Don’t Throw it-Regrow It! From Scrap to Harvest.
How To Grow Vegetables and More From Table Scraps
Kitchen scraps are waste no longer! Even if you think you don’t have a green thumb, there’s an easy method for regrowing vegetables, fruits, and herbs that will transform anyone into a seasoned gardener. All you need is a few of the scraps that usually end up in the compost pile, some jars, and those unused pots you likely have lying around. It’s so easy, rewarding, and sustainable! And, you don’t even have to water every day.
Why leave home when you can reduce food waste and reduce trips to the grocery store?
Fresh vegetables are so expensive, but this method makes them much more affordable, increases sustainability, saves money, adds to your vegetable garden, and improves the number of veggies you get in your daily life. Not to mention what a great and fun project to get children into gardening! and reduce food waste.
Here’s how to regrow fruits, herbs, and vegetables such as ginger, onions, garlic, basil, and lettuce, and more! All from the scraps you’d normally throw away! And what a great way to stay safe and avoid the grocery lines especially in these challenging times.
What Vegetables, Fruits And Herbs Can You Regrow From Scraps?
There are so many! It’s truly incredible the power of nature and how easily some vegetables and fruits regenerate from food scraps.
- Sweet Potatoes
- Root Crops, like Carrots, Turnips, Beets, Radishes, and Parsnips
- Garlic, Leeks, Shallots, and Onions
- Leafy Greens, like Lettuce, and Romaine
- Herbs, like Basil, Mint, Cilantro
- Peaches, nectarines, and plums can all be grown from the pit but will take a few years for a crop
- Winter squash
- Cabbages and Bok choi
- Mushroom a bit more advanced
- Tomatoes from slices and trimmings
- Fruit Trees, like Lemon, Lime, Peach, Cherry, and Apple
Can You Grow Vegetables From Store-Bought Produce?
Yes, for sure! Only use organic vegetables, though, preferably from local farms. Some vegetables are treated with chemicals that may inhibit their ability to regrow. Spuds, in particular, are treated by grocery stores, so they don’t develop sprouts while on the shelf. You may find it a hit and miss with grocery store produce since so much depends on the original grower and seeds. The vegetable variety may not be one that is suited to grow in your area.
The Three Essential Rules To Growing Vegetables From Kitchen Scraps
VEGETABLES & FRUITS YOU CAN REGROW FROM SCRAP
Buy organic, and untreated. Potatoes are especially susceptible to disease, which means choosing the right ones to start is extremely important. Place several in a brown paper bag and set it in a cool, dark location. Check it every few days to see if the roots have sprouted. They will grow whitish-green sprouts from their “eyes.” When each one has 3-4 shoots then remove them from the bag. Then cut each into two pieces, ensuring there are sprouts on both halves. Set the halves out at room temperature for a day or two until both parts are dry to the touch. When they’re dry, set them in at least 8-inches of rich, fertile earth. They can be planted in a large vessel or pots, for better results, outside in the garden.
Lettuce, Romaine, & Other Leafy Greens:
Greens like lettuce are the simplest to regrow from kitchen scraps. This method only works with heads of lettuce. You can’t regrow from cut leaves or salad mix. Cut off the root base of the lettuce, the bottom 1″, and place it cut-side up in a shallow container. Add 1/2″ of water and place on a sunny windowsill garden. Renew the water every other day regularly, and enjoy watching your new greens grow from what would have been kitchen scraps!
The lettuce may be kept in the water to grow, or it can be transplanted to the garden once it starts forming roots. A whole new head of lettuce won’t grow, but you’ll have many leafy new shoots to enjoy.
Sweet Potatoes, Two Ways:
Scraps of Sweet Potatoes can be regrown from any chunky sections in the same way as regular old spuds.
The Water Method: Wash them gently. Fill a glass pint jar 3/4 full of water. Cut in half and firmly stick three toothpicks into and around the middle. The toothpicks are there to hold the potato up, so it doesn’t fall into the vessel. Place into the pot of H2o, stem side down — you should see the remnants of a stem at the bottom. Place in a warm, bright window, adding water every other day or as needed to keep it level to the top of the jar. Sprouts, called slips, will develop after about a month. Carefully remove the slips and plant them in the earth, either in a container or in the garden.
