Waste Not...

I was just now cutting up pumpkin for soup for dinner and idly wondering how it would be if instead of throwing all those seeds in the compost, I saved them and ate them instead. I mean they are pumpkin seeds, after all, and I actually go to the shops and buy pumpkin seeds. How do you get the green pepitas out of the shell? Is there a machine? Or a gadget like a nut-cracker? I did, of course, just this minute google that very question, and what do you know, you can crack pumpkin seeds on your very own kitchen bench with a rolling pin, then you can boil them, and just like that .. MAGIC! Hulled pumpkin seeds. There goes another hour of my day.. but.. point is, it is possible. I could theoretically do this. And, that red wine that I am drinking? Theoretically the bottle it comes in could go straight back to the winery to be refilled. Why not? Reasons, apparently. I imagine it has something to do with it being cheaper to put wine in freshly minted new bottles each time. This is capitalism, after all, and capitalism is all about the race to the bottom for profit. There may also be a health regulation or some such thing about refilling bottles, as if sterilisation wasn't a thing. Point being, both these reasons (which I have completely made up, they may be true or not, who knows?) are excuses, as is my reluctance to eat pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin, which sounds like a tedious process, rather than buying them from the bulk-food bin at the whole food shop, where they have come on a slow boat from China where they were grown organically without chemicals then shipped non-organically with planet-warming greenhouse gases.

My dear reader, do you see where these thoughts are tending? No? Well, I'll make it clearer. We make things so complicated in our society. We waste so much. Pumpkin seeds and glass bottles and who knows what else. As I chopped up pumpkin for soup I thought about all the waste we make. It has only been possible for all of us to become wasteful in the last couple of hundred years, since fossil fuels began to be made into staggering mountains of things. And then plastic. The most staggering mountain of all. Prior to the industrial revolution, things were precious. Food was precious and often uncertain. Everything was used, all the parts of a plant or animal, and any bits that couldn't be used were recycled via the earth. Even now, vast portions of the world's population live with very, very little, but even in those places, plastic turns into a huge burden because what do you use it for once you have used it the first time?

It is fascinating and interesting to contemplate what a no-waste society would look like. We know, of course, what no-waste societies used to look like. But how would our own society look if we shut down waste? How would my own life look if I used and re-used everything I have instead of allowing it to join that giant landfill mountain? These are questions that are dripping slowly through the caverns of my mind right now..

In other no-waste news, I learned a new thing this week - you can eat broccoli leaves! I sort of knew this, as I chop up the little leaves on the broccoli that I buy and put them in the stir-fry, but I hadn't transferred that knowledge to my own home-grown broccoli plants. Broccoli leaves taste like broccoli, funnily enough, and will be harvested and eaten up for dinner forthwith!


GretchenJoanna said…
Oooh, and that broccoli plant has lots of leaves to offer you, too!! I don't think I have ever grown broccoli... All that space in my little garden, for one head. BUT when you take into account those meaty leaves, it looks like a more winning proposition.
Jo said…
Gretchen Joanna, it gets better, because it isn't just one head - broccoli grows lots of little heads for months after the first large harvest. But I do hear what you are saying about being cautious on what you plant in a small garden:)
Hazel said…
Interesting question. I'm trying to close the loop and keep anything that could add fertility to my garden in my composting system but there's way too much recycling, mostly plastic and single use packaging leaving my house. The rest of the family thinks we're doing well because it's more recycling than landfill, but I still think we could do much better.
As far as the pumpkin seeds go, I cook them with the shell on but it's a bit hit and miss as to if they go crispy or stay chewy and as I flavour them they wouldn't go very well in granola!
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Truth be told I'm enjoying a cup of homemade sake (Japanese rice wine) as I type this - please forgive the typos. So easy to make too, although the instructions are often surrounded in unnecessary mysticism. Yes, it would be nice if all glass bottles were recycled. It is not like they are hard to clean. We recycle all glass bottles but also make all of our own wines. The wine making is a simple, yet complex process and few people appreciate the visuals of that process - even just to obtain about five glasses of wine per week each. There is a lot of judgement. Wine has to age for about twelve to eighteen months otherwise it does not taste good and that takes a bit of space. We also do our own apple cider vinegar, and I thought about that with all of your freebie apple harvests earlier in the year.

Interestingly we used to obtain all of our bottles from friends, but strangely that abruptly stopped when their partner became concerned at just how much our donors were drinking. And the supply just stopped. We had to go to a commercial supplier of bottles and buy all new bottles. Of course what we learned was that if things can't be seen, clearly they aren't happening! Oh well.

Cool! I didn't know that green pepitas were derived from pumpkin seeds. Who'd have thought it? Don't laugh but I thought that they were a particular variety of pumpkin... I add them to my toasted muesli mix, so good, and so tasty! More things to consider.

Your broccoli is looking awesome!

Fernglade Farm said…
Sorry to add, but most recycling (other than metals) has come to an abrupt halt since about late last year. It is the story that few people want to talk about.

Hazel said…
Chris- there are varieties of pumpkin bred for hulless seeds, so the commercial ones will be from a special variety. The trouble is they're not bred for good flesh flavour so you'd have to have lots of space or really like pumpkin seeds!

