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The root-to-stalk cooking movement is a culinary trend that focuses on utilizing the entire fruit or vegetable in cooking, rather than discarding parts such as peels, stems, and leaves. This movement is gaining popularity due to its many benefits, including reducing food waste, increasing nutrient intake, and promoting sustainability.

Food waste is a major issue in the food industry. According to a study by the United Nations, approximately one-third of all food produced globally is wasted each year.1 The root-to-stalk cooking movement aims to reduce this waste by encouraging the use of all parts of the plant in cooking. This not only reduces waste but also saves money for consumers and helps to preserve the environment by reducing the amount of food sent to landfills.

Food waste is a significant issue in South Africa, with millions of tons of food being wasted each year. Here are some statistics on food waste in South Africa:

  • According to a 2019 report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), it is estimated that around 10 million tonnes of food is wasted in South Africa each year.
  • This waste equates to around 2.1% of South Africa’s total greenhouse gas emissions and costs the country an estimated R61.5 billion annually in lost resources and economic value.
  • Most of the food waste in South Africa occurs at the production and post-harvest stages, with a significant amount of food being lost due to poor storage and handling practices.
  • In addition, food waste is also a problem at the retail and consumer levels. South Africans tend to overbuy and throw away food that is still edible, with an estimated 90% of South African households disposing of food on a weekly basis.
  • The issue of food waste is particularly concerning in South Africa, where millions of people suffer from food insecurity. According to the 2021 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, around 26.8% of the population in South Africa is undernourished.

Efforts are being made to address the issue of food waste in South Africa, including initiatives to improve food storage and handling practices, reduce food losses in the supply chain, and raise awareness among consumers about the importance of reducing food waste.

In addition to reducing waste, the root-to-stalk cooking movement has nutritional benefits. Fruit and vegetable peels, for example, are often rich in fibre, vitamins, and antioxidants.2 By incorporating these peels into meals, individuals can increase their nutrient intake and potentially reduce their risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Here are some examples of the nutritional benefits of vegetable peels:

  • Fibre: Vegetable peels are a good source of dietary fibre, which can help promote digestive health and regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Vitamins: Many vegetable peels are rich in vitamins, such as vitamins A, C, and K. Vitamin A is important for eye health, vitamin C supports immune function, and vitamin K is essential for blood clotting.
  • Antioxidants: Vegetable peels are also packed with antioxidants, which can help protect the body against cellular damage caused by free radicals.
  • Minerals: Vegetable peels contain a variety of minerals, including potassium, magnesium, and iron. Potassium is important for heart health, magnesium supports bone health, and iron is essential for oxygen transport in the body.

Some examples of vegetables with nutrient-rich peels include potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and eggplants. However, it’s important to note that not all vegetable peels are edible or safe to eat. Some vegetables, such as onions and garlic, have papery outer layers that should be removed before cooking or eating. Additionally, it’s important to wash vegetables thoroughly before eating or cooking to remove any dirt or pesticides that may be present on the surface. Overall, incorporating vegetable peels into your diet is a great way to boost your nutrient intake and promote overall health.

Furthermore, the root-to-stalk movement promotes sustainability by reducing the demand for new crops. According to a study by the Natural Resources Defence Council, if Americans were to reduce their food waste by just 15%, it would be equivalent to providing food for 25 million people each year.3 By using all parts of the plant in cooking, we can reduce the need for additional crops, thereby reducing the environmental impact of agriculture.

Despite the numerous benefits of the root-to-stalk cooking movement, some individuals may be hesitant to incorporate peels and other plant parts into their meals due to concerns about taste or safety. However, many fruits and vegetables are perfectly safe to consume in their entirety, and some peels even add a unique flavour to dishes. For example, apple peels can add tartness to pies and sauces, while carrot tops can be used as a garnish or in pesto sauces.3

So, what is the takeaway message? 

The root-to-stalk cooking movement, advocating for the use of entire fruits and vegetables in culinary practices, is not only a solution to the global issue of food waste but also a pathway to enhanced nutrition and sustainability. With about one-third of global food production wasted annually, embracing this trend helps reduce waste, save money, and mitigate environmental impact. In South Africa, where 10 million tonnes of food are discarded yearly, efforts are underway to address the problem through improved storage practices and awareness campaigns. Nutritionally, incorporating vegetable peels, rich in fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, into meals can contribute to digestive health, immune support, and protection against chronic diseases. Moreover, the root-to-stalk approach promotes sustainability by diminishing the demand for new crops, aligning with global initiatives to combat food insecurity and environmental challenges. While concerns about taste and safety may deter some, the movement provides an opportunity for culinary creativity and a positive impact on both individuals and the planet.


the root-to-stalk cooking movement is a culinary trend that promotes sustainability, reduces food waste, and offers numerous nutritional benefits. By incorporating fruit and vegetable peels into our meals, we can increase our nutrient intake and potentially reduce our risk of chronic diseases. As the world continues to face food insecurity and environmental challenges, the root-to-stalk movement offers a simple yet effective solution that can benefit both individuals and the planet.

Want to minimize waste and maximise what you have in your fridge? Try this No Waste Vegetable Curry, which will likely become a family favourite!


  1. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United States. 2019. The state of food and agriculture 2019. Moving forward on food loss and waste reduction. Rome. Available here.
  2. Chen H, Weng X, Wu Q. 2017. Comparative analysis of nutritional composition of peel and pulp of Chinese waxberry and the antioxidant activity of their extracts. Food Chemistry, 221, 1706-1713. Available here.
  3. Gunders, D. 2012. Wasted: How America is losing up to 40 percent of its food from farm to fork to landfill. Natural Resources Defense Council. Available here.
Spread the health, every byte counts
Wilna Eksteen

Wilna Eksteen

Registered Dietitian

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