Sunday, January 29, 2012

Food wasting: Shocking Statistics. Left-over breakfast recipe: Pumpkin pancakes

Jams in my fridge and honey
I was going through my thoughts and notes on what to blog about this time when the alarm bells hit my ears on the evening news program: the European Commission has recently published statistics that 89 million tons of usable food is annually wasted  across EU27. That food is wasted by households (42%), by production and processing (39%), by catering establishments (14%) and by retail (5%). If we continue this way there will be 126 million tons of food wasted per year by 2020. Outrageous statistics and bad behaviour!

“Best before” or “Consume by” are two different things.
Indeed consuming fresh dairy or meat products with a passed “Consume by” date can cause health problems and I wouldn’t advise anyone to do it, however “Best before” just denotes until when the quality of that product is best and not when it becomes unusable. It is easy to mix up these two, but picturing 3,5 million trailer trucks full of wasted food that is generated in European Union the distinction between the two can make a whole lot of difference. All these trucks standing behind each other are more than enough to make a trip around the Equator. On top of the issue of wasting food that people can eat, how does the environment cope with the mountain of waste?
If foods with a past best before date have been stored in good conditions, the food is likely to be good for some time.
In many countries there are organisations that collect and distribute the food close to “Consume by” and “Best Before” dates to people and organisations in need. In Switzerland a few of my colleagues and I worked with one of such -"Schweizer Tafel"- last year. In my home country there is a similar "Estonian Food Bank".

I hereby reach out to the readers and ask to please support in the ways small or big available to you to help reduce the food waste.

Tips on how to reduce waste and turn leftovers into tasty ingredients:

- Leftovers from the fridge (eg. slightly wilted vegetables) or dry goods cupboard (eg. lentils and beans past “Best before” date) make wonderful soups, stews or pancakes
- Pasta stores long after the best before date
- Dinner leftovers make a good lunch the next day
- It is worth checking the inside of canned foods past “Best before” date before just throwing them away
- Cut the old rye bread –very popular in Estonia – into small cubes, roast in the oven and eat as a healthy snack alternative, but DON´T eat the mouldy old bread.
-Make croutons or bread crumbs from the hardened white bread
-Check the freshness of the eggs by carefully dropping an egg into a glass filled with cold water. If the egg drops to the bottom it is good to eat, if it stays on the top it is not fresh.
Check eggs for freshness: The egg at the bottom is fresh

Pumpkin Pancakes

To use up an egg or two that has been in the fridge for some time and a piece of pumpkin try these pancakes for breakfast with a mug of freshly brewed coffee.


2 eggs
250g pumpkin of any type
120g flour (1 cup)
0.5tl baking soda if you wish to make small thick pancakes
1.5 dl butter milk or fresh milk
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Rape seed oil or sunflower oil for frying

Grated pumpkin adds colour

Mix the eggs, salt and sugar with a fork, add some milk and mix again. Add the flour and baking soda, mix again. Leave a little milk for later or add some water if the dough becomes too thick. As last add the thinly grated pumpkin. Mix everything. Let rest for 10-15 minutes for the flour to expand.
Heat some oil in a shallow frying pan and fry either small pancakes or crepe-type over the pan pancakes.
Serve with honey or jam. There may be some jars of jam open in the fridge that are waiting to be eaten and not eventually thrown away.
Fluffy pumpkin/squash pancackes