The Root to Stem surge makes fighting food waste inventive and engaging


The 'trends' emerging these days never fail to make us do a little happy dance, as practically every conversation is around the things that really matter: sustainability and the environment, health and wellbeing, purpose, personality, and more.

Collectively we’re all so much greener in the way we behave and look at the world, and it is so refreshing. We recycle, we reuse and make the most of what we have, whether it's important to us to save money or save the planet, or both.

It's clear everywhere from supermarket shelves and food magazines to restaurant menus and cookery shows, there's a growing spectrum of interest in plant-based cookery, whether we're simply adding some wonky fruit and veg to the shop, or committing to out-and-out veganism. At whichever level we find ourselves, we're now all fully versed in exploring the world of vegetables and seasonality for the greatest health benefits and least environmental impact.

What is Root to Stem?

Taking pointers from the Nose to Tail movement in meat, Root to Stem is really 'Timeless Wisdom', championing the use of the entire vegetable - carrot tops; cauliflower leaves; onion skins; potato peelings - every single scrap. (In fact, exactly what everyone's grannies used to do by default, but we'll say no more...) And, meat-eater or not, the Root to Stem concept applies to everyone:

  • The parts of vegetables we normally throw away are laden with nutrients; potato peelings, for example, are packed with Vitamin C, fibre and iron.
  • We get to be a bit more thrifty with our pennies, stretch food further, and reduce waste.
  • Achieving more balance between animal- and plant-based food resources puts less pressure on the meat industry, encouraging quality not quantity, and an ethical supply chain.

Alongside many other now-adults that somehow find themselves navigating what appears to be the Great Food Knowledge Gap of the late 20th Century, we are just as hungry as our clients and their customers for fresh thinking and inspiration. 

Creatively-speaking, Root to Stem is really satisfying, as you have to come up with unexpected ways to use the different parts of vegetables - whizzing hardy kale stems into a nice pesto, pickling root stems, simmering up some hearty stocks, soups and stews, shoving things through spiralisers and seeing what comes out.

Plant-rich diets span ancient to modern-day cuisines, meeting somewhere along the journey of necessity, responsibility, culture and creativity, and as such have a variety of visual styles to explore.

The Middle-Eastern influence, so wonderfully embodied by Yotam Ottolenghi, evokes exotic ingredients, jewel colours and mismatched, worn utensils. Eco-centric initiatives inspire outdoors vibes; ingredients home-grown and hand-picked, against a backdrop of sustainable materials and earthy tones. Healthy living - and cookery for kids - conjures up a clean, fresh and uplifting environment, where the ingredients themselves provide cheery colour pops. And cultural heritage is creatively revived with time-honored recipes and methods, age-worn equipment and muted rusticity - warmly perfected by Antonio Carluccio in his recent cookery book, Vegetables.

So this vibrant world of vegetables brings endless flavour possibilities and a rainbow of uplifting colours to play with. The highly inventive Yamchops, a 'vegetarian butcher' based in Toronto, devises all sorts of creative vegetarian meat protein alternatives, like 'carrot lox', 'coconut bacon' and 'beetburgers'. Their creativity is key to their survival, and their aim is to 'surprise and delight'. This was cleverly demonstrated by Sainsbury's The Vegetable Butcher pop up, where expert Amber Locke spiralised, sliced, diced, grated, roasted and juiced her way through a wealth of fruit and vegetables, sharing imaginative techniques to an increasingly health-conscious crowd.

Root to Stem is a lot to do with common sense, and generally a very sensible approach to take, but currently a popular trend due to its firm roots in a range of topical messages promoting positive change - a widespread societal shift that consumers are driving and seeking to implement in their lifestyle for GOOD.

And it is broadly engaging too - the element of inventiveness it evokes can transform kids and adults alike into magician mode, making that veg waste disappear. 

So many great opportunities to spark imaginations, for far-reaching positive impact across wellbeing, the environment, food waste and food economy.

Carra Santos