Jo- I've just seen your sidebar, thank you! I think you hinted the other day but I'm a bit slow on the uptake ;-)
Beznarf27 said…
I keep trying to find ways to make and do things myself to bypass having to buy things in plastic or waste things and more often than not I remember the lessons that my frugal granny taught me (whether I thought I was paying attention or not). I guess we would have to work out whether whatever it is we were eating/doing/buying was important enough to us if it stopped being available. I don't think I would invest the time and energy to hull pumpkin seeds to be honest but you could make oil out of them if you had enough. I was reading your comments section and saw "homemade sake"! I am in awe! We have dabbled in some home brew before but never the hard stuff. What a concept! My sourdough is going from strength to strength and Steve recently made me a spurtle to stir Herman when I feed him. He recycled one of my old unused wooden spatula's to make it. A spurtle is an ancient utensil used to stir porridge that originated in Scotland. It obviously reduces coefficient drag or some other physics lark but whatever it's scientific principals are, it works! Herman is happy, I am happy and another unused utensil becomes valuable. We cut down and hunted out fallen trees in the lower block yesterday to use to prop up Sanctuary's saggy top. Steve couldn't walk in there standing up so we needed to remedy it STAT and despite protestations from the resident one eyed duck and limpy hen who can't use her feet but gets around amazingly well, we did it and at a cost of exactly "nothing" to us or to the environment. I love finding ways to do things frugally that encompass a completely holistic outlook on how we live our lives. It might take longer and involve a lot more effort to make things and do things for ourselves, recycling, reusing and repurposing BUT there are some awesome side effects to the process including learning incredible new and valuable skills, getting good exercise and the amazing sense of satisfaction that you get from knowing that you can do something for yourself. I am off to Google how to make sake now!
Jo said…
Hazel, me too with the recycling - still a lot, and as Chris says below, who knows what is happening to it now that China has stopped taking Australia's recycling?
I have tried roasting pumpkin seeds with the hull on, but nobody here is excited about that.. I will try the dehulling experiment, because I can, just to see what happens..

Chris, the range of things you guys produce at home is extensive and impressive! But it is interesting, isn't it - most things aren't half as hard as you imagine before you try. A lot of things, like sourdough bread for instance, take almost no hands-on time, just bubble away quietly in the background. That is pretty funny about the bottles.. I am sure you could drop into your local pub and ask them to put a few dozen empty bottles aside for you.. at least the pub won't be embarrassed about how many bottles they empty!

Fran, my mum bought me a locally-made myrtle spurtle for Christmas! I have never used it on the sourdough starter, although Posy swears by it for stirring the hot chocolate!
I am with you in the idea of making your own even just for the value of knowing you can, let alone the value of making a thing and being able to use it at no cost to you or the earth. Brilliant, and worthwhile, I think. And also an idea that is beginning to come back. I am so encouraged by all the young people who are going back to learning all the nana crafts, then posting how on the internet. I think that possibly the internet might save some of the old knowledge and crafts. Who knows how long the internet will be around for us (I suspect it will get more and more expensive as time goes by) but hopefully there will have been a lot of sharing gone on by then. Good luck with the sake!
Treaders said…
I have always just put pumpkin seeds straight into the oven with oil and salt - delicious. And I never thought about eating the broccoli leaves. I'd better dash off out there now before the slugs have their way! Since I'm (hopefully) retiring at Christmas I really want to get more involved in organic gardening (although we'll be up to our eyeballs in snow at Christmas) and the "no waste" movement that has started springing up around here. So many plans, so little time! Anna
Jo said…
Anna, maybe I will try that again - I think some pumpkin seeds must be tougher and chewier than others..
It is so exciting that you are retiring soon! A whole new world!
Pam in Virginia said…
Hi, Jo!

Well, there we go! I have been toasting my pumpkin seeds in the oven, but not enjoying them very much; they usually seem too tough, as you posed. Thank you so much for telling how to get the outsides off.

Once upon a time glass milk bottles were always returned and the dairies reused them many times. My grandfather owned a dairy, but had sold it by the time I was old enough to really pay attention. I have always felt wistful about that.

I had never heard of myrtle spurtles and have just looked it up. Isn't that fun! We are up to our eyeballs in wood (one of my oldest son's many vocations is "woodman"). I wonder if I could make one?

Jo said…
Pam, I will have a go at hulling pumpkin seeds and let you know - here is the link to instructions, and we can both try:


I remember the milkman delivering milk in glass bottles when I was very young. They had aluminium lids in different colours which we children would string into necklaces. At Christmas the lids had holly designs! I also remember the soft drink man who would come and deliver a crate of soft drinks every month. You left the crate of empty glass bottles out for him to swap over at the end of the month. There is, of course, no reason that any of this could not happen again..

Ah, spurtles! The Scottish porridge stirrer. I am am sure you could whittle one! Myrtle is a beautiful pink Tasmanian wood, so you may have to try a different kind...
Closing the loop feels a little never ending at times. Just when you get one thing sorted it's on to the next thing. I think that's why I love making as much as possible from scratch myself - the easiest, least 'head hurting' way to close the loop.

I generally just roast the seeds whole. If they are of the variety that are less than enjoyable with the hull still attached I throw them into some baked good like muesli balls or granola and they get eaten without complaint (or awareness).

I think leaves from all brassicas can be eaten. I find some are a bit fibrous at times so I add those ones to pureed vegetable soups.
P.S was interested to read the post on the rye shampoo. Will add it to the 'give a go' list. Still haven't found a 'no poo' regime that I'm 100% happy with - luckily I can just put my hair in a bun and ignore...

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