun!

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2 comments on “Edible Packaging: part one
  1. Fairy says:

    I agree with your points about eating the skins of many fruits and vegetables. A friend leaves the skin on potatoes – just scrubs them – when she boils them and even does this when making mashed potatoes. I cook sweet potatoes with the skin on and eat it. One skin that I believe is edible but I cannot bring myself to eat is kiwifruit – I think it is the texture.

    I also try to use parts of vegetables that are routinely discarded – broccoli and cauliflower stalks are thinly sliced and added to stir fries or casseroles.

    I am passionate about avoiding plastic packaging so when I buy fruit and vegetables at the local fruit and vegetable stall I ask for a whole cabbage or cauliflower as the ones on display (usually halves or quarters) are wrapped in cling film. When I want baby spinach or mixed lettuce I ask for them to bring the box from the coolroom so that I can have the quantity I want placed in my own tulle bags. It does take a bit of cheekiness to say it but I find it worthwhile.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree. Potatoes of any kind only get peeled in my house if they’re badly damaged; I’m occasionally startled when a dinner guest removes the peels and leaves them on the plate (though they can’t really get away with that if they’re mashed!).
      I have heard that kiwi skins are edible, but also find the fuzziness a stumbling block.

      Here in Wales there has been a surcharge on (usually plastic) carrier bags for a year or so, meaning that it has been getting easier to avoid excess plastic. My husband and I are no longer considered eccentric for bringing along our own bags, whether plastic, string, canvas or insulated. But it is still a struggle to completely avoid the in-store packaging. I shall have to try harder!

      Like

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What’s Creative Economy in the Kitchen about?
Sharing a lifetime of experience of kitchen challenges. Respecting food and making the most of what's available. Read more on my About page.
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March 2015
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