stock from snippets: last call for vegetable broth

stock on stoveBETWEEN DEEP FREEZES YESTERDAY I grabbed the scissors and a bag and out I went: last call for vegetable-garden snippets. Why leave those final bits of kale and collards, parsley and pak choi–tattered as they may be–to winter’s ravages? Combined with some onions and a winter squash that weren’t storing well in the cellar, among other things, they became stock.

impromptu, fat-free vegetable stock

I use this as my standard soup base, and also freeze small amounts (ice cubes or the like) for use when sauteeing vegetables, making sauces, etc. Because I always include winter squash such as ‘Butternut’ in the mix, the broth is rich-tasting enough to drink hot on its own, perhaps with a pinch of salt. In winter, I often have a cup between meals.

Note: Dicing and sauteeing the onions, celery and carrots (called a mirepoix) in butter and/or olive oil first yields a rich, more traditional style of stock. I skip it, and toss in the squash. No fat, no chopping, less fuss.

My preferred ingredients:

  • Onions (peels on)
  • Garlic (peels on, cloves smashed with flat blade of knife)
  • Winter squash (no seeds, but skin on if grown organically and not badly blemished)
  • Kombu seaweed (kelp, available dried in health food store; maybe two 6-inch by 2-inch strips to start)
  • Fresh ginger (just a slice or two, unless you want its flavor to dominate)
  • Something green and leafy (kale, collards, chard, Asian greens, parsley, or a combination–but careful with those that are strong tasting like beet greens or mustard; unless you want a robust flavor, use them sparingly)
  • Carrots
  • Another root vegetable (turnip, daikon radish, parsnip, rutabaga)
  • Celery (if I have it)

Simply assemble vegetables that are washed but not peeled (assuming that all are organically grown) in a large pot. Large ones may need to be cut into coarse chunks. Cover with water. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, covered, until everything is falling apart. Let cool; I often leave it overnight to let all the flavors intensify. Strain.

At garden-harvest time I use up all my misshapen carrots or squash that didn’t quite ripen enough to store well, greens with flea-beetle holes and so forth to make stock–anything that’s tasty and fresh enough but not picture-perfect goes into the soup. When there is an excess of something–green beans, for instance, in late summer–I toss those in, too, and maybe a bay leaf sometimes or another favorite herb. Use your judgment, and develop your own favorite blends that favor the flavor of one ingredient or another.


  1. Ailsa says:

    Holy hari-kari Batman! That was creepy … how does one find these things????!

    Re: the stock — don’t forget peppercorns, bay leaves and any other herbs that are lying around. Great idea, Margaret, to do the stock now with forlorn veggies and not be held hostage by the inferior stuff on the grocery store shelves.

  2. that is an art piece in itself! love the warm colors. i read in “cooks illustrated” that the single ingredient that makes or breaks a stock (not the turnip, or the celery greens, or the touch of cloves…) are sauteed onions. who knew? anyway, yours looks absolutely yummy!

  3. Laura says:

    Dear Margaret,
    Here in Fairfield, VT, we’re socked in with several feet of snow so I decided yesterday to harvest some leeks, turnips and parsnips for some winter soup. I think I’ve learned that autumn harvest would be easier, though I’m told that the veggies are sweeter after a frost or two. The pictures of your lovely stock prompted me to share these with you. I’m thinking of sending them to the National Gleaners Assocation–what d’ya think?
    Best wishes to you,

    1. Margaret says:

      @Laura: They should go through on my email which is awaytogarden {at} gmail {dot] com, unless they are truly giant files. Images can’t be added to comments, sorry to say. Glad to have influenced you though — or so it sounds. :)

  4. Thank you for sharing the recipe….I can use it more than a shopping list! I have a very small list….i like to give gifts through out the year as I find something that I think a person will like or need. The holidays are some much less stress that way and I can spend my time cooking and gathering folks together.
    We do a potluck New Year’s Eve party every year. Guest can bring their friends to share as long as they bring food and drink to share too! It is always great fun! We have a huge front porch and the back growing area is lighted with candles and tables and chairs : )
    The Buddha picture is great!!!! My big garden Buddha seemed to have parked himself in the living room while I decide where to put him, that was several years ago. He like to wear a Santa hat during Christmas season : )
    I am wishing you and all your readers Love, Light, Peace and Laughter

  5. Judy from Kansas says:

    Just used the recipe to clean out the vegetable drawer and the bowl on the counter where the squash live. Wanted the bowl for apples and oranges for Christmas. Used up a ton of leeks and spinach that I would otherwise probably have had to throw out. It’s smelling divine in the kitchen. Think I’ll dip out a few cups and add the last of the tomatoes for a supper soup.
    Thanks for all your gifts to us.

  6. Ellen Sousa says:

    Thank you so much for the veg stock recipe! Vegetable stock without MSG is one of the things that I cannot find locally so I have to travel and pay premium prices for it…I would love to make it myself to save some $$. I am wondering if your recipe would freeze well…

  7. Ginger Goolsby says:

    Slightly off topic, but wanted to let you know I made your Zucchini Garlic Soup last summer and froze it. I pulled my first jar out recently, and it really is very good. Rather than use powdered ginger (mine was pretty old) I grated some fresh ginger instead and it added a very nice “bite” to the soup. Next year I intend to make more than one batch!!
    Bet I could find enough veggies in my crisper drawer to make some stock….ummm! Thanks for all of your recipes and food storage ideas.

  8. Plummin' says:

    That video was so funny-in a very creepy way. Don’t know if I’ll be able to peel a veg ever again.
    thanks for the soup recipe. It reminds me very much of mom and grandma finding inspiration in the bottom of the crisper. Always better to not know what goes into their soups, very much like a hot dog…..

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Plummin’. Yes, the Japanese animations are often that way, but this one did make me laugh. Here’s to a winter of nourishing, rich-tasting broth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.