One pizza place has taken to experimenting with some pretty out-there toppings: food waste.
At a private event that the Rockefeller Foundation and The Huffington Post hosted last month to mark the first day of SXSW Eco week in Austin, Texas, local restaurant Bufalina prepared a special meal of appetizers, pastas and pizzas made with produce that would otherwise have been tossed in the compost or trash.
The recipes included overgrown kale stems and stunted spinach with yellowed edges, for example, Bufalina owner Steven Dilley told HuffPost. He had specifically reached out to local farms to retrieve vegetables they would have thrown away.
“It’s perfectly edible food ― it’s just aesthetically, it might not look beautiful,” Dilley says in the video above. “We look at the appearance of a vegetable, but many times that bears very little relationship to taste.”
The dinner, which brought together experts from business, academia and government, was meant to raise awareness of the problem of food waste, and how everyone can help fight it by making “ugly” produce part of their everyday lives.
Up to 40 percent of food in the U.S. goes uneaten. Some rejected food is composted or turned into animal feed ― but most winds up in landfills, where it decomposes and releases greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming.
Part of the problem is supermarkets rejecting “ugly” produce that doesn’t meet standards for ideal size or appearance. But misshapen or blemished fruits and vegetables are fine to eat ― they may even be tastier and more nutritious.
“Get out of the supermarket ― go to a local farm, see what’s on the farm stand,” Dilley says in the video. “I’d be surprised if people weren’t blown away by the quality of the produce, the flavor you can get.”
While Bufalina’s meal made of food waste was a one-time event, the restaurant’s team seemed excited about the creativity it sparked ― and the good this approach to cooking could do for the world if adopted by more people.
“Looking at these supposedly ugly vegetables as potential food ― the whole movement is going to continue to grow,” chef Tyreece Burton says in the video. “There are going to be a lot more chefs proud to say they’re serving the kind of stuff that most people would throw away, which I think is really awesome.”