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The lowly mushroom stem and other underappreciated parts

I *like* the stems.

What do you watch in horror as most people toss, from celery leaves to scallion tops (or bottoms, for that matter)?

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  1. I'm sure I have a lot to learn in this area, but to start, fish heads, beet tops, herb stems, fat from the stock, bacon fat, lobster shells, broccoli stems...

    3 Replies
    1. re: Full tummy

      what do you do with lobster shells? I'm horrified when people throw out all the good parts of the lobster, like that green creamy stuff in the body, etc. (basically everything except the claws and tail).

      1. re: janethepain

        Use them for lobster bisque, seafood stock, etc. You can freeze them till they're needed.

        1. re: janethepain

          the shells can be crushed and used to make lobster oil--incredible on eggs.

        1. re: Cathy

          That's the best part of the artichoke!

          1. re: cheesecake17

            When I was a child - I used to eat only the stem - then I'd disgard the heart!

            (I like artichoke in it's entirty these days!)

        2. pea shells, carrot greens, cucumber skins for starters.
          Why do some folks peel everything, discard edible parts and waste de-licious nature?
          One persons wet garbage is anothers soup pot :)

          3 Replies
          1. re: HillJ

            What do you do with pea shells? carrot greens?

            I'm assuming when you speak about cucumber skins, you aren't referring to the ones that are covered in wax. I usually buy English cucumbers and eat the skins. Same thing for carrot skins, and potato/sweet potato skins!! Drives me crazy when I see people eat all the flesh out of a baked potato and leave the skin on the plate. I am sure that some don't like the skin, but my husband got saddled with a taboo from his mom that the skins were dirty, or some such hogwash.

            Let's add heels to the list, and I mean the ones on each end of a loaf of sandwich bread.

            1. re: Full tummy

              oh the heels of bread is an excellent one, Full T!

              pea shells I clean, chop, steam quick and make a green smoothie
              carrot greens go in salad, soup, stuffing
              organic cukes, no wax
              but wax is removed easily and English cuke skins are super thin no need to peel!
              totally agree on potato skins! Potato skins make delicious chips anyway!

              Let nature be! :)

              1. re: Full tummy

                bread heels in our house were loving referred to as 'the coolie' -

            2. I didn't even know people threw out broccoli or mushroom stems - why on earth wouldn't you eat that?

              the bite of shrimp near the tail that's left inside the shell - just pull the whole thing out!

              apple peel

              potato skin - assuming it's been scrubbed

              chicken giblets

              7 Replies
              1. re: janethepain

                Some people think that, with broccoli, the florets are where it's at. I prefer the stalk part. As you get nearer the base, the skin does get stringy and tough, so that can be easily peeled off.

                Mushroom stems may be removed for stuffing; shiitake mushrooms' stems can also be woody and tough, but they can be retained for stock.

                I always get that little bit in the shrimp tail. Nothing wrong with it.

                What do you do with apple peel? I usually eat it, but what to do with a couple of pounds of peel from making apple pie/sauce?

                Yes, chicken giblets. Use them for stock or gravy.

                1. re: Full tummy

                  I prefer the broc stalk too, peeled and, yes, the bottom cut off.

                  Potatoes, agreed, there's *almost* nothing that should require peeling them.

                  1. re: Full tummy

                    Peels? Well, I haven't tried this, but I bet you could cut them small and roll them in brown sugar or honey and bake them crunchy -- oatmeal/ice cream/cake topping. Maybe simmer them with the cores for pectin. Or make cider vinegar?

                    1. re: Full tummy

                      Here's a thread about what to do with apple peels

                      You folks don't eat the crunchy shrimp tail?

                      What do you do with the fat skimmed from stock?

                      1. re: Full tummy

                        When I make apple sauce, I just quarter the apples, leaving peels and seeds intact, and cook them covered on low heat, possibly with a bit of water to start. Then I run them through a food mill, and what's left is just a tiny bit of pulp at the end, which I compost. But I wish I had pigs to give it to!

                      2. re: janethepain

                        Too funny on the shrimp tail thing jane. I never even knew there was a good way to get that last bit out of there and wasted it for the first 40 years of my life. Then I moved to Houston and became a crawfish lover, and soon figured out that you could pinch that tail of a shrimp just like you do a crawfish and voila!! no more wasted shrimp tail.

