Do you find yourself throwing away food scraps on a weekly or even daily basis? Ever wonder if there was a little more life in that head of romaine? Much of the common vegetable waste we see going into the trash can actually be given a second life! From leafy greens to root vegetables, these scraps can be repurposed and in some cases, grown into a new plant.
Potatoes have eyes – those are the dented pockmarks all around the skin. When you’ve peeled your potato, you can plant those scraps. Make sure each scrap is about two inches or larger and has a few eyes on it. Plant the scrap with the eyes facing upward and bury them four inches deep. In about three weeks, you’ll see the plant begin to emerge from the soil. This also works for potatoes that have gotten old or a bit soft. No need to peel it, just cut the potato in half and follow the same steps.
The protocol for regrowing sweet potatoes is quite different from a regular potato. First, push toothpicks into the sides so you have an even row going around the potato in a circle – about four toothpicks will do. Then fill a cup with water and place the sweet potato in so that the toothpicks hold it upright, balancing on the rim of the cup. Half of the potato should be submerged in the water. Roots will begin to grow. Once they’re three inches long, you’re ready to plant your sweet potato in your garden! This also works with half of a potato, so you don’t have to use a full sweet potato to yield the same results.
You can grow an avocado plant from its seed in the same fashion as regrowing a sweet potato. First, you’ll need to wash and dry the seed. Then, insert the toothpicks and suspend the seed over a container of water, with the seed submerged halfway. Avoid direct sunlight but make sure it’s in a warm area and refresh the water consistently. You’ll see roots and a stem appear in about six weeks. You can plant the seed in soil once the stem is six inches. Just cut the stem so it’s about three inches long, then allow the top half of the seed to remain above the soil.
To regrow celery, first cut the base off from the shoots. Then, fill the bottom of a bowl or container with a very small amount of warm water and place the celery base in the bowl. If you can, put the container in direct sunlight and watch as it sprouts leaves over a few days. When the leaves have thickened, plant the base in soil and it will grow into a full-sized celery bunch!
Bok choy & romaine
Bok choy and romaine are very similar to celery. To start, simply remove the base of the plant that you’d normally throw away – about one inch from the base up. Keep the side you cut upwards and place it in about a half-inch of water in a bowl or dish. Make sure to place it on a sunny surface and replace the water consistently. When you notice roots growing from the base, you can plant in a container or the ground. Make sure the roots and base are covered while still allowing the new growth and leaves to be above ground.
Carrot, turnip, and beet tops
The leaves that come attached to the top of carrots are quite tasty in soups, pestos, and even sauteed on their own with a bit of seasoning. The same can be said for turnips and beets. Chop off the top of the vegetable (about a half-inch of the vegetable should remain) with the leaves attached and place it in a shallow bowl of water so that side you cut is facing downward. Make sure to give it a good amount of sunlight and watch the leaves grow.
Leeks, fennel, green onions, and lemongrass
Any vegetable with a bulb at the base is easy to regrow. Cut off the bulb and its roots as you normally would, keeping about one inch total. Put the roots down into a half-inch of water, allowing the top to stick up out of the water. You can also plant mature onion bulbs in soil rather than water.
Ginger roots can be planted directly in soil and will quickly regrow. If you’ve recently cut into it, leave it out at room temperature and allow the cut to dry out. After a day or so, plant the scrap in an inch of soil in a pot or your garden. When you’re ready to harvest some ginger, just pull a root out of the soil and take what you need, replacing the scraps for further growth.
Fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, mint, and parsley can be regrown without much effort. Keep them bunched together and take two inches worth of stems. Place the bundle in a glass of water, upright. You can move the herbs into a container filled with soil once you see new roots sprouting. Once planted in soil, they’ll begin to grow leaves!
When you purchase a bulb of garlic, set aside one clove to regrow. Plant it a couple of inches deep in the soil, with the root side down and the pointed tip upward. Give it as much sunlight as possible. Soon, you’ll notice shoots emerging from the soil. Cut them down, and the garlic will produce a garlic bulb. Alternatively, you can allow the shoots to grow until they become very long and eventually begin to turn yellow – that’s a sign that it’s ready for harvest. You can even plant a whole bulb of garlic, planting each clove separately and about four inches apart. This will give you plenty of bulbs of garlic.
Regrowing and repurposing your food scraps is an excellent way to cut down on food waste and be more eco-friendly. With minimal effort, you can get double the amount of produce you actually paid for! With some scraps, like potatoes, garlic, and ginger, you can continue the process and grow your own produce infinitely.