Cooking With Tomato Peels Ups the Nutrition Benefits

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Whether you use tomatoes to make pizza sauce, in salads, or in a BLT (including a vegan version), you’re actually getting some great nutritional benefits and delicious flavor. You probably know that already, right? But did you know that it is possible to be equal more of fruit?

Often times, tomato peels and seeds end up in the trash or in the garbage disposal. PSA: Not only can you eat 100% of the peels and seeds, but they’re also packed with anti-inflammatory benefits, just like the rest of the fruit. According to a scientific study, the peels are a great source of antioxidants (particularly flavonoids, phenolic acids, lycopene, and ascorbic acid) as well as calcium, zinc, and selenium. The same goes for seeds. This is a big problem because antioxidants help protect against chronic inflammation, which can lead to certain diseases as well as cognitive decline.

If you’ve been following along with Well + Good’s ReNew Year program, which is about how to eat more sustainably, you’ve already learned a few ways to cook with potential food waste. (One tip straight from Chef Palak Patel: When you’re done chopping vegetables, transfer the tips, greens, and stems to a reusable bag and refrigerate instead of throwing away the scraps.) The Zero Waste Chef: Vegan-forward recipes and tips for a sustainable kitchen and planet ($16), author Anne-Marie Bonneau wants everyone to know that cooking with tomato peels and seeds is another way to eat more sustainably and get the most nutrition out of tomatoes—and yes, they will taste delicious. Here, she gives three ways to do this.

3 ways to use tomato peels and seeds to reduce waste

1. Dry the peels.

“Ideally, you’d only eat whole tomatoes, but there are some dishes that taste better without the peels, like tomato sauce,” Bono says. It’s cases like this where the peels (and the seeds, if you’re blending those in your dish as well) can be used to make something else. “What you can do is boil the tomatoes by putting them in boiling water for a minute and then putting them in the ice water. After that, the peels will pull out,” Bono says. After that, dry the peels in the oven.

“Simply spread tomato peels on a baking tray and cook in the oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes,” Bono instructs. She adds that if you have peels of other fruits and vegetables in your waste bag, you can dry them out at the same time. For example, dried orange peels are a useful snack for digestion.

Once you have your dried tomato peels, Bono says you can grind them into a powder. “This powder is great for adding flavor to any dish in which you want to have a bit of tomato flavor,” she says. One of her favorite ways to use it is by sprinkling popcorn. Here are two other ways to use tomato powder in cooking:

stuffed peppers

stuffed peppers

Food bloggers and recipe developers Jane and Sonya love to use homemade tomato powder in stuffed peppers to bring out the flavor of their tomato sauce even more. It pairs perfectly with other spices in the dish, including paprika and garlic.

Get the recipe: Stuffed Peppers

tortilla chips
Image: the things we’re going to make

tortilla chips paleo flaxseed

Similar to sprinkling tomato powder on popcorn for flavor, you can also sprinkle it on top of homemade potato chips. The ones here are made with flaxseeds that are full of fiber.

Get the recipe: Paleo Flaxseed Tortilla Chips

2. Use tomato peels and seeds to make a paste.

Another way Bonneau likes to use the whole tomato (not just the meaty part), is to blend everything together to make tomato puree. “You can use the puree as a base for soups, stews, or anything else you want to add a layer of tomato flavor to,” she says. Watch how it’s done by following her simple recipe. Here are two recipes for ideas on how to use homemade tomato paste:

beef stew
Photo: Butter your biscuit

hearty meat stew

When you are cooking a dish with thick cuts of meat, a base with plenty of flavor is a must. This is where tomato paste can get a quality raise. This recipe shows exactly how to do it.

Get the recipe: Beef Stew

Cooking with tomato peels
Photo: vegetable and broken

Vegetarian cheese with tomato paste

The combination of cheese and tomato flavor creates an extremely delicious nacho cheese flavour. If you’re into Doritos, you’ll love this recipe. Bonus: Vegan cheese is made with cashews, which are packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

Get the recipe: Vegan Cheese with Tomato Paste

3. Fermentation of the peels.

Bonneau’s final idea for using tomato peels and seeds was to ferment them. “The simple snack of fermented tomatoes and salt is so delicious,” she says. “I can’t believe how much it tastes.” Watch a step-by-step how to ferment tomato peels on Bonneau’s website and check out two ideas for what to do with them below.

bloody mary
Photo: Chef running Zero Waste

bloody brew

Sure, you could use V8, *or* you could boost the gut health benefits of this classic late-night cocktail by using fermented tomato juice instead.

Get the recipe: Fermented Bloody Mary

Fermented salsa
Photo: Annemarie Bono

Fermented salsa

Similar to bloody mary, this sauce is great for guts because it’s made with fermented tomatoes. The same can’t be said of a jar of sauce in the chip aisle at the grocery store.

Get the recipe: Fermented Sauce

You see, there is absolutely no reason to throw away tomato peels and skins when there are all these delicious ways to use them. Not only will doing this reduce waste, but you will get the maximum nutritional benefits from the fruit.

Looking to refresh your healthy habits in January? Check out the complete ReNew Year 2022 program For expert-led plans to improve sleep, nutrition, exercise and self-care.

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