                      3. portobello mushroom fins
                        salmon skin
                        pomegranete seeds
                        fish cheeks
                        chorizo fat
                        trigger fish livers
                        coconut milk
                        warm road kill (white tail deer in PA, antelope in WY)

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Veggo

                          What are portobello fins? The lacy brown soft stuff under the cap?

                          Mmm, salmon skin. Love it so.

                          1. re: tatamagouche

                            The mushroom 'lacy brown stuff' is sometimes called gills, also. I have a recipe that calls for scraping them out. What with cukes, maters, we are eviscerating everything. I couldn't be bothered.

                            1. re: tatamagouche

                              Salmon skin pan fried. I actually only like salmon flesh raw and the skin crisp; cooked salmon pales in comparison to either.

                              1. re: Caralien

                                Same way I prefer salmon and its skin! At least my salmon is at most "medium rare".

                                I'm known to strip the skin off smoked salmon, wrap it in paper towel and nuke until crisp, then serve the crispy skin and raw salmon all together.

                            1. re: soypower

                              I knew there had to be one...thanks!

                            2. I love some types of shrimp shell-on and silently judge very harshly as some diners peel off the delicious seasoned shell. Like in a salt and pepper shrimp or a shrimp boiled/steamed in seasonings. No need to 'peel and eat.' Eat the head, too!

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                Why bother to eat salt and pepper shrimp if you're not going to eat the shell?! Do people really do that?

                                1. re: tatamagouche

                                  Really, you eat the shell??? I've never known...

                                  1. re: scuzzo

                                    But only when it is crunchy enough, such as in well-made tempura shrimp. Someone showed me I could eat the tail more than ten years ago, and I have never gone back since.

                                  2. re: tatamagouche

                                    Q to you shell-eaters, and I'm not sure how to phrase this delicately, but can't that be a little rough the next day?

                                    1. re: Veggo

                                      My stomach should be used in skyscraper construction, it's so sturdy.

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          Not if you chew thoroughly. A big part of the digestive process occurs in our mouths. Unfortunately most Americans gobble down their food so fast it's no wonder we have so many digestive system problems.

                                    2. It pains me when someone cuts the fat off their meat - the most flavorful bit!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: NellyNel

                                        My mom buys sliced pork belly and then trims off the fat before cooking. <face palm>

                                        1. re: Humbucker

                                          Shame on mom.

                                          I agfee with a lot of the other posters here...broccoli stems (the ONLY part of the brocolli that I like) shrimp and lobster shells (freezer stock for the boulliabase), salmon skin (cracklings to put on my salad), mushroom stems (into the mushroom soup), and bread heels (the best part of the loaf and the best sandwiches).
                                          Amazing what goes to waste in this country,...

                                      2. Onion skins and celery leaves - great for soups and stock, the onion skin makes your stock a lovely rich brown color and also adds another depth of flavor. The celery leaves add a depth of flavor too. I keep a Ziploc bag of onion skins and celery leaves in the freezer.
                                        When I clean chicken i save the skin and fat in a ziploc and when i'm making chicken liver pate, i render the saved chicken bits, strain and use in my recipe, the crispy bits i think are called schmaltz, but i could be wrong. Also great to start a chicken soup.

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: capetowngirlie

                                          Now, what about some of the stuff we're talking mainly about cooking with? For instance, does anyone *eat* the celery or fennel or carrot or beet leaves in any way? As salad greens, say?

                                          1. re: tatamagouche

                                            When I was a tyke, our garden grew everything CT had to offer. My mother boiled beet greens for us. I don't remember them well, so they were not really good or really bad or I would have remembered. I like beets (but not beet juice- dangerous stuff) boiled, baked, grilled, or pickled. They are easy to grow and I wonder why they are so expensive in the markets.

                                            1. re: tatamagouche

                                              Definately use beet greens in soup, especially beet soup. A few weeks back I had one of the most memorable beet salads in my life at a Napa restaurant called Brix that combined the most delicious beets with beet greens. They have a pleasant sort of sour/bitter taste.

                                              You will get lots of recipes if you Google recipe "beet greens"

                                              I mainly used celery leaves in stuffing or soup. Sometimes I'll put them in salad.

                                              Fennel leaves are very nice mixed with tuna or salmon salad or as a nice garnish for fish.

