fresh vegetables

Sofrito… Preserving Vegetables While Adding Flavor To Your Meals!

By Lilybeth Colon

A friend was talking about how she hates it when she buys too many vegetables and they go bad because she doesn’t eat them fast enough. As a good Puerto Rican, I couldn’t help telling her about how I always use all my veggies by making “Sofrito” – a mix of veggies and herbs used as a base to many of our dishes. Sofrito can be added to soups, stews, rice, beans, you name it, and it adds tons of flavors! It can be made at the moment or frozen or refrigerated so that you have them every time you want to cook a delicious meal, even when the veggies are off-season.

Not only is sofrito a great way to preserve your veggies, but it helps to prevent wasted food going into landfills. This is important since in 2010 alone, around 35 million tons of food waste was generated in the U.S.! Of that, 97 percent was thrown away into landfills or incinerators! When food decomposes in landfills, it generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. On top of that, 13% of the U.S.’s greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food. When we waste it, it also wastes all of the resources that went into growing and distributing it. So not only is sofrito flavorful, making it with your soon-to-go bad veggies can help to save the planet!

Make your own! All you need is: (makes 4 cups)

  • 3 cubanelle or green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 8 ajices dulces peppers, seeded1
  • 2 medium onions, cut into large chunks
  • 2 medium heads garlic, peeled
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 12 leaves culantro or recao1
  •   Salt (optional)

Put them together in your food processor or blender and voila! There’s a base for a delicious salsa, soup or stew! Try freezing it in ice cube trays to make it really easy to use in the future. Another idea is to make a more Italian base with tomatoes, parsley, onions, garlic and oregano.

Remember, making sofrito allows you to save money, preserve your veggies, and have them readily available to make delicious foods. And, it helps reduce food waste! Check out other food waste reduction tips.

About the author: Lilybeth Colón is an environmental engineer in the EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, and is an avid cooker. She loves trying new recipes, but often finds herself being creative in the kitchen making up her own recipes.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Planning A Summer Garden

By Alice Kaufman

Seed catalogs are piling up around the house. It’s that season when my attentions turn to spring, then to summer’s bounty. I grow just enough of the things our family likes but leave the veggies that take a lot of land to local farmers –things like corn and potatoes.

I grow a salsa garden, a salad garden and a pesto garden. That means I grow the ingredients to make salsa, salads and pesto: tomatoes, peppers of various colors, shades and hotness, lettuce, basil and herbs. I plant obscure and familiar varieties of lettuce. Every time my husband eats a garden salad he says “I feel like I am eating the sun.”

I meticulously label each row of tomatoes so when it’s time to harvest, I know what I’m eating. Funny, though, I am never sure whether I am eating an Early Girl or Pink Beauty by time it goes from basket to summer table. When I pick these tomatoes they are still full of the sun’s heat which makes them that much juicier to eat.

Backyard gardeners learn to share their plots with wildlife. Bunnies nibble on early greens, woodchucks eat everything if I’m not careful, and birds love blueberries. The neighbor’s chickens have a knack for filing in to feast the day before I would have picked the tomatoes. I’m always torn about how aggressive to be in keeping critters out. My master gardener friend plants a row of veggies for the critters and harvests inner rows for her family.

This year I can choose from a broader range of varieties For the first time in more than 20 years the USDA redrew the Plant Hardiness Zone map, based on national warming trends. My town in Massachusetts is now in Zone 6. This map is the gardener’s Bible about what varieties of shrubs and plants can be grown given certain climate limitations. Kim Kaplan of the USDA said the agency isn’t forecasting a dire message about climate change. She says the map is not scientific evidence of climate warming since the map is simply based on the coldest days of the year.

But Mainers are excited to try varieties of rhododendrons that would surely have perished in winter’s freeze. And Tucson gardeners report daffodils blooming earlier. Nebraskans are pondering peaches and apricots. For me, the big question is whether I should try growing figs. Or maybe kiwi?

About the author: Alice Kaufman works in EPA’s Boston office. She loves to travel, is an avid backcountry hiker, and frequently tromps through Thoreau’s woods in her home town with her husband and kids, and Watson, her mischievous Golden Retriever.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.