Most people eat an apple until they hit the core, because, in their minds, the core of an apple—with its stringy texture and possibly-but-not-really poisonous seeds—is trash. But it doesn't have to be. "When you start thinking about food differently, the possibilities are endless," chef Marco Canora, owner of Manhattan's Hearth, and winner of the 2017 James Beard Award for best chef in New York City, explains. "An apple core no longer goes to waste, but it’s an ingredient to infuse flavor into syrups, sauces and more." And there are actually a couple of good reasons to learn how to cook with the entire apple, skin, seeds, stem, and all.
The first reason to use the whole apple is to reduce food waste, which is a much more serious problem in the United States than you might think. One fun yet horrifying fact? The US Department of Agriculture estimates between 30 and 40 percent of the American food supply goes to waste, and most of that wasted food goes straight to landfills to decomposes and create methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. You see? Fun! And of that food waste, a lot is compostable food scraps like apple cores, which could be used instead of thrown out.
The severity of America's food waste problem is part of the reason why Canora collaborated with the James Beard Food Foundation and Quaker Oats to launch More Taste, Less Waste, a program to raise awareness and help encourage home cooks to reconsider what they think of as waste, including apple cores. "Figuring out a way to use the whole food can help reduce waste and create food that is nutrition dense and tastes better," says Canora. There's no reason that apple core can't be as delicious as the flesh you're used to eating. You just have to start thinking about it as another ingredient instead of a piece of trash.
One example of this theory put into practice is Canora's recipe for oat apple pancakes. "In addition to including apple slices in the pancakes, the core can be cooked in a syrup and the peels can be ground up with the oat flour." He also recommends, "adding core and apple to a bottle of bourbon to create an apple infused sipping bourbon!"
If the environmental reasons to use the whole apple wasn't good enough for you, there are health benefits to eating the skin and the core of the fruit. "Wasted food is wasted nutrition," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN. "The peels and skin of fruits and veggies should not be overlooked since they packed with fiber. They are also typically full of important compounds that are concentrated mostly in and near the skin." And it's not just apples that have super healthy peels. "We’re talking apples, citrus, potatoes, eggplant, cucumber just to name a few," adds Blatner."
"Once you have a better understanding for how to use the 'whole apple,' then it becomes easier to think creatively about other produce like plums, peaches and pears," says Canora. So try to think of the skin, the seeds, and the stem as part of the apple, not the debris. And even if you're not going to use the whole apple, at the very least, you could put that core in the compost so it doesn't go straight to the landfill to rot.