                                              I've yet to use carrot greens. There's not as much about them on the web with juices and soup being the prime way they are used. There are a few Chowhound threads about carrot greens or carrot tops. Here's one

                                              HOWEVER, this NYT article claims carrot greens are toxic

                                              "A carrot top, apparently, is not a laughing matter. They contain alkaloids, Ms. Sumner explained, a group of organic compounds that includes caffeine, cocaine, and strychnine. These are substances that even culinary thrill-seekers might not want in their salad. “Effects range from slightly elevated blood pressure, and slightly elevated alertness and heartbeat, all the way to death,” Ms. Sumner said."

                                              Hmmm ... one way to get your teen to eat carrots ... suggest they might contain a natural high.

                                              That is one of the very, very few references warning against carrot tops. With all the recipes out there for carrot tops including some in the LA Times and Oakland Examiner, I have to wonder about that NYT article.

                                              I can't say how authoritive this source is, but they are pretty emphatic about carrot greens not being toxic.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                rworange, I've been eating carrot greens for decades and I'm still here.

                                                I will say this, many edible plants are easily confused in appearance with non edible, even poisonous plants and alarm bells often go up confusing information.

                                                Carrot greens we all know and love from grocers, markets and farms are what I enjoy in salads, soups, smoothies, etc.

                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                  Huh! I too was told emphatically not to eat them because they're poisonous to humans, but I also know that guinea pigs LOVE carrot greens.

                                                  1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                    Hi somervilleoldtimer. Well then, I am confuzzled on this one too. Since I haven't felt any ill effects.

                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                        I even found a recipe on epicurious.com that calls for carrot greens, so they can't be all that bad!


                                                2. re: tatamagouche

                                                  Not your question, but I like my mature, not-too-raggedy beet greens thoroughly cooked in water at a low boil, about 5 minutes, they get a lovely velvety texture. Dress as a salad, sautee w/garlic, etc. I like stalks too but boiled much longer, until tender. Nice with soy sauce, black vinegar, chili flakes in oil. Bet there's a good banchan treatment. Don't care for them raw if not baby. Celery leaves are good raw.

                                                3. re: capetowngirlie

                                                  I second the onion skins for stock! Gives a deep color and lots of flavor. I like to go buy on onion and raid the bin and put all the skins in the bag with my one onion. They weigh practically nothing!

                                                  Another stock tip, roast the bones before adding liquid. The browning adds lots of flavor!

                                                  1. re: capetowngirlie

                                                    Schmaltz is German and Yiddish for fat. What the cracklings are called depends on the language. Isn't it something like "gribenes" or "griebenes" in Yiddish?

                                                  2. In addition to some mentioned above (like potato skins - why, people, why?? it's where all the fiber is!) the one that kills me is when I buy turnips or radishes at the farmer's market and they ask me if I want the tops cut off. Whenever I say, "Oh no! That's why I'm buying them!" the *farmers* give me funny looks! Sigh.

                                                    OTOH, I hate shrimp shells. I'll use them for stock or to make shrimp butter, but I can't stand the taste, the smell of them cooking, the texture...[shudder] And this from someone who adores shrimp. So I guess some of the throwaways aren't always waste - sometimes they're taste preferences.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: thursday

                                                      thursday I think you nailed the appreciation vs. non appreciation well: this about a taste preference. I can't imagine throwing out mushroom stems of any kind when they have so many uses but if you find them god-awful tasting well, how can I argue that?

                                                      1. re: thursday

                                                        radish greens are great when made as one would collard greens...

                                                      2. I use the entire scallion
                                                        I love celery leaves in my tuna salad
                                                        I leave (and eat) the bottom stem on the tomatoes but will do surgery on the top to get that hard one out.
                                                        I always eat the stems on mushrooms, and just a few years ago discovered I love the broccoli stems.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                                          Love the celery leaves in tuna salad idea Boccone. I like the flavor of celery in my tuna salad, but sometimes the crunch is a turnoff to me. Never thought of using the leaves!

                                                        2. Well, you SHOULD toss shitake stems; they are nasty. Otherwise, I love the stems. Celery leaves are invaluable (btw, they are the best substitute for cilantro when you don't know if any of your guests are genetically blessed with palate aversion to cilantro - about 25% of people are), and parsley stems are of course incredibly flavorful for soups and what not. (Carrot tops, however, go directly to compost). I don't like aggressively bitter greens (mustard and arugula, stay away from me; the burden of being a supertaster), and most beet tops from beets of a decent size are too leathery and bitter for me (I love baby beet greens). Love collards, properly cooked, of course.