The Soil Method: Put 2-3 inches of potting soil mixed with sand in a container, long enough to hold the sweet potato. Place horizontally, and cover it with more mixed sand and dirt. Don’t bury it though; put enough soil over it, so it is just covered. Place the container in a warm, bright location. Keep the soil moist and warm, and in a few weeks, sprouts (slips) will start growing. When the slips are at least 4″ long, carefully break them off and plant them.
Like potatoes, sweet potatoes are also often chemically treated, so they don’t grow sprouts while on the grocery store shelf. Buy organic and local, for a better outcome. Sweet potatoes are vining or semi-erect perennial plants and will grow abundantly with enough water and light. They are hardy only in zones 9-11, but even if they don’t produce more, they are a beautiful houseplant! And, did you know, the leaves are also edible and quite delicious?! When cooked, they are mild and tender, much like spinach.
Root Vegetables — Carrots, Radishes, Beets, Turnips, and Parsnips, Two Ways
Root vegetables may be regrown just to produce greens or grow new roots. To grow new roots, the scraps must be replanted outside in soil. If you want to keep it indoors, it is great like that, too, and will produce fresh, delicious greens that make an excellent addition to salads and soups. Have you ever eaten carrot tops or beet greens? If not, you need to give them a try — they’re yummy! And, so healthy!
When you cut the carrot, or beet, or turnip to eat, don’t throw away the scraps regrow them. That top portion will regrow. Place the top, cut side down, into a bowl of shallow water. In a couple of weeks, new greens will begin to grow. These may be harvested as they are and allowed to regrow again and again. Alternately, let them grow without harvesting the greens until you see small side roots starting. Then, plant them outdoors in soil, making sure the root and base are fully covered. The roots that grow likely won’t be pretty or as robust as the original one, but they will be tasty.
If you’ve ever left your garlic heads sitting in a cupboard for a long time, you probably know how easily they sprout. In the center of each clove is a green sprout ready to pop out. Most times, these sprouting bulbs are tossed as unusable kitchen scraps, but not here. To plant, simply place the cloves 4-6″ apart and 2″ deep. Plant them pointy side up. Garlic can be planted outdoors in the fall for a mid-summer harvest the following year.
Alternately, plant the garlic in a pot and harvest the shoots as they grow. They won’t produce a new bulb grown this way, but you still get all the wonderful garlic flavor for minimal effort.
Herbs – Basil, Mint, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Sage, Marjoram, Lavender:
Starting an herb garden has never been easier! Cut off a piece of the herb plant or bunch, slicing it 1″ below the junction of a leaf and the stem. Remove any leaves along the base. Place the shoot in a small vase and place it in a windowsill with indirect sunlight. Refresh the water daily. Once roots start to form, transplant the herb outdoors. Or, plant it in a pot and keep it as an indoor plant.
Bulb Vegetables – Celery, Bok Choy, Cabbage, Lemongrass & Fennel:
Celery scraps can easily be regrown from their bases. Cut the base part of the celery bunch off, leaving approximately 2-inches. Place the celery scraps cut-side up in a bowl with enough water to cover the base. Replenish the water daily. Celery resprouts quickly; you’ll see new shoots in 3-4 days. You can leave the celery on your windowsill garden and harvest them indefinitely as they regrow consistently. Or, once roots start to form at the base, it can be transplanted outdoors. Plant it so that the base and roots are covered, but the new stems are above ground. Use the same method for bok choy, cabbage, and fennel.
Onions, Green Onions, Scallions, & Leeks:
Cut off the base of the onion or leek — the part you would normally discard. Place it in a dish with enough shallow water to cover the bottom of the base scrap. For green onions, a vase works best as a container since it’ll support the new sprouts as they grow. When a root system starts to form, transplant outdoors. keep it indoors and harvest the green shoots as they appear.
Ginger is a beautiful, tropical plant. If treated carefully and well, it will produce enough ginger to keep your family supplied for a long time. Place the root in warm water and let it soak overnight. This is done to remove any growth retardant that the root may have been treated with. Cut the root into 1-2″pieces in length and set them on a counter to dry for a couple of days.
Next, place the ginger pieces in a pot and cover it lightly 2-3 inches of good potting soil. Put the container in a sunny spot, keep the soil moist, and be patient. As it grows, it will produce sprouts and more rhizomes, which are the parts that get harvested. Ginger plants can grow up to 3-feet tall. It needs consistent water, but not overwatering. The soil needs to be kept moist without being soaked. A 14″ pot will hold about 3 rhizomes, and the plant will grow to fill whatever container you plant it in.
Harvest ginger anytime by digging up the entire plant. The best time, though, is when it is 8-10 months old. After the harvest, carefully select new roots to replant.
Starting new pineapple plants is as easy as cutting the top of the fruits. Don’t throw that top in the compost! It takes 2-3 years, maybe longer, from plant to the first crop but it’s worth the wait. And it’s a pretty addition to the home garden landscape.
Cut off any flesh that remains around the top. Don’t neglect this. The flesh will decompose and cause the whole plant to die. Carefully, make several thin cuttings into the stem until you see some brown dots. These are the unformed roots that need to be exposed. Place the cut top on a windowsill to dry out for a few days — pineapple tops are susceptible to rotting so they must be dry before planting.
To plant the pineapple top, you’ll need cactus-specific potting soil and an 8-inch pot. Plant the top, and place it in a bright location, where it will get at least 8 hours of sun, and water it when the soil gets dry. Pineapples are easily overwatered, so be attentive. Only water enough moisten the soil and then don’t water again until the soil is dry to the touch. In 3-4 months, roots will sprout and the plant should be repotted to a 12″ container to grow to its full size. Continue watering and ensuring it gets 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. If you live in a climate that receives frost, you’ll need to bring the plant indoors when it gets cold.
All fruits have seeds that we discard after eating — lemons, oranges, apples, cherries, peaches, plums, and avocados. Planting these seeds is simple enough. Instead of discarding the seeds as food scraps, save them and plant them in rich, fertile potting soil. Fruit trees take several years to grow and produce a harvest, so this method requires patience. The tricky part about fruit tree seeds is that many will not grow true to type. For example, a seed saved from a golden delicious will not grow a golden delicious apple tree. Apple farms using grafting methods to produce orchards of different varieties; they do not plant seeds. Even if you don’t get the exact type, though, you’ll still get a beautiful tree from something that was going to be scraps.
Regrowing button mushrooms from the caps and stems of store-bought fungi while more challenging is basically impossible and not recommended. This is because they need and thrive in humidity and environments with a specific mix of nutrients that are hard to cultivate. Moreover, the probability of the entire thing becomes contaminated, and going moldy is extremely high. Mushrooms are propagated by professionals in sterile conditions because the tendency for contamination is so great. If you’re up for the challenge the best route is to purchase a grow kit or sterile mycelium from a reputable buyer and read up on the process. It’s a lot of fun!
Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumbers, and Squash:
All these vegetables grow from seeds, and every fruit the plant produces is filled with loads of seeds. These plants are easy to grow at home. However, store-bought vegetables may not produce true-to-type fruits, or the seeds may be sterile meaning they will grow a plant but no fruit. It’s fun to experiment with, though. If you have some vegetables about to rot, putting them in soil instead of the compost or dump is much more interesting.
Planting tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash is as easy as cutting thin slices of the vegetables, setting them on the counter to dry out, and then putting them in a garden container with fertile earth. Of course, the slices must have seeds in them! Beware of seedless varieties at the grocery store, as obviously these won’t work. Place the pot in a sunny, warm location, water it daily, and wait for the seeds to sprout. Once the plants have sprouted, they can be repotted or planted outdoors in the garden.
Alternately, instead of planting the slices, you can remove the seeds, dry them, and plant them individually.