Having a world traveler or two in your life is essential. We have one of those. Ours is Will. Having cycled through Southeast Asia, Africa and parts of Europe, his travel experiences have given him a wealth of stories as well as incredible resourcefulness.
He tells a story of being in Africa. He always had a small crowd of onlookers as he prepared his meals and set up camp. One day, after packing up his things to go, he saw some children pick up some of the papery garlic skins he had discarded. They took them up to their mouths and sucked on them to savor whatever flavor they could draw out. "This struck me", he said. "That there is still so much flavor to be found in food scraps we so often toss out".
I love a good story behind an idea. This idea is what I call 'Freezer Scrap Soup Stock'. My name for it might not be appealing, but the idea is simple and brilliant. Ever since Will shared the idea - I try not to let those bits of flavor leave my kitchen without drawing out as much goodness as possible.
Here's the scoop: Grab a plastic bag (a used produce bag works fine) the next time you are chopping vegetables.
Make friends with it. It will live in your freezer for awhile.
Start pulling out your freezer bag whenever you chop veggies. Collect all of the scraps (normally headed for the compost bin or chicken yard) and keep them in your freezer bag. You will be amazed at how quickly the bag will fill up. That half of onion that was a bit brown (but not moldy), the rubbery carrot that sat in the fridge too long - the parsley in the fridge that is a little old... throw them ALL in!
(Don't worry if they start to get a bit icy in there - it will all melt off).
Once your bag fills up, just dump all of the contents into a large stock pot, add salt & pepper and maybe a bay leaf if you're so inclined... (not necessary if you've got lots of herb stems already in the bag) and let it simmer for several hours. If you are a crock pot type of person - throw it in there.
After a few hours, your collection of almost-tossed-out veggies will have let go of their flavor and given you a beautiful thing: stock. (since it's seasoned it is technically broth).
Freeze this lovely liquid into smaller containers - and you can guarantee you'll have a super flavorful soup or sauce when you use it.
Collect any: onion & garlic bits, carrot ends, celery tops, zucchini ends, swiss chard stems, stems from fresh herbs ... in your freezer bag! I typically avoid scraps from the cabbage family (not a big fan of that flavor in my stock) though you could try it to see if you like it.
Items to avoid: NEVER use any green parts from vegetables in the nightshade family (tomato, pepper, potato) as these plant parts contain toxic elements. This means - avoid the stems or leaves of bell peppers, tomatoes as well as potatoes with any sprouts on them or green color. Never use any vegetable with black mold or any old/rotten meat.
I also save and freeze meat bones from our meals (roasted chicken, pork chop bones, etc.) to add flavor to the stock. You would be amazed, however - that just the veggie scraps alone - plus salt - give a wonderful result.
Your compost (or chickens) won't mind that you pulled some of the flavor out of the veggies first. After I've drained my stock - I toss the cooked veg into the compost!
A parting note from our wise friend Will:
"waste is a relatively new concept..."