                                                          Now, as for underappreciated parts, I feel this way about tails, pinions, spines and other bony joints of roasted meats: many ends and other parts of the bones of a properly roasted critter are absolutely the most flavorful part. When I see people toss the pinion, spine and tail of roasted chicken, I think what a waste.

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                            You can use the shiitake stems for stock, though. Quite flavourful.

                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                              Alas, my husband has the cilantro problem; he says it tastes like metal to him. It is so not worth it for me to buy a bunch of cilantro just for one (me). So, do you think the celery leaves would satisfy me, a cilantro lover, in various recipes calling for cilantro? Do you have any recipes that worked for you, with said substitute?

                                                              1. re: Full tummy

                                                                Well, I've used them in guacamole instead of cilantro; the fragrance isn't as heady as cilantro, but people scarfed it down happily.

                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                  And you weren't thinking the whole time, "I wish there was cilantro in it...."

                                                                  I'll have to give it a try. My brother-in-law tried to replace the cilantro with parsley in guacamole. Bad move. I think he also put far too much.

                                                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                                                    As I noted earlier, I also have the palate aversion to cilantro. So I am never wishing anything had cilantro in it. Ptui!

                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                      Oooops!!! Well, as a cilantro lover, I'll have to try it out and let you know if it does the trick for me... not just my husband, hahaha.

                                                            2. If you remove the stems from mushrooms, let them dry, then powderize them in the blender and use the mushroom dust! I love using mushroom dust on grilled meats...and other things.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: scuzzo

                                                                I can't imagine why I wouldn't be using them, but if I had a pile of mushroom stems I'd put them in the freezer to use in soup, spaghetti sauce, etc.

                                                              2. love love love the prawn tail, shell and all. But I also eat kiwi fruit/chinese gooseberries with the skin on, so that's kinda how I bounce.

                                                                Oh, I also eat all the apple core except for the pips.

                                                                10 Replies
                                                                1. re: purple goddess

                                                                  You are a textural wonder/anomaly. I don't like those sensations!!!

                                                                  1. re: purple goddess

                                                                    I tried ... I really tried to eat kiwi with skin on. It is just way too thick and ... furry. Baby kiwis are a different thing. I wonder if the US kiwis are different from those in Australia.

                                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                                      Maybe...I mostly remove the kiwi skin, but if some gets left behind I don't mind it either.

                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                        Central AMericans eat the whole kiwi, skin and all, but won't eat peaches because of the fuzz!

                                                                      2. re: purple goddess

                                                                        pg, after you bounce to png, promise us you will tell us all about the good stuff!

                                                                        1. re: purple goddess

                                                                          I eat the apple core, and the pips too.
                                                                          And the tail shell on shrimp.

                                                                          And I like the crunchy soft bone cartilage bits in bbq ribs.

                                                                          1. re: The Professor

                                                                            Now eating the apple core I don't get. Don't the little pieces get uncomfortably stuck in your teeth?

                                                                            1. re: tatamagouche

                                                                              I just crunch 'em on down.. a bit like the prawn shells.

                                                                              And Proff? My fave part of the roast lamb is the crunchy cartilage-y bits on the shank.

                                                                              1. re: purple goddess

                                                                                pg, wow on the prawn shells...you and tata and Caralien must have fiberglass...
                                                                                oh, never mind.

                                                                          2. re: purple goddess

                                                                            I now eat the kiwi skin. It's probably very nutritious. And eating a peeled kiwi is slippery business! One trick: wash the kiwi just prior to eating and the fuzz is toned down.

                                                                          3. I'm pained when I see recipes that call for trimming artichokes this way and that, so that the thing is unrecognizable by the end. I just steam them for 50 minutes or so, cool upside down, pull off the leaves by the pointy end, dip them in vinaigrette, and eat! The heart and stem are the best part.

                                                                            1. I love the bottom slice - blossom end - of the tomato. After hearing me go on about it, a friend once served me a salad of only bottom slices of tomatoes from his garden. I was in heaven. I asked the sandwich guy at our cafeteria why I never saw him use my favorite slice - and was told they threw them out! Oh no...it's the best bit of the tomato!!!

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                you mean the non-stem part? why on earth would anyone throw that out?? i love it, too, i didn't even know people threw it out.