With the arrival of spring comes a bounty of produce—and the potential for mounds of waste from the parts we don’t use. To help reduce food waste, Kroger Chef Brandon Fortener offers his expert tips on how to get the most value out of your produce and reduce waste in your cooking.
Be Kind. Save the Rind.
As the temperature rises, there’s nothing more refreshing than fresh-squeezed lemonade and orange juice, or even a fresh citrus spritz in your cocktails. And while many of these recipes tend to only call for the juice, Chef Brandon recommends peeling or zesting the rind to make a simple syrup (recipe below), which can last in the fridge for up to two weeks.

“You can use lime simple syrup to give those margaritas a punch, lemon syrup as a great sweetener for ice cream or grapefruit simple syrup in soda water for a refreshing sipper,” says Brandon.

Care for Some Kale? 
Kale is a coveted crop this time of year. But for a vegetable many get excited about, we end up wasting so much. “I remove the green leafy part and sauté the leaves with some fresh garlic in oil for about five minutes for a great side dish,” Chef Brandon says.
And don’t forget about the kale’s stem, which you can transform into a great relish (recipe below) and add to your favorite deli salad recipe (chicken, egg or macaroni), spread on a burger or present as a side on a charcuterie plate. You can also mix it into mayonnaise for a spread, or add in a vinaigrette. It adds texture, acidity and sweetness to a dish.
Fennel: Don’t Toss the Stem!
Fennel is typically used for its bulb and fronds (the wispy, feathery leaves at the top). Chef Brandon suggests roasting the bulbs, sweating them in butter or pureeing them into a sauce. “Shaving them raw also makes a nice addition to salads,” he says. The fronds make a lovely garnish but are also edible and make a perfect addition to salads, dips or spreads. But don’t toss the stem! According to Fortener, you can puree it and add it to oil for a great dressing or marinade.
Use the Whole Mushroom 
Mushrooms are available year-round, but varieties like morels, oyster and porcini are more prevalent in the spring. We use mushroom caps in a variety of dishes, from simply sautéed to omelets or chicken dishes. But we often toss the stems.
Not Chef Brandon — he keeps his stems and cooks them down with onions, garlic and other seasoning. He then purees the mixture and uses it as a filling for ravioli. “If making homemade ravioli is too adventurous, use the same puree and add it to tomatoes or cream to turn it into a pasta sauce,” says Brandon.
You can also chop up the mushroom stems and roast or sauté them, then cool the mixture and fold it into your favorite ground beef recipe (burgers, taco meat or red sauce) as a way to put a healthy spin on the dish and cut back on your red meat consumption.
Spring is an exciting time of year to cook, and with these tips it’s even easier to make your produce go further. What creative things are you doing in your home kitchen to reduce waste this season?