What are those brown spots on your cauliflower? Is it OK to buy tomatoes at the farmers market with some dry cracks on top? If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re very much not alone.
One of my new favorite resources out there is EatOrToss. The inquisitive mind behind this site is DMV local Rachael Jackson, who cares as deeply about reducing food waste as she does about learning about food. Jackson is a member at Temple Micah and recently brought new elements of environmental justice to the annual community dinner by introducing composting and leftover containers that allow dinner guests to play an active role in reducing food waste.
Jackson has always been interested in food science, botany and horticulture and has a desire to understand the world—and food—better. Several years ago, she realized that she had numerous questions about produce and other foods, many of which boiled down to “When something looks scary, is it still safe to eat?” Like many of us, she was concerned about tossing perfectly good produce, thus wasting money and contributing to the massive amounts of food waste produced annually by our households.
Jackson says some answers did exist, but they were buried. The answers she found largely had no photos to accompany the information, making it challenging to compare what she was seeing in her own kitchen. So she put her curiosity and her extensive journalism background to good use and began making phone calls to farmers, horticulturalists and food scientists—basically anyone who could shed some light on her quandaries. Most often she found that the “damage” she was noticing on fruits and vegetables was a result of something unusual happening in the field during the growing process, and not anything that would cause health issues or render the produce unusable. She also found others were asking similar questions, so there was surely an audience for her research.
Thus, at the end of 2016, Jackson launched EatOrToss to help other similarly curious foodies and home chefs. The website is built around images and is aimed at reducing food waste and empowering others not to throw away perfectly edible foods. Her hope is to shed light on the issue and replace any uncomfortable feelings with a sense of empowerment and positive associations.
There are currently about 70 posts on the website, and Jackson does her best between work and other commitments to write about one new post per week. Even so, there are many photos and mysteries she has collected that are still waiting for their answers to be found.
In addition to Jackson’s findings, the website contains fantastic “Use-It-Up” recipes, such as these “Moving Truck Freezer Bars.” Jackson also hopes to use the website to create a sense of community and engagement. Visitors are encouraged to share questions, recipes and send messages. Did you cut into some produce that looks dubious? Send Jackson a photo and your question. Or maybe you have a genius use for pickle juice or the crumbly bits at the bottom of a bag of cereal. Who knows—that might make for a great guest post.