Disposing of Foodie Scraps

A garbage disposal is one my favorite appliances in the kitchen. Does that sound weird coming from a Foodie? Why not a food processor or a slow cooker? Let me tell you why. I don’t consider having a garbage disposal a luxury. It’s just part of my mindset regarding stewardship of our environment.

I can be cranky thinking I’m sending stuff to the landfill, even if it’s supposedly biodegradable. Think about it: you stuff your garbage in a bag and take it to the dumpster. Your trash company takes it away and, ultimately, that plastic bag ends up in a landfill. I’m not a scientist, but I’m guessing it takes a little longer for the food to break down when it’s in a plastic bag.

Leaning heavily on the side of recycling, I’d rather send something into a waste treatment plant than onto a garbage truck. Getting washed away in this manner means someone’s actually keeping an eye on water quality and ground waters.

Since I’ve had a disposal for so long, I thought I knew all there was to know about using one. But I discovered some tips and habits that I can put into practice which I formerly haven’t used.

Veering from the usual recipes and cooking tips, here’s a list of things you should know about using your garbage disposal. I hope this list will be useful for you. If you don’t already have a garbage disposal, perhaps you’ll consider installing one.

  • Large pieces of food should not be put down the disposal. Cut food into smallish pieces and feed them into the disposal gradually with cold water running constantly.
  • Don’t turn off the water while the disposal is running. Wait until grinding is complete. When grinding is complete, turn off the disposal and let the water run for another 15 seconds.

Keeping the Disposal Clean

  1. Something you can do to keep the disposal clean is to periodically pour a little dish soap down it and run cold water while running the disposal as you would to grind food. If you wash dishes in the sink, that’s a good time to do it.
  2. Run the disposal regularly; it prevents corrosion and obstructions.
  3. Grind certain hard materials such as small chicken bones, fish bones, egg shells, ice, etc. It causes a scouring action and prevents food from building up around the walls of the disposal. However, do not put large bones down the disposal. Only fine bones and only occasionally.
  4. Borax is a natural cleaner with many uses around the home and is a good product for cleaning the disposal. It can be found in the aisle with detergents and cleaning products.
  5. Don’t use harsh chemicals like bleach or drain cleaners in your disposal. They can damage the drains and pipes.

The “Don’t” List

  1. Don’t put anything down the disposal that’s not a biodegradable food. This includes non-food items like glass, plastic, metal, paper, anything combustible, cigarette butts, etc.
  2. Do not put coffee grounds down the garbage disposal. They do not harm the disposal, but could clog drains and pipes.
  3. Don’t put ‘expandable’ foods like pasta and rice down the disposal. When they expand as water is run down the sink, they create one of the biggest causes for repairs.
  4. Do not pour grease, oil, or naturally occurring fat in a food into your disposal or drain. This includes the fat on cuts of meat. Fats will slowly accumulate and impede the disposal’s grinding ability as well as clog drains.
  5. Too many potato peels put down the disposal create a thick paste because of the starch in the potato. This causes the blades to stick so don’t put too many down the disposal at one time. If you’re preparing a lot of potatoes, put the bulk of the peelings in the trash.
  6. Do not grind fibrous material like corn husks, celery stalks, onion skins and artichokes. Fibers from these can tangle and jam the motor.

I hadn’t always thought about how to care for a garbage disposal until I needed to call someone to come repair it or get it unstuck. Remember that someone who knows how to do the job should be the person to do so.

If you hear a nasty sound coming from the disposal, turn it off immediately. It goes without saying you should never put your hands down a disposal that has not stopped spinning. If you go to retrieve something which has gone down the sink (usually a spoon or something else small) carefully move your hand around the blades. You can prevent things from going down the sink in the first place by using a mesh strainer. They’re easy to find and usually inexpensive.

Do you have tips for using a garbage disposal which I may have left out?

 

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A Foodie Produce Storage Guide

It won’t be long now and we’ll be on our way to the farmers’ markets to buy fresh produce. That goes for people in my neck of the woods, anyway. I’m from the Midwest USA and, even though it’s still officially winter, we’re having unusually warm weather.

We’re counting the days until the robins come back and the crocuses bloom. Those are signs spring is here and summer isn’t far behind.  farmers-markets-local-produce-benefits

Last year, I became a more frequent visitor to the farmers’ market downtown in My Fair City. My favorite choices for produce in season were apples, lettuce, beets, sweet potatoes, peppers and onions. I paid a lot of attention to The Cheese People of Grand Rapids too. Regular readers know I must have cheese.

Then there was this family who sold fresh pork. Chops, roasts, bacon, sausage. Imagine: pork with no junk in it. More than once I treated myself to homemade pork sausage for which the man could list the ingredients in one quick breath.

Yeah, buddy.

Today, we have for your perusal a produce storage guide from Real Simple Magazine. (It lists the foods in alphabetical order and you’ll click through from page to page.) I go to their web page sometimes for tips because, hey, they’ve already done the work for me. You’ll find them in the sidebar because they’re Stuff I Read. Knowing how to buy quality fruits and veggies is one thing, but we also need to store them so they’re at their peak when we get around to using them.

I hate rusty lettuce, don’t you?

peppersSomeone told me a good rule of thumb for storing produce from the market, farmers’ market or otherwise. They said if the store doesn’t have it refrigerated, it probably doesn’t need to be refrigerated when you get it home. I’m not so sure about that. I tend to store some things in the fridge because they last longer there. Some things I put in the fridge because I want to delay their ripening.

I learn from people like the folks at Real Simple Magazine or by just doing it and seeing what happens. I hate to waste food, so I’m certainly not averse to taking someone’s advice.

A couple of my friends who keep a garden were generous last summer with kale, banana peppers, beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers. As an apartment dweller, that’s a windfall I hope for again.

Whether or not you have access to good fresh produce in season right now, you might want to browse Real Simple’s site.

They really do keep things simple. Be a blessing and eat hardy!