Keep Strawberry Stems And Leaves For Your Next Favorite Drink Infusion

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If your Instagram and TikTok feeds are filled with food influencers showing you how to make the coolest-looking charcuterie boards or taco hack to die for, there's a bit of a dark side to think about when you're recreating what you've seen. The magic of making food look good on camera unfortunately comes at the expense of a lot of edible food, and as many as 85% of food influencers admit to wasting ingredients to make a specific recipe, according to the BBC.

Food waste doesn't stop at social media, unfortunately, and is a huge problem around the world. The USDA estimates that Americans throw away 30% to 40% of the food supply, which in 2010 added up to 133 billion pounds of food, estimated to be worth around $161 billion. Yikes. Even a few ingredients tossed in the trash add up both on your grocery bill and in the landfill. It's no secret that inflation for food has hit a 40-year high (per TIME), so why waste any bit of it? 

There are a lot of ways to prevent food waste at home, from sticking to a shopping list to finishing your leftovers. There are also quite a few food scraps that you're probably tossing away that are actually edible, like strawberry stems and leaves.

Save the scraps

Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits in America, and they were hit hard with inflation in 2022 due to heavy spring rains in California (per NBC), which is where about 75% of the nation's berries originate (according to the University of Illinois Extension). As a result, unless they're in season, strawberries can be pretty expensive.

Now consider that the first thing most people do when prepping a pile of fresh strawberries is cut the tops off to remove the stem, which also cuts away a portion of the berry itself. This is basically throwing money in the trash because the fruit you cut away is edible. You can save a little bit of fruit by using a strawberry huller to dig out the stem or try the trick of spearing them with a drinking straw like they do at America's Test Kitchen. Or you could cut the tops and stems off your strawberries guilt-free by saving them to infuse your drinks — you'll prevent waste and get a bonus boost of flavor in your glass, which is a win. The tops of strawberries, including the leaves and stems, are actually filled with lots of good strawberry flavor, which you can harvest just by soaking them in water, vinegar, simple syrup, or spirits.

Infuse for flavor

Infusing fruit flavors into your drinks is super easy, and in fact infusing is really just a fancy word for soaking. You can liven up a pitcher of water or make a batch of flavored vodka with almost no effort just using parts of the berry you were going to toss in the trash. The key is to make sure your stems and hulls get enough contact time with whatever liquid you want to flavor (per Southern Living).

If you want to add strawberry flavor using the tops, stems, and leaves, Food Network says to infuse a pitcher of ice water for a few minutes, vinegar for a few hours, and to steep your spirits with the strawberry parts for at least a couple of days. If you're making a simple syrup, add the strawberry bits to the water and sugar when you're heating them on the stove and simmer for five to ten minutes, then strain them away before storing the syrup.

Once you have a proper strawberry-flavored concoction, you can sip it as is for a refreshing treat, or use it to build a signature flavored cocktail (with or without the booze). You could also freeze your strawberry water into fancy ice cubes with a slice of berry for popping into a water bottle for a refresher after the gym, jazzing up a glass of lemonade, or for a special touch in a summer cocktail.