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Waste Not an Onion Skin, Want Not…

Waste Not an Onion Skin, Want Not…

I consider myself fairly conscientious about food waste. While I refuse to dine on a prematurely cracked egg or an especially fuzzy and off-color piece of fruit, I do make the most of what I have and limit my food waste to ends and skins that mostly make it into the compost pile. I am not trying to sound sanctimonious, but I like to think I do my part. But there is always more to be done, and as internet chatter is not shy in reminding us, there are all sorts of uses for those bits and scraps that we so mindlessly discard.

According to an article published in Food, waste products from onions (particularly the skins that don’t make it much further than the garbage or compost bin) are rich in all sorts of fiber and flavonoids and hold all sorts of potential uses as food sources and food ingredients. The authors of a study, titled Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, said, “Industrial onion wastes …are an interesting source of phytochemicals and natural antioxidants and their application in food, which increases their health promoting properties, is a promising field,” said the authors. The authors are advocating that this under-exploited waste product be utilized in the industrial setting, where untold numbers of onion skins and scraps are removed and discarded, but on the micro level, onion skins can no doubt be put to good use in the home kitchen as well.

Onion skins have been used for years as a means of creating a natural dye, and people have been dying Easter eggs purple for years using nothing more than red onion skins (although the color is nothing like the neon purple you get out of those Paws packages). But onion skins can be used to dye all sorts of things, cotton, paper, etc. As far as consumption goes, onion remnants and skins can be used in making all kinds of soup stocks or bases – no doubt lending flavor and flavonoids to the soup. As far as consuming the actual onion skins, well, I find that virtually any plant material brushed in olive oil, salted and then baked for 30 minutes at 300 degrees is pretty damn good. And if onion skins offer up fiber and other natural antioxidants, a little bit of kitchen experimentation might be just what the doctor ordered.

Do you have any innovative uses for onion scraps that are worth sharing? Do you find this sort of intensive resourcefulness to be too fussy or distasteful? Are there any other kinds of kitchen scraps you love to exploit and consume in creative ways?

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


+ add your own
6:14PM PST on Mar 1, 2013

nice ideas

3:16PM PST on Feb 27, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

5:59AM PST on Feb 24, 2013


5:43AM PST on Feb 24, 2013


11:40PM PST on Feb 23, 2013

Thanks Eric

9:23PM PST on Feb 23, 2013


9:08PM PST on Feb 23, 2013

I used onion skins to dye the fabric for my Hufflepuff Quidditch shirt (i also sewed the shirt and drew and applied the design). ^_^

3:58PM PST on Feb 23, 2013


3:48PM PST on Feb 23, 2013

Put them in the broth you are making and it will keep it clear.

10:48AM PST on Feb 23, 2013


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So precious. Thank you for sharing,

I am not sure what a bow-chick-bow is but I am so pleased yours still works, Ron. I actually inheri…

Some interesting ideas!

Informative. Thank you for posting.


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