Fruits and Vegetables

9 Vegetables You Can Re-Grow From Scraps

April 5, 2024

Here, we’ll delve into an ingenious method of utilizing kitchen waste to kickstart your indoor garden. Whether you’re limited by space or weather or simply looking to reduce food waste, growing plants from scraps in water or soil is a sustainable and cost-effective solution. We’ll explore nine different kitchen scraps, demonstrating how each can be easily propagated and nurtured to yield fresh produce right from your kitchen counter. Join me as I walk you through the step-by-step process, which is perfect for involving the whole family and introducing kids to the joys of gardening. Stick around until the end to uncover the secret of why this method yields healthier, more robust vegetables and herbs.

Lettuce

The easiest vegetable to grow from scraps is lettuce. You can use store-bought lettuce. Just slightly cut the discolored and oxidized end to expose new cells. Then, cut off the leaf portion, leaving approximately a two-inch stump. Place this stump in a cup jar or plate of water and change the water daily. Place this in a window with some sun exposure. You’ll witness new leaves sprout from the center within a few days. If you harvest the outside leaves sparingly, they will continue to grow and provide you with a constant supply of lettuce leaves for salads and sandwiches. The key is to change the water nearly daily. If you forget a day, that’s okay, but watch for any funky smells or gnats. If that happens, it is best to throw it out or attempt to plant it outside, as the plant will be in defensive mode and putting all its energy into fighting the mold instead of growing. If you move it to soil indoors, it will be less susceptible to molds or funkiness, and it can often still grow into a healthy plant. You can harvest the leaves from the outside once they reach a mature size. The advantage is that your indoor lettuce will be pest-free.

Celery 

To regrow celery from scraps, begin by cutting off the last two inches or so of the base of a bunch of celery and placing it in a shallow dish of water. Ensure the cut end is submerged and change the water every few days to keep it fresh. Over time, you’ll notice new growth emerging from the center of the celery base. These new shoots will gradually develop into fresh celery stalks, ready for harvest. Changing out the water daily can be a hassle, but it is necessary for a window sill grow environment. After just a few days, you will notice a new celery stalk growing from the center. You can continue to grow it in this manner, but I prefer to pot it or plant it outside when it gets to an inch or more tall. Celery plants can grow to a large size and are hearty against pests. To do this, simply remove some of the outer stalks, put it in some soil, and remember to water it. I repot my celery in either a small pot or a 5-gallon bucket with holes drilled in the bottom for drainage. 

Green Onions/Scallions 

To regenerate green onions or scallions from scraps, simply place the roots of the onions in a glass of water, ensuring that they are submerged. It’s as easy as that. When I cut them, I leave about two inches to the bottom with the roots showing. Green onions are probably the easiest and most rewarding to grow and will easily thrive through a day or two of missing the daily water change. Here, I will use a rock to prop the onions up with the white part beneath the water. Position the glass in a sunny spot, as adequate sunlight is essential for the growth process. Remember to change the water every few days to prevent stagnation and maintain freshness. As time passes, you’ll observe new growth sprouting from the roots. With this method, you can continually harvest fresh green onions by trimming the tops as needed while allowing the roots to remain in the water, ensuring a steady supply of this flavorful and versatile ingredient for your culinary endeavors. When I feel they are a couple of inches tall, I transplant them to some soil. This will encourage them to grow even more green, and I don’t have to remember to change the water daily. You can transplant these directly into the soil indoors or outside.

Carrots 

More accurately, carrot greens because it is highly unlikely that a carrot will regrow into a long tapered root. The greens, however, are quite prolific, and if you have never eaten carrot greens, you should. Although often overlooked and discarded, carrot greens are nutritionally dense, containing vitamins such as K and A, antioxidants like vitamin C, and minerals including calcium, potassium, and magnesium, making them a valuable addition to your diet. To propagate carrots from scraps, cut off the tops of the carrots, leaving a small portion, an inch or two, of the green foliage end intact. Place these carrot tops in a shallow dish of water, ensuring that the cut ends are submerged. Position the dish in a well-lit area, preferably near a window with ample sunlight. Over time, you will notice new green tops emerging from the cut ends of the carrots. These fresh green shoots are edible and can be harvested as needed to add a burst of flavor and color to your dishes. You will also notice roots developing. A new carrot will not grow from this, even if you transplant it into the soil. The greens will be more prolific and are an appealing, edible source of great nutrients with a slight carrot taste. This plant will become bushier with greens in just a few weeks.

