Years ago, I pushed a potato with several sprouts growing from it into a pot that housed one of my many pot plant failures. As I’m not known for my green fingers, I was amazed to see tiny leaves popping out of the soil because I forgot all about it. Starved from water or other TLC, a healthy plant grew and even more surprising, it gave me the most delicious baby potatoes! Nothing matches the feeling of achievement after the success that comes as a surprise because you had zero expectations. Needless to say, I have since discovered several other kitchen scraps that could put fresh, homegrown veggies on my table.
My first attempt with potatoes was successful in my eyes. However, more knowledgeable sources reckon the following approach is best. Slice a potato with several visible sprouts in half. Push four or more toothpicks around the uncut ends to balance each half over a water-filled cup or another container. Make sure the cut end touches the water. Place the cups on the windowsill or another light and sunny spot. Check the water level each day, and expect to see new sprouts from the top after three or four days.
Twist the sprouts off when they reach about four inches and put them in a saucer or another shallow container with water. They will sprout roots, and when those measure about one inch, they’ll be ready to transplant.
Tip: When you see leaves appear above the ground, let them grow a few inches and then cover them with soil. Repeat this a few times whenever the leaves appear above the soil. This will increase the number of potatoes your plant provides.
From a celery stalk, cut off and discard the bottom two inches. Now, stand the leafy stem in a holder with water to cover about one inch of the stalk. For the next week or so, change the water daily, and watch new leaves forming. The next step is to plant it in the ground or a container filled with soil. Cover them with soil until only the tips of the center leaves are visible. Then stand back and watch them grow.
Tip: Celery likes cool weather, so it is better to plant it in a pot inside if conditions outside are too warm.
Whether you call them scallions or green onions, they are just about the easiest veggies to grow from scraps. Snip off the bottom inch of the scallion and the green tops. Now, choose a container in which they can stand upright in water that covers only the stubs’ bottom ends. If you place them in a sunny spot in a window, you’ll have fresh scallions within days.
Tip: You can leave them to grow in that container or plant them in soil once they have strong roots.
You can easily repurpose scraps of romaine, iceberg, butterhead and any other lettuce varieties that grow in heads. Use about one inch of the base of the lettuce. Use the top part as usual but save the bottom to place in a small amount of water. Change the water every, and ensure the level is about half-an-inch. Within days, it will sprout new shoots and roots. Now you can plant them in a larger container or the ground.
Tip: Lettuce grows best in full sun. However, they will also tolerate shade, mostly to protect them from harsh afternoon sun if you plant a spring crop.
Grow peppers from scraps
The next time you cut your favorite variety of peppers, save some of the seeds in a saucer and place them in the sun to dry. They need only about an hour in the sun before you plant them in the ground or a container. However, you have to wait for early summer or even late spring to plant them. Don’t give up on them because from seed to mature; peppers could take as long as 150 days. However, in perfect conditions, you might have your own fresh peppers within about 60 days.
Tip: If you want to save the seeds for the right season, you can seal them in a jar and keep them in your refrigerator.
Grow garlic from a single clove
Garlic is also a plant that is fussy about when you plant it. It wants to be in the soil about eight to ten weeks before the first winter frost. That will ensure a good supply of garlic bulbs in the summer. You can remove one clove from the bulb to plant in a container filled with potting soil and make sure the root end is down. If you plant several, space them about four inches apart. The bulbs will be ready to harvest when they have tall stalks.
Tip: Don’t throw away the stalks when you use the bulbs. You can repurpose those scraps; sautéing them makes a delicious sweet and savory sauce.
Grow scraps from scraps
While we’re on the sautéing of garlic stalks, have you discovered the healthy deliciousness of carrot greens? Although you can’t grow carrots from the green tops, you can use them to grow even more carrot tops. You need about one inch of the carrot still attached to about one inch of green tops. Let them stand in a sunny spot in about an inch of water that you change every day. After about a month, the tops will be bushy, and you’ll see roots at the cut end. Then you can plant them in the ground or a plant container and enjoy a continuous supply of fresh carrot greens.
Tip: Sautéed carrot greens in veggie blends, soups and thick winter stews are the best!
Grow mushrooms in two weeks
Repurposing mushrooms is a bit more complicated but worth the effort! Separate the mushroom’s cap and stalk. You need no more than about a quarter-inch of stalk. Prepare the container by covering the bottom with straw and adding the potting soil on top. Push the mushroom