Part of growing a garden is getting the seed to plant. You can get seed from a retailer or from friends who grow crops and have the forethought to save seed for future use. But, have you ever thought about growing food straight from your kitchen scraps?
When my aunt told me she had planted jalapenos from seed she got from a meal she ate out somewhere, at first I thought I had misunderstood. Then, I realized that my aunt, who can grow literally anything, it seems—and did indeed grow a bountiful crop of jalapenos from that table-scrap seed—had a great money-saving idea. There are, in fact, foods that will regrow from parts of the plants we might otherwise just throw out; why not take advantage of them? And, sometimes regenerating a plant instead of tossing it into the composter is enough to begin an endless cycle of something we will never have to buy at the grocery store again.
Typically, your regrowing will start with scraps you create while preparing your meal. Here are a few to think about next time you are fixing supper.
- Celery, Bok Choi, Romaine Lettuce & Cabbage: Take a whole bunch of celery/bok choi/romaine lettuce/cabbage and cut off the bottom. Put the bottom in water, about halfway up the sides, not covering the top where you cut it (although it is a good idea to mist it with water now and then during this stage), and leave in the water until you see that it is starting to grow, typically about five days or so. Then, you’ll want to replant in soil, with the new growth just above the soil. Keep in a sunny area, water as needed, and watch your food regenerate a whole new head!
- Scallions, Green Onions, Leeks and Fennel: If treated properly, the white root end will keep shooting and keep you with a never-ending cycle of green tops to use. Just put the roots into water until they are submerged (a glass vase works well), put them in a sunny location, like a kitchen window, and watch as the green tops continue to grow as you cut them off as needed. The main thing is the maintenance of these veggies: Rinse off the roots and change the water once a week.
- Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes: Regrowing potatoes of any variety can be done if the potato has good eyes. We’ve all experienced having potatoes sit in our bins too long and eyes start popping out all over (although some commercial farmers do spray their potatoes with a chemical to prevent the eyes from sprouting). So, why not grow your own from these? Using a potato with good eyes, cut it into about two-inch pieces, each with one or two eyes. Let them dry for a couple of days, to prevent rotting, and then plant. Using a large, deep pot and compost-rich soil, initially plant your potatoes in about 10 inches of soil, making sure the eyes are “up,” about three inches below the top of the soil. As the plants begin to grow, add more soil and cover the new growth. Keep doing this until you reach the top of the pot. When the last growth sprouts through, you’ll see some flowers start to grow. When these flowers wither and fall away, pour your pot out—you’ll be surprised at what you find!
- Ginger: Plant a part of a ginger root, fully covered in soil, with the newest bud facing up. Let the ginger grow in indirect sunlight and keep moist, but not standing wet. It will form new shoots, and when it is ready to pull up, just take a piece of your new root and start over again.
- Garlic: Lots of us use garlic, and it’s so easy to re-grow. Using a single clove, plant it root-end down, and let grow in an area with lots of sun. It will root and grow new shoots, which you should cut back when growth is well-established, to promote growth of the bulb itself. Do like you did with the ginger: When ready to harvest, pull it up and start over again with a single clove from your new bulb.
Image: Wikimedia Commons