Cabbage or Compost? That is the Question.

By J.C. Coon

In my late teens my parents bought a few acres in Great Falls, Va. My father’s dream was to be a self-sufficient farmer. I learned early on to use and reuse all that I could. One of the items I enjoyed making was stuffed cabbage. As a frugal single parent I learned to be creative when shopping at my local grocery store. I took great glee in harvesting ‘wasted’ cabbage leaves that other customers had discarded. I would bag them up and take them up to register and often would be able to purchase them at a much reduced price. Win.

Fast forward to this summer. Chatting with the produce clerk at my local Food Lion I inquired as to what happens to ‘produce waste’.

“Oh, we trash it,” she said.

Horror of Horrors, this just did not settle well with me. In my humble opinion, some of the produce could still be great as cooking ingredients.

Through a complex route of phone calls and emails, I received a very encouraging response from the sustainability manager of Delhaize America, parent company of our local Food Lion. Food waste is a passion and an interest of his. He is working with his company and local Food Lions toward zero waste. Food Lion currently has several pilot projects in the works. The sustainability manager and one of his store managers from North Carolina (who has a successful recycling program in his store) agreed to come to Berryville, Va. They took the time to drive all the way up here from Salisbury, NC.

In my original query to Food Lion, I had four questions I was seeking information about.

1. Could there be a place in the store where the customers could purchase ‘day old food’ at a reduced price?

2. Could ‘day old’ or ‘slightly damaged’ produce and food be picked up by the local food bank ‘FISH’?

3. Could the produce waste be given to local farmers as feed for their animals ?

4. Could what was not good for consumption be used for compost?

I was impressed to find a large company like Food Lion with a sustainability manager who shared my passion for recycling. I put a notice out on FaceBook, to those in the Clarke County group. I received favorable response and interest. We agreed to meet at the Boyd’s Nest on Main Street for breakfast and conversation. We had a good turnout of interested residents of Clarke County. Many ideas were shared. We were also fortunate to have the waste manager of Frederick County attend the meeting. It was her day off, but waste reduction is of personal interest to her. Why Frederick County you say? Well to date, Clarke County/Berryville does not have its own waste disposal or landfill facilities, so we use the one in Frederick County.

Like good compost, it takes time for all the parts to mix together becoming a usable product. Stay turned Clarke County. I think progress is in the works.

Oh, as for my cabbage leaves. I have now found a timesaving way to have the taste of stuffed cabbage without the outer cabbage leaves.

I have a 1969 Betty Crocker cookbook. Betty Crocker is still my ‘go to’ Google search. I found this Cabbage Roll Casserole on line and tweaked it a wee bit. Hubby likes meat with his meal– I like veggies.



1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground sausage

1 med onion chopped
(about ½ c)

5 cups coleslaw mix
(I chopped my own cabbage)

½ cup raw rice

4 cups diced tomatoes (from the over flowing garden) but a 28 oz can diced tomatoes works too.

3 cups of tomato juice (because I had it…but tomato sauce works too)

1-diced apple (for sweetness)

2 tablespoons. apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons paprika

1-teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon each of (pepper, oregano, basil)



Cook beef and pork with onions till brown (drain off excess fat)

Add all ingredients to 6 quart crock pot (it will be full but cabbage and tomatoes cook down)

Cover and cook on low heat 4 to 6 hours till rice and cabbage are cooked.

Yum. All the dinner  you need in one pot, maybe add some crusty bread and cool cucumbers. My high school Home Economics teacher use to say, every meal should have something hot, something cold, something soft and something crunchy.