Cooking with Scraps

How We’re Eating—Not Composting—Our Summer Scraps

June 14, 2018

For many of us, it seems like we have to wait patiently for months on end for a bounty of produce to arrive at the market (don't rub it in Californians). But once summer is in full swing, we don't want to let a single bit go to waste. You know how to use sweet corn kernels, juicy watermelon, and perfectly ripe tomatoes, but don't forget to put the cobs, rinds, and peels to good use, too—they've all got more flavor to give! Here are some of our favorite uses for all of those summer scraps and more:


No matter how you strip the kernels from their cobs, if that's all you're using, a lot of corny goodness is being left behind. The cobs, silk, and husks can be used to make broth, wrap tamales, and more.

Herb Stems and Flowers

If you've ever purchased a bundle of herbs bigger than you know what to do with, stripped herbs of all their leaves and then wondered what to do with all the lingering stems, or accidentally let your herbs go to seed and flower, well, welcome to the club. The good news is that we're full of ideas for using herb stems and edible flowers.


Melons can be tricky. With no clear external cue for ripeness, it can be hard to tell when you have a perfectly ripe melon. One sign to look for is a large yellowish-brown patch where the melon was resting on the soil (this lets you know it’s been growing for awhile), and cantaloupes give off a strong sweet smell when they’re ripe. But sometimes you still slice into a melon and are met with not-quite-ripe flesh. Not to worry, unripe melons can be redeemed in smoothies, chilled fruit soups, or agua fresca. And don't toss your watermelon rinds, those are meant to live their best lives as jam.


Neglecting your garden, even for a day or two, can result in overgrown produce. If that happens to your okra, you can use the seeds for "couscous" (and no, it's not at all slimy). The large emptied-out pods left behind needn't go to waste either! If you have a dehydrator, you can use Chef Clark Barlowe’s technique to dry and powder them, resulting in a cornstarch-like thickener.

summer squash

Squash blossoms are hardly a scrap and more of a treat if you can get your hands on them at the farmers market. Use your squash blossoms quickly—ideally the same day you get them. When they're young and tender, the whole zucchini (or summer squash) can be used—skin, flesh, seeds, even the stem! As the season wears on and they grow to baseball bat-sized proportions, scoop out and roasted the seeds just as you would pumpkin.

Stale Bread

Okay, you caught us, stale bread isn't a summer scrap—it's a year-round scrap! And we bet you'll welcome it in a cheesy, bacon-y strata all year long, too.

Stone Fruits

Stone fruit pits and kernels (the part inside of the pits) can be used to flavor vinegars, syrups, liquors, and milk or cream—the latter of which can then be transformed into other treats, like ice cream or whipped cream. The fruits' peels can be transformed into flavorful sugar and even unripe stone fruits can be tasty when treated right.


At their peak, ripe tomatoes are too good to let a single bit go unused—and there's no need to! Tomato peels make a pretty pink salt, while juicy tomato innards shine in pasta and boozy beverages.

And it's not just tomato guts and skins that can be put to good use, imperfect (so-called ugly) tomatoes are just as tasty as their photographic relatives. You might not want to highlight them in a salad or on a tartine, but here are 10 ways to let them shine in their own way.

Tell us: How do you put summer produce scraps to good use?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • M
  • BerryBaby
  • Smaug
  • Zozo
  • Lindsay-Jean Hard
    Lindsay-Jean Hard
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


M June 18, 2018
Dried lemon rinds (plain or smoked), ground on demand, are great for things like dry rubs and sauces.

That said, these lists sometimes feel like the cart before the horse. Before one can properly utilize scraps, one needs to know the differences between what is "ugly" but edible, and what has turned and should be scrapped. And that's to say nothing for dirt/residue/etc left on roots/skins/etc.
BerryBaby June 17, 2018
If cantaloupe isn't quite ripe, I drizzle it with a little agave syrup or honey.
Smaug June 15, 2018
If you've let zucchini grow to baseball bat size, you might as well use them to hit baseballs. This is a huge waste of the plant's resources (as far as human usage)- if the fruit are removed at a reasonable size (no more thhan 5-6") the plant will continue to produce flowers and new fruit, rather than using all their energy producing one marginally edible monstrosity. If you have a mild climate, it's a good idea to replace plants mid season.
Lindsay-Jean H. June 15, 2018
I'm not recommending doing so intentionally, but I bet I'm not the only one who has gone away on vacation and come back to a giant zucchini.
Smaug June 15, 2018
Doesn't even require a vacation- s some of the striped varieties (I've been growing Cocozele the last few years) can look a lot like stems; I've a couple of times had them hide on the back side of plants so effectively that I didn't find them until I started wondering why the plant stopped producing and did a thorough search. Nevertheless, it is something to be conscientiously conscious of.
Zozo June 15, 2018
Love a good strata! I started making fritters with breadcrumbs made from oven roasted bread heels collected in the freezer. They're especially great with zucchini as they soak up all the juices, so no need to "wring out the juice" which feels a bit wasteful of the flavour and vitamins really! Plus it adds a wonderful flavour.

With herb stalks, these can be roughly bent into a knot for adding to summer sauces (eg basil) or pickles (dill). You still have to chuck them later if super fibrous but at least you get flavour (there's actually heaps in the stalk!)