Creating beautiful homemade meals is always more satisfying when less waste is involved. However, you can only use leftover vegetable scraps by making veggie stock so many times. Growing vegetables from scraps is an easy and sustainable way to bolster your home garden with fresh vegetables available for use right outside your door without having to take a trip to the market. Continue reading to find out the best ways to regrow food from scraps to minimize your impact on the environment and your weekly grocery bill.
Can We Grow Food from Store-bought Vegetables?
One of the many benefits of whole, raw foods is that you can regrow vegetables and fruits from the leftover scraps that would normally be thrown away. Seeds, tops of fruits or vegetables, and even cut herbs are all foods that can be regrown from what would normally be tossed into the trash, or best-case scenario, the compost.
Store-bought vegetables are an excellent way to transition into gardening or for seasoned gardeners to make use of their scraps.
Foods like green onions grow quickly when the roots are placed in a bit of water, and potatoes that have grown eyes are easily planted into the ground to grow a potato vine of your own. Regrowing vegetables is not quite as intense a process as starting from seeds, and it’s not quite as easy as caring for an established plant; instead, it is somewhere in the middle. All it takes to get started is some kitchen scraps, outdoor space, or sunny windowsill, and a bit of patience to watch your cost-effective and environmentally friendly garden take on a life of its own.
Benefits of Regrowing Vegetables from Scraps
Growing food from scraps is a rewarding process with many benefits, such as saving money, minimizing and preventing food waste, and lowering your impact on the environment. Growing your own food also encourages you to eat foods that are in season in your area, which further lessens the burden on the environment when it comes to importing costs and habitat loss that comes with large-scale farms.
Most foods found at large grocery stores are imported across the country, adding fuel costs and labor to products that are often not even in season. Not only does this transportation cost get added to the price tag seen at the store, but creating demand for foods year-round that should only be available seasonally can also increase these prices while the product has actually decreased in quality. Learning to regrow vegetables from scraps can help you have tasty, nutritional foods available at your fingertips.
Eating seasonally and sustainably goes hand-in-hand. By learning how to grow vegetables from kitchen scraps, you can step out of the vicious cycle of mass food production and distribution and take a step into your own sustainable, regrown garden.
Vegetables You Can Regrow
Vegetables you can regrow are more common than one might think. Most foods with unprocessed seeds, roots, or tops can be regrown with ease, though certain fruit trees and hybrid products take longer to mature and are more variable with fruit production. Foods that have been processed, like pickled jalapenos or peppers, cannot be salvaged. Here’s a list of vegetables you can grow from scraps, along with some helpful tips to ensure you have prolific harvests in your future:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Green Onions
- Onions, Garlic. Save your sprouted garlic and onion root tips. They are easily regrown when placed under a light layer of soil, about 1-2 inches into the ground.
- Pumpkin and other squash varieties
- Celery, Fennel, Romaine lettuce. Save the bases of these vegetables and place them in a shallow water dish. Change the water out every day until your bulb bases sprout roots. Then, you can transplant them into the soil.
- Leafy herbs: rosemary, cilantro, parsley, basil. When growing something in the water, it is important to change it out daily and replace it with fresh water. Once you see sufficient root growth in your cuttings (green onions, herbs, etc.), you can transition the cutting into soil, where it can grow more vigorously and provide you with a larger yield. Upon planting your cuttings into the soil, you will want to care for them like any other plant. This includes watering and giving fertilizer when needed and ensuring they have the proper lighting and soil for their needs.
- Ginger, Turmeric
- Tomatoes, Peppers. Using scraps to grow from seed (peppers, etc.) can be done in the same manner as starting seeds from a packet, though they will need to be left out to dry for a day or two before being planted. Set out your seeds (hot or sweet pepper seeds, squash seeds, etc.) on a paper towel and place them out of direct sunlight for a day or two or until they are dry. Always plant more seeds than you think might germinate; it is a numbers game!
