Whether you’re using tomatoes to make pizza sauce, in salads, or in a BLT (including a vegan version), you’re already getting some great nutritional benefits and delicious flavor. You probably already knew that though, right? But did you know that you could be getting even more out of the fruit?
A lot of times, tomato peels and seeds end up in the trash bin or down the garbage disposal. PSA: Not only can you 100 percent eat the peels and seeds, they are also full of anti-inflammatory benefits, just like the rest of the fruit. According to a scientific study, the peels are a great source of antioxidants (specifically flavonoids, phenolic acids, lycopene, and ascorbic acid) as well as calcium, zinc, and selenium. The same goes for the seeds. This is a big deal because antioxidants help protect against chronic inflammation, which can lead to certain diseases as well as cognitive decline.
If you’re following along with Well+Good’s ReNew Year program, which is all about how to eat more sustainably, you have already learned some ways to cook with would-be food waste. (One tip straight from Chef Palak Patel: Whenever you’re done chopping up veggies, transfer their tips, greens, and stems to a reusable baggie and chill them rather than tossing the scraps.) But The Zero-Waste Chef: Plant-Forward Recipes and Tips for a Sustainable Kitchen and Planet ($16) author Anne-Marie Bonneau wants everyone to know that cooking with tomato peels and seeds is another way to both eat more sustainably and get the maximum amount of nutrition from your tomatoes—and yes, it will taste delicious. Here, she gives three ways to do it.
3 ways to use tomato peels and seeds to cut down on waste
1. Dehydrate the peels.
“Ideally, you would just eat the whole tomato, but there are some dishes that do taste better without the peels, like tomato sauce,” Bonneau says. It’s instances like these where the peels (and seeds, if you’re nixing those from your dish too) can be used to make something else. “What you can do is blanch the tomatoes by putting them in boiling water for a minute and then putting them ice water. Then, the peels will pull away,” Bonneau says. Next, dehydrate the peels in the oven.
“Simply spread the tomato peels on a baking sheet and cook in the oven at 200°F for 30 minutes,” Bonneau instructs. She adds that if you have other fruit and veggie peels in your would-be waste bag, you can dehydrate them at the same time. For example, dehydrated orange peels are a great digestion-supporting snack.
Once you have your dehydrated tomato peels, Bonneau says you can grind them into a powder. “This powder is great to add flavor to any dish where you want to have a little tomato flavor,” she says. One of her favorite ways to use it is to sprinkle on top of popcorn. Below are two more ways to use tomato powder in your cooking:
Food bloggers and recipe developers Jane and Sonja like to use their homemade tomato powder in stuffed peppers to bring out the flavor of the tomato sauce even more. It pairs perfectly with the other spices in the dish, including paprika and garlic.
Get the recipe: stuffed peppers
Flaxseed Paleo tortilla chips
Similar to sprinkling tomato powder on your popcorn for flavor, you can also sprinkle it on top of homemade chips. The ones here are made with flaxseed meal, which is full of fiber.
Get the recipe: flaxseed Paleo tortilla chips
2. Use tomato peels and seeds to make a paste.
Another way Bonneau likes to use the entire tomato (not just the fleshy part), is to blend everything all together to make a tomato puree. “You can use the puree as a base for soups, stews, or anything else you want to add a layer of tomato flavor to,” she says. See how it’s done by following her own simple recipe. Here are two recipes for ideas on how to use your homemade tomato paste:
When you’re cooking a dish with thick chunks of meat, a base with lots of flavor is a must. That’s where your tomato paste can really take it up a notch. This recipe shows exactly how to do it.
Get the recipe: hearty beef stew
Vegan cheese with tomato paste
The combination of a cheesy taste and tomatoes creates a super-yummy nacho cheese flavor. If you’re into Doritos, you’ll love this recipe. Bonus: The vegan cheese is made with cashew nuts, which are full of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
Get the recipe: vegan cheese with tomato paste
3. Ferment the peels.
The last idea Bonneau offers up for putting tomato peels and seeds to use is fermenting them. “A simple snack of fermented tomatoes and salt is absolutely delicious. I can’t believe how good it tastes,” she says. See step-by-step how to ferment tomato peels on Bonneau’s site and see two ideas for what to do with them below.
Fermented bloody marys
Sure, you could use V8, *or* you could up the gut health benefits in this classic brunch cocktail by using fermented tomato juice instead.
Get the recipe: fermented bloody marys
Similar to the bloody marys, this salsa is great for the gut since it’s made with fermented tomatoes. The same can’t be said about a jar of salsa in the chip aisle at the grocery store.
Get the recipe: fermented salsa
As you can see, there’s absolutely no reason to discard tomato peels and skins when there are all these yummy ways to put them to use. Not only will doing so cut down on waste, you’ll be getting the absolute maximum nutritional benefits from your fruit as possible.
Looking to hit refresh on your healthy habits this January? Check out our full 2022 ReNew Year program for expert-led plans for better sleep, nutrition, exercise, and self-care routines.
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