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July 9, 2007

Whenever I read about the marvelous benefits of composting, I always feel a twinge of guilt. Much as I’d love to reduce waste by turning eggshells and potato peelings into rich soil, there’s just no way for me to do so. Even if there were space in my home for one of the newfangled compost contraptions (that proponents swear will fit into the smallest living space), I wouldn’t have anywhere to put the good stuff it produces because I don’t have a garden. I don’t even have a window box. So my onion ends, broccoli stems, carrot skins and so forth would go straight to the garbage.

Until now. Ever since a good friend told me about his stock box, I’ve become a vigilant veggie trash recycler. Vegetable trimmings now get stashed in the stock box—a large, rectangular plastic box that’s kept in the freezer. Once the box is full, I put the contents in a large pot, cover them with water, add salt, pepper, a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf (optional) then cover and simmer for an hour. And…presto! After it’s strained and all the juices have been pressed out of the cooked bits, my trash has turned to treasure: a vegetable stock that’s more richly flavored (and lower in sodium) than anything money could buy. My freezer’s full of 1-quart containers of prepared stock that I can pull out anytime. Like…about now, when I’m overdue for lunch and the fridge is empty. 2 cups of thawed stock, 1 tablespoon of miso paste (I like red best because it’s got the strongest flavor), a handful of frozen peas and some chopped green onion and I’ve got a nutritious meal I can slurp while I work on the computer.

Of course I still have to throw the strained-out vegetables into the trash, so I still feel that twinge of guilt. But at least I’ve squeezed every drop of use out of those bits and pieces before they head to the landfill.

Have you found a good way to make use of your kitchen compost? Share it with us in the comments section below.

— Mary Margaret Chappell, food editor

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