The ends of zucchinis are cut off, sealed in the bag and put in the freezer. Onion skins are washed, cleaned, and dumped in the bag. The parsnip that lay forgotten in the fridge for two weeks transitions smoothly to the bag in the freezer. A roommate’s broccoli stalks are saved and added to the growing collection. Finally, the cabbage which is past its prime it thrown into the mix.
When the time is right, the whole bag is emptied into a pot. The pot is filled with water and set to boil for 30 minutes; once the vegetable debris is strained out, there remains a pot full of rich vegetable stock. This versatile liquid can be used for anything from the beginnings of flavorful rice to soup. With vegetable stock as a starter, the possibilities are limitless.
A generation ago, it would have been laughable to have explained this. Then again, a generation ago everyone made vegetable stock. Today, in the modern age of year-round produce and flavorless vegetables, the idea of saving unsavory produce is repugnant. Back in the days of Victory Gardens, unsavory produce was abundant and vegetable stock was always simmering.
Victory Gardens, the term for vegetable patches grown as part of the war effort during WWII, are a staple of depression-era times. Though the gardens did not contribute to victory on any front, they were a way of thriftily enlarging the food supply at home. Many of the vegetables came up misshapen, and the amateur gardeners would harvest them when the produce was under- or over- ripe; perfect fodder for vegetable stock. Today, when supermarkets are filled with picture-perfect produce year-round, spending the due diligence to plant, weed, and water ungainly vegetables is not an attractive option.
The knowledge that there is better produce in the store induces people to throw away those softening potatoes, the zucchinis a few days past their prime, and the handful of scallions which will never be used. Yet the time will come again when people are short on cash and long on ambition. They will return to their back lots, clear out the weeds, and with renewed energy plant their own gardens. When their crops come in all at once, and the uglier specimens begin to rot, then they will pull out this recipe for vegetable stock.