You will be surprised that it is actually pretty easy to grow vegetables from kitchen scraps. There are many advantages as well – one way of reducing your food wastage and saving a few bucks is to grow your own vegetables, especially from scraps you already have. The average American throws away about 103 pounds of food annually and, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, roughly one-third of all food that’s grown on the planet is either lost or wasted.
The good news is that all those tidbits that you think you can’t do anything with, such as carrot or beet tops, or celery bottoms, you can use to grow new vegetables from. All you need are a few jars, water, and some pots with soil or a garden bed.
And, the best part, you don’t have to wait months, or even weeks, for some vegetables to grow. Green onions or celery, for instance, will deliver a new harvest in less than two weeks. Depending on what you’re growing, you can either keep the plant growing in water or transfer it to soil, and can also either keep it growing indoors or move it outside.
Another plus is that that gardening is a great activity to do with the kids and keep them busy all summer long.
What Vegetables You Can Grow from Kitchen Scraps?
Here are a few examples of scraps that you can use to successfully and effortlessly grow your own vegetables.
Examples: Romaine/cos lettuce, bok choy, Swiss chard, spinach, arugula
How to Go About It: Leafy vegetables are some of the easiest vegetables to grow from scraps and they produce new regrowth within a few weeks. With leafy vegetables, you want to keep the plant’s base, which is normally the inedible part of the vegetable that you would throw away anyway. Simply place the base, which should be about 1 inch tall, in a shallow container with water, leaving the top bit of the scrap outside of the water.
If you have romaine lettuce, for instance, cut off the lettuce stalk, leaving about 1 to 2 inches of leaves, and immerse it in about ½ inch of water. Place the container on a windowsill that receives a few hours of sunlight, or at least light, a day and replace the water regularly as dirty water can cause the lettuce to rot. After about two days, you’ll notice new leaves forming and after about seven days, when you have roughly 3 inches of new growth, it is time to move the plant to the garden. Cover the cut stem in soil and ensure that the old and new leaves are above the ground.
If you want to continue eating from the same plant, cut the romaine heads off right above the soil once they are ready for harvesting, to allow new leaves to grow. However, you’ll notice after a while that the new growth has become milky and bitter, at which time you should uproot the plant and use it for compost. By then, however, you would have enjoyed quite a few crispy salads prepared with the fresh leaves from your garden.
Examples: Onions, garlic, leeks, chives, shallots, chives
How to Go About It: Bulb vegetables come in many shapes and sizes and, depending on the plant, you either eat the bulb or the leaves. For instance, people eat the bulb of red onions and garlic but when it comes to plants like scallions or leeks that don’t have fully developed bulbs, they eat the leaves and discard the bulbs. However, with some plants, one can eat the whole plant, for instance, people often use the leaves of the garlic plant to add flavor to dishes.
The way you grow new plants from bulb vegetable scraps varies, depending on whether you’re working with fully developed bulbs or not. If you want to grow new leeks or green onions, for instance, the procedure is pretty much the same as for growing leafy vegetables. Cut of roughly an inch from the bottom part of the vegetable, which you would have discarded anyway, and place the root end in ½ inch of water, leaving the top ends free to breathe. If you place the plant in a sunny spot and replace the water regularly, you should have new growth to use in your cooking within about 10 days.
Fully developed bulbs, such as onions, are treated slightly differently. To grow a new onion plant, cut about an inch or so from the root end with a sharp knife. Remove the outer peel and leave the onion, roots down, on a dry surface for about a day to allow it to dry out. Insert four toothpicks, equally spaced apart, into the onion bottom and place these on the rim of a container filled with water so that the bottom of the cutting just touches the water. Keep the container in a sunny place.
As soon as the onion cutting grows root, plant it in a pot or a bed with well-draining soil, completely covering the cutting with about 1 to 2 inches of soil. If you want multiple full-sized new onions from your cutting, divide it with a sharp knife, leaving roots on each. Water your onions regularly and once they start flowering, you can harvest.
Examples: Turnips, potatoes, carrots, beets, ginger, yams, radishes
How to Go About It: Root vegetables are a bit trickier to grow, in general, than some other easy to grow vegetable groups. Although you can grow new beet or carrot greens, which are edible, by immersing their tops in water, you won’t be able to grow new root vegetables in this way. To do so, you will need the seeds of these plants.
Luckily, there are a few vegetables in this category that are easy to grow vegetables from scraps. Potatoes — which are actually tubers but these fall under the broad category of root vegetables — can, for instance, successfully be grown from old potatoes that have started to form sprouts, also referred to as eyes. To do so, cut the old potato in half, ensuring that each half has at least two eyes, and leave these for two or three days at room temperature to dry out.
Once they are dried out, plant the potato halves in holes of about 4 inches deep and 12 inches apart, with the eyes pointing upwards. Cover with soil and water generously and regularly. After about five months, when the leaves of your plants start to turn yellowish, the potatoes will nearly be ready for harvesting. Leave them for another two or three weeks in the soil before digging them out with a pitchfork.
Ginger, which is a rhizome that also falls under the broad category of root vegetables, can also easily be grown from scraps. Choose ginger roots that have made eyes, and cut it into pieces of at least one inch in width, ensuring that each piece has at least one eye — those with multiple eyes are more likely to sprout, though.
As is the case with potatoes, allow these pieces to dry for a few days, and then plant them in a well-prepared bed or a pot. Plant each piece of ginger about 8 inches apart and about 2 to 4 inches deep with the eyes facing upwards. Only dig up your ginger once the leaves have died down, which can take up to about eight months.
These are only a few examples of easy to grow vegetables you can grow from scraps. You can also grow various types of fruits, such as pineapples, peppers, and avocados, as well as your own herbs, from scraps. Apart from saving you money, propagating your own vegetables, fruit, and herbs will also prevent unnecessary food wastage and will provide you with a healthy way to spend some of your free time.
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