How 'Root to Stem' makes fighting food waste fun

Kids and adults alike become magicians, making veg waste disappear.


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 more considerate 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, to save money, or save the planet, or both.

It’s clear everywhere now, from supermarket shelves and food magazines to restaurant menus and cookery shows, that there’s a growing spectrum of interest in plant-based cookery from all walks of life, whether we’re simply adding some wonky fruit and veg to the shop, or committing to out-and-out veganism.

But at whichever level we find ourselves, we’re all becoming increasingly well-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, the phrase Root to Stem is bandied around as a food trend, but it’s not; it’s 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 about that…) 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 - a win-win for both ourselves and the environment.

  • Achieving - at the very least - better balance between animal- and plant-based food resources, putting less pressure on the meat industry, encouraging quality not quantity, and an ethical supply chain.

Inspiration for everyday life

Alongside many other now-adults that somehow find themselves navigating what I call 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.

Speaking as a creative, 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.

And there is a wealth of inspiration to explore.

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 sensory experiences 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 the late Antonio Carluccio in his cookery book, Vegetables.

This vibrant world of vegetables brings endless flavour possibilities, and a rainbow of uplifting colours to play with and engage imaginations.

Who’s spreading the word?

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’.

It has also been cleverly demonstrated to the public in recent years 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.

And the boys at Bosh are full of fun and fascinating to watch as they infiltrate mainstream tastes with their easy, plant-based alternatives to popular family recipes - lasagne, carbonara, bangers and mash, and so on - served up simply as easy-to-digest, bite-sized content.

Root to Stem is a lot to do with common sense, and generally a very sensible approach to take, but it’s currently a fast-rising movement due to its firm roots in the wide 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.