Sadly, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), South Africans waste more than nine million tons of food a year while, ironically, half of the country’s population go to bed hungry every night.
It’s not just in South Africa where tons of edible food go to waste, globally 33-50% of all food produce goes to waste, amounting to about 1.3 billion tons of edible food. The amount of food wasted each year is enough to feed the entire world’s population.
Field to fork or trash to table is a growing trend which sees consumers and restaurateurs becoming more open to using the “ugly fruits and vegetables” which wouldn’t normally make it to our tables.
Local food experts Siba Mtongana and South Africa’s first Michelin Star Chef, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, share their tips on how to re-invent leftovers, proving there is life after waste.
Award-winning celebrity chef, Siba, says we are all guilty of discarding perfectly good food.
“When cheese gets mouldy or lettuce is wilted we throw it away or when we did our shopping and we either cooked too much or we didn’t get around to cooking, that’s when food gets wasted,” Siba says.
But the celebrity chef says there are ways around wasting for home cooks and professionals.
“People are starting to tackle food waste. For instance chefs use vegetables from trash to the table - or using what would have been trashed or have ended up in the rubbish bin - (chefs) are taking that and creating beautiful dishes.
“What we get are the perfect (fruits and vegetables) but, in the process, there’s produce that did not make the cut and that is also food wastage.
“Many chefs are taking the produce from the ground and creating beautiful dishes because they are trying to make sure they are addressing this issue.”
A little planning when cooking at home can ensure that less food ends up in the rubbish bin.
“What people could do at home is make sure the ingredients you buy are either stuff with a long shelf life or perishables, which you must be able to use within a specified time.
“So if you’re cooking on Monday, make sure that at least by Wednesday you can use those ingredients again.
“So if you have green peppers, lettuce, thyme and herbs, make sure there are at least two other meals you can make with the same ingredients,
“What I do is if I see my lettuce and rocket leaves are being wilted I make a pesto out of it.
“If I haven’t used my cheese after a long time, I freeze it to extend its shelf life.
“The beauty about cheese is you can just remove the mouldy bits and save the rest of the cheese,” she says.
On his blog, Jan Hendrik says by the time we pick something off the shop shelf, most of the waste has already occurred.
He says: “But when you consider that 50% of South Africa’s population doesn’t have enough food, perhaps the time has come to pay more attention to the food we buy and how much of it we throw away.”