VEGGING OUT – BEING CREATIVE WITH FOOD
WORDS: CINDY BOTTOMLEY
We know all about the importance of including vegetables in your diet – they’re an essential source of important vitamins and minerals as well as fibre. But, the one thing that we seem to have forgotten is that vegetables have plenty of other uses.
Our forefathers used them for a number of different things. Today, we pick things like pesticides and cosmetics off the shelf when we can use items that are already in our kitchens – with the added advantage that they are organic and, oh so, environmentally friendly.
Veggie clean: Tomato sauce is perfect for cleaning the family silver while onions are an age-old means of cleaning the braai grid. Make a fire and heat your braai grid. Cut an onion in half and poke it with a skewer or braai fork so you don’t burn your fingers. Then, rub it along the grid. It removes old oil, dirt and bits of food and leaves you good to go with that next piece of wors.
Veggie eyes: Teabags and cucumbers are great for calming tired, inflamed or irritated eyes. Leave tea-bags to cool. Whilst just warm, squeeze out the extra liquid and place them over your closed eyes to soothe them. Cool cucumber slices are often photographed as an add on to a soothing face mask. But you can use them on their own too as, when placed over your closed eyes, they help to reduce puffiness and dark circles. Plus, cucumber is refreshing and hydrating. Lie back and relax for around 20 minutes for the full benefit.
Veggie masks: Face masks can be made from natural ingredients – use mashed avocado to moisturise, yoghurt to moisturise and create a healthy glow, honey to cleanse pores, egg white to tighten, oatmeal to reduce inflammation, banana to improve elasticity and even tomatoes to reduce oiliness.
Veggie exfoliators: Those micro plastic beads that make their way into so many of our cosmetics and toothpaste wreak havoc with the environment. But exfoliation is still a must for good skincare, so why not use something like grated avocado pip/pit as an exfoliator? It has an added bonus of softening and nourishing the skin.
Veggie baths: Go Cleopatra style. Use powdered milk (okay it’s not a veggie) for bathing. The milk fats and lactic acid are great for dry skin. Add two cups of powdered milk and 10 to 20 drops of your favourite essential oils to your bath. Do not use if you are allergic or have sensitive skin as the lactic acid could irritate it.
If you don’t like the idea of bathing in milk, then just tossing in some fresh herbs like lavender and rosemary creates a sense of relaxation which reduces stress. Less messy is putting in a few drops of essential oils.
Veggies for sunburn: I come from a generation that lay on tinfoil to catch a tan. (I know…I know), so sunburn was a fairly frequent occurrence. What I didn’t know was that tomatoes are great for soothing sunburn. Lycopene in tomatoes helps to reduce inflammation. So, chop some fresh tomato and rub over the burnt areas. This helps to soothe the skin and reduce inflammation. Plain or Greek yoghurt can be used as well. Yoghurt has the added benefit of being cool and the fats and probiotics help to restore and nourish the skin.
Veggie shoes: You don’t need all those tins of shoe polish in the cupboard. If you don’t have something on hand to shine your shoes and need to make a good impression, use banana peels to add a little gloss. Rub the inner of the peel over your shoes. Wipe off all the bits of banana with a dry cloth and step out.
Veggie erasers: We don’t always have this staple stationery item to hand these days. If you can’t find one, try white bread. Squeeze stale white bread into a small ball and use to rub out pencil marks.
Veggie hair conditioners: Egg yolk nourishes dry hair and is said to stimulate growth. Beer softens hair and adds shine. Use after shampooing. Rinse thoroughly.
Veggie art: Veggies have been used as stamps for decorating. Chop your veggies (anything from potatoes to pears, apples, carrots or even turnips) in half. You could cut out various shapes for variety – i.e. a star shape or a triangle – but remember that the patterns of the halved items will have their own shapes and patterns as well. Dip in paint and press onto paper, canvas or T-shirts.
Veggie dyes: Today, we rely on chemicals but back in the day, our grannies and great grannies probably used vegetables if dyes were not readily available. If you are playing with colours when you are cooking, then veggie based dyes are ideal
for the likes of food decorating, making different coloured pastas and even rice. Chef JP has used beetroot to dip hard boiled eggs and turn them pink. You can make creative meals with veggie died pastas by adding the likes of beets, colourful peppers, purple cabbage or turmeric to the flour and egg when making a fresh pasta dough. Use a blender or food processor to make sure the colour spreads evenly – and wash in between colours to ensure you get the right hues. Another (old wives) tale that could be either fact or fiction is that potatoes are great for getting out the grey in your hair. Boil the peels in water, allow to cool and use the starchy mix to remove the pesky greys – and let us know if it works, please.
Veggie nutrition: Never throw away organic scraps. Instead, use fruit and veggie peels, cores and the tops that you cut off as well as eggshells and even paper to make compost. As these rot, they create nutrient-dense compost that enriches soil and promotes plant growth – and saves you a few rand on your gardening bill. You can either make your own compost pit, buy a composter or invest in a worm farm. But, avoid adding highly acidic foods like tomatoes, onions lemon and oranges. If the compost becomes too acidic, it will kill the good bacteria needed to breakdown the waste material. Also avoid garlic scraps as they can kill the worms. This also applies to onion scraps.
Other useful kitchen cast-offs are coffee grounds and tea leaves which make great natural fertilizers, adding nitrogen to the soil and attracting earthworms to your garden. You can sprinkle them around your plants, put them in water or dig them into the top of the soil.
Veggie repellent: It’s important to use organic insect repellents, especially if you are growing fruit or veg in your backyard for the family to eat. Some of the best known insect repellents include neem leaf and garlic as well as bay leaf.
Cucumbers are also said to chase ants. Herbs like rosemary, thyme, mint and lavender can be used to repel mosquitos. Basil is said to repel flies and mosquitoes and chives keep aphids and some beetles away.