Garlic 

If you leave a garlic clove for too long, it’s likely to throw out a shoot. Garlic is so easy to grow; you can probably put a clove in the ground, and you’ll have a garlic bulb in nine months. That’s the only downside: it takes nine months to mature and is typically planted in October to winter over. If you do this, plant individual garlic cloves with the pointed end up in the soil. Like the carrots, the green leaves are edible with a more delicate garlic flavor and less pungency. So, you can let it grow on your windowsill simply to harvest the greens periodically, but you would have to change the water almost daily. You can put a clove in water or the whole bulb, propped with toothpicks. The freshness of the garlic matters. If your cloves are brown, dry, or pruned in any way, it may be too old to plant. After roots and greens have sprouted from the cloves, I can pull off a few leaves or break them apart and plant each clove in the ground or my windowsill garden. You can also plant the rooted and green stalked bulbs outdoors, and in nine months, with proper care, you’ll have a new head of garlic.

Sweet Potatoes

This is one of the easiest methods to propagate sweet potatoes, but the trick is to get an organic sweet potato that hasn’t been sprayed with sprout inhibitors like Chloropropham. I cover a few different methods to propagate slips in detail in another video, but the best method is simply placing it in water. While the leaves of the sweet potato are edible, unlike a potato, you have to put these slips that will appear in the ground to grow sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a viny plant with a tuber underground. Once these slips have developed roots, they can be gently separated from the parent plant and planted directly into the soil. In just a few weeks, you will have beautiful vines. In a little over four months, you should have sweet potatoes. You can harvest the potatoes and bury the vines and any small sweet potatoes; sweet potatoes are produced yearly in the same spot. To get them to root and sprout shoots, simply place toothpicks around the sweet potato to suspend the bottom third in water. In a few weeks, you will see shoots coming off. If you don’t, it’s likely your sweet potatoes have been sprayed with an anti-sprouting agent. Even organic potatoes may have picked up Chlorpropham through cross-contamination. If there’s no rot or mushiness, you can often still get them to grow by panting them outdoors in soil. They will either grow or decay in the soil with this method. Transplant them outdoors or in a big pot indoors or outdoors. The vines are excellent ground cover; the sweet potatoes will continue growing if you leave them in the ground. They will not get woody like some vegetables if they grow very large.

Ginger/Turmeric 

These root vegetables from the store can be tricky to grow because they are often also sprayed with chemicals to prevent sprouting and extend shelf life, so it’s a bit of trial and error until you find a good source. I also put this nearly last because both Turmeric and Ginger favor humid and hot conditions, so some may have difficulty nurturing a healthy plant. Sometimes, it’s just too old when it comes from the store. Look for organic roots in the store that already look like they are forming a shoot. For this video, I was unable to get my turmeric to grow. It was simply too old to begin with. The ginger showed some green forming but never really developed any shoot growing from it. This is another one that if you can’t get it to grow in water, you might have better luck putting it directly in the soil. Plant a piece of ginger or turmeric root directly into moist soil, and new shoots will emerge. The leaves of both plants are edible and have a milder flavor than the roots. Harvest sparingly, and in a few months, you probably will have a root large enough to harvest. Use some and replant the rest.  

Herbs

Don’t overlook herbs in your selection of foods to grow indoors on a windowsill. Mint, parsley, basil, cilantro, rosemary, and chives will all grow relatively well in just some water. These herbs can pack a lot of nutrients like iron, calcium, potassium, and antioxidants, and they can flavor your bland foods. Simply place fresh cuttings of these herbs in glasses of water on your windowsill, ensuring the stems are submerged, and change the water regularly to promote healthy root growth. This will also keep your store-bought herbs fresher for longer. 

Here’s the secret as to why this will give you healthier and better vegetables. Growing plants indoors from scraps you would have thrown away saves you money and allows you to control a pest-free environment for your plants until they are hearty enough for transplant. If you have ever had an infestation of bugs, snails, or caterpillars, you know they can wipe out a garden overnight. Even if you utilize one of these methods to create just a few onion greens, herbs for flavor, or lettuce leaves, you’ll be satisfied knowing that there aren’t hundreds of toxic chemicals sprayed on your food. It won’t be enough to survive on, but it might be enough to get a jump start on an incredible garden when conditions outside improve.

As always, stay safe out there.

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