- Carrots, Beets, Radishes, Turnips. Carrot tops and beet tops may provide you with just vegetation and no root vegetable production, but this is an excellent time to figure out alternative ways to use what most people will throw away. Carrot greens can be used as an herb topping, and beet greens can be used as a substitute for other bitter, leafy greens. Home gardening is a time to experiment with food and combinations of wholly edible plants. Try sautéing and pickling some of these bitter greens to tone down their bitterness and add a surprising “pop” to your next meal.
How to Regrow Vegetables from Scraps
How to regrow vegetables from kitchen scraps can vary depending on what you are regrowing. We’ll give some steps to follow so you can be on your way to establishing your garden.
- When purchasing the products, you intend to regrow, aim to buy organic ones. These products, like potatoes and onions, are not sprayed with toxic pesticides or insecticides that can affect your ability to grow these plants or their yield.
- Ensure you get your organic produce from a clean and reputable source. Potatoes grown from supermarkets are more likely to carry diseases that can minimize or even destroy a crop.
- For bulb-type foods (green onions, regular onions, fennel, etc.), you will want to cut about 1 inch above the roots on the stem. Place the root side into about ½ inch of water and place it on a windowsill that gets bright but indirect light.
- Change the water daily to keep your cuttings growing in the best conditions. Herbs like basil and cilantro can be regrown this way too. Make sure you remove any lower leaves on the stem, so they do not get soggy and moldy in the water. Use a cup filled about halfway with water to place your herb cuttings in. After a few weeks, a vigorous root system should have developed, and your herb scraps are now ready to be planted.
- The root scrap is best planted in soil instead of water for onions. Cover the roots but leave the top exposed. Water sparingly.
- Garlic can be left to sprout on its own, then buried under a light layer of soil with the sprout facing up. Each clove you plant will grow a bulb of its own.
- For roots like carrots, turnips, and beets, you will treat it similar to an onion. Cut off about a 1-inch scrap containing the top of the product. These tops can be placed in a shallow dish of water, where they will sprout their greens. These greens are nutritious and delicious and provide a different taste from frequently enjoyed vegetables. Add to salads raw or sautee and add to a warm roast. To grow vegetables from scraps is to find more ways to appreciate the product in its entirety and not just the part of the vegetable or fruit that people commonly encounter.
- Ginger and turmeric rhizomes can be soaked overnight before being planted about 2-3 inches deep into the soil. Plant with the shoots facing upwards so they can eventually break free from the soil.
- Potatoes can be planted in the ground with their eyes facing upwards. Sprouted sweet potatoes can be placed in a glass of water with the sprouted side facing up. You might have to add some toothpicks around the middle to keep the sweet potato from dropping altogether.
- Slices of tomatoes can be planted shallowly under the soil. Given the right amount of light and water, tomato seedlings will sprout.
- Regrowing fruit trees can be a bit more complex, as they take longer to mature and are more variable in their fruit-producing ability. Regrowing a citrus tree or avocado tree from scraps can be something fun to do to enjoy the foliage. However, these trees should be purchased commercially to ensure viability and production.
- Finding viable fruits may involve grafting parts of your sterile tree to a fertile tree. Getting an established fruit tree from a trustworthy nursery might be worth it. It will eventually pay for itself and is worth the peace of mind knowing your tree will yield delectable fruits for years to come.
Regrowing vegetables from scraps that would normally be thrown in the trash can help you minimize food waste and lead a more sustainable lifestyle. By getting more people to use up remnants of their meals, fewer people will have to rely on getting their foods from stores and instead can get their food just an arm’s length away. Before you know it, you will have a bounty of freshly grown produce that costs you nothing but the initial cost and some time; it’s the purchase that just keeps on giving.
Developing the skills to be self-sustaining is becoming extremely important, and having a reliable food source is just a few steps away. Next time you chop some vegetables, don’t eliminate your waste! Instead, try regrowing these vegetables on your own. They will be fresher, more nutritious, and available when you need them most.