Whether you enjoy ketchup with fries or -- like some Americans -- a few fries with a boatload of ketchup, there's no denying the ubiquity and popularity of the distinctive red condiment. Ketchup has been satirized, politicized (W Ketchup anyone?) and considered for reclassification as a vegetable. Many folks can't even agree how it should be spelled (catsup or catchup perhaps?).
We're guessing we're not the only ones who squirrel away unused packets of ketchup in desks and cabinets after a quick meal on the go. (Or who have aging, half-empty bottles of the stuff crammed in the back of the fridge.) And since we hate to waste things here at The Daily Green, we got to thinking about ways to creatively reuse extra ketchup -- we mean besides the obvious choices of making recession ketchup "pizza" or "spaghetti." Shudder
By the way, wonder what's in ketchup? Typically tomato concentrate (duh), the ubiquitous corn syrup or another sweetener, vinegar, salt, spice and herb extracts (including celery), spice and garlic powder. Some brands also include allspice, cloves, cinnamon, onion and other vegetables.
Perhaps not surprisingly given the condiment's popularity, ketchup is now available in organic formulations, including from industry leader Heinz. A recent study at the Agricultural Research Service in Albany, California found that organic ketchups tested had more lycopenes than conventional brands. Lycopenes are thought to offer cancer prevention properties.
There also are a number of brands available without corn syrup, such as Natures Hollow Sugar Free Ketchup, sweetened with the birch tree extract xylitol.
Another drawback of ketchup is that it usually contains a large amount of salt, a concern since our diet contains 43-74% too much of the stuff, according to the FDA. In fact one tablespoon of ketchup can contain up to 190 milligrams of sodium, and many of us use more than that in a sitting. There are low-sodium versions from Hunt's and others, and organic brands often have a bit less. Note that Worcestershire, barbecue and cocktail sauces typically have even more salt than ketchup.
So check out these great alternative uses for ketchup, which will save you money and time:
1. Shine Your Copper
Whether you have copper-bottomed cooking pans, architectural detailing or shiny knick-knacks, forget mucking about with costly and potentially toxic metal polish pastes. Why not use some of those old ketchup packets stashed away in your kitchen drawers?
Massage ketchup over the copper and watch it dissolve the tarnish away (thanks to the acid). In the event that you have stubborn spots, add a pinch of table salt while you polish.
2. Get Those Auto Parts Gleaming
According to The Cymbal Book by Hugo Pinksterboer, some folks have seen decent results getting their cars to shine by rubbing with ketchup. The book notes that the condiment does a good job cutting tarnish, but not so well in removing dirt. Sounds like you may need a multi-step process, with some soap and water as well.
Give it a try and let us know if it works for you.
3. Fight Skunk Odors
If you've lived in a rural or even suburban part of North America, chances are you may have had a run-in with a skunk one night or evening. Or perhaps your dog has. Although some experts have cautioned that the technique may not actually work well (beyond a masking sensation), many people still swear by tomato juice as a way to remove potent skunk odor. Michael de Jong points out that in the event you don't have any tomato juice on hand you can try using plain ketchup instead.
4. Get Back Prettier Hair from Chlorine Damage
According to de Jong, ketchup can also be used to correct limey-hair-highlights-gone-green, which can sometimes occur from exposure to chlorine found in swimming pools (another good reason to check out natural pools as a refreshing alternative).
How? Restore your normal hair color -- or at least the one you paid dearly for -- by applying full strength ketchup to your hair. Smoosh it in, let it linger for about 20 minutes and then wash it out thoroughly.
5. Fake Blood/Battles
As any elementary school jokester knows, ketchup makes great (albeit messy) fake blood. This goes for lunchroom antics as well as Halloween parties. Of course, we recommend you exercise a lot of caution with this one, since it's not much of a win for you or the planet if you have to try to launder away tough stains.
About those packets we mentioned...they pile up across America by the millions, as hurried diners and service staff often grab huge handfuls, only to end up using a few. Since we don't like to see things go to waste, here's some ideas to get at least one more use out of them:
6. Soothe Wounds
Lisa posted over on Seacoast Online that she freezes leftover ketchup and soy sauce packets to use on her children's "small booboos and bumps." She claims, "The kids LOVE them." Apparently even the mere appearance of the packets often makes their hurts go away.
We just hope they don't discover the "art" of ketchup packet fights.
7. Use Them for Target Practice
Speaking of that, a couple of chums over at Cockeyed went to some trouble to make an elaborate Ketchup Packet Bear, out of chicken wire, paper, plastic and sealed condiments. I'll let them tell the story:
"The sauce packet bear emerged from a discovery that ketchup packets burst open when you hit them with a BB gun. Leif and I shot a few in the kitchen one night. I got a remarkable bloody mess. I was intrigued, and set about designing a better bleeding target."
Click on the link above to see how their little experiment panned out (hint: it ends with a bonfire).
8. Speed Painting
Need to indulge your creative side? Why not try speed painting? This took 10 ketchup packets and 50 minutes, sped up into four minutes for our viewing pleasure. See who's face emerged? Nice job Eclectic Asylum!
9. What to do with Empty Ketchup Bottles
Just as ketchup packets can pile up, so can used ketchup bottles, especially in communities that don't accept them for recycling. If that's the case in your town, give a thought to some ways to at least get another use out of the containers.
You can use them as handy pancake batter dispensers. Or Sugarmamabakingco suggests turning them into homemade cat toys, or storage containers for glitter, beads or other craft items (as well as left over wine, paint or other liquids).
Photo credits: Istock, George Doyle/Getty Images, http://www.cockeyed.com, Stockxpert
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