Many of us regularly cut away significant portions of our vegetables, discarding the parts we consider inedible into our compost bins.
But Angelie Ishi Tabuno is working hard to raise local awareness about the amount of healthy food we're tossing away on a regular basis.
Growing up in the Philippines, Tabuno was used to eating most parts of the plants her family unearthed through harvesting their own crops and foraging. She said in Latin America, Asia and the Mediterranean, many of the greens we typically throw away are actually a staple part of their diet.
"I was inspired to do this because I see a lot of edible greens go to waste. Here in Canada people are not (as) aware of its value as other cultures (are)," said Tabuno.
"You hear a lot about increasing food prices and food insecurity, and sometimes I think if more people knew most parts of plants have potential for food, it would be so much better. At the same time, some edibles overlooked in my country (but used here) is a beneficial new knowledge."
Vegetables like beans, snow peas, peppers, most melons, squash and cabbage all have far more food potential than the average North American realizes.
Cabbage sprouts, for example, grow after heads of cabbage have been harvested. They're typically ignored, but like the leaves found on peas, beans, and peppers, they provide a tasty and healthy option that can be used in a myriad of recipes.
"We want to promote food sustainability and increase public awareness of new food choices. People are not limited to what they are selling in grocery stores," she said. "I have a small patio garden with beans and peas and I know I can use every part of it. It's more sustainable."
Tabuno and a handful of volunteers have established the Second Harvest Group. They describe it as a non-profit urban foraging team. Their goals include promoting food sustainability, increasing public awareness about new food choices, supporting locally grown crops and lessening consumerism.
They're currently looking for "donor" gardeners willing to allow them to harvest any surplus from their gardens. Harvests will be shared with volunteers and local community kitchens.
In addition, volunteers plan to host workshops to teach members of the public how to prepare, cook and preserve these edible plant parts.
"Newcomers are always looking for these ingredients to make traditional recipes to comfort them from homesickness," she said. "Snow pea leaves are sold in the Asian store for $2 per pound, and pepper leaves are imported in frozen bags too. These are available here in Canada."
The group already has the support of at least one farmer in Grand Pre, and they're hoping HRM residents with gardens large and small jump on board.
A little taste of Second Harvest:
Tender leaves and shoots of bean plants are edible, low in calories, packed with vitamins and high in fibre. Blanching in boiling water for three seconds makes them tender. Tabuno said they taste great with fresh tomatoes, onions, a little salt and pepper, and some vinaigrette.
After harvesting your snow peas, Tabuno encourages you not to discard the remainder of the plant. Shoots and leaves are equally nutritious. Popular in Asia, they are a good source of Vitamins A, C, K and B and are a great option in salads or stir fries.
The leaves found on pea, bean, and pepper plants are a tasty and healthy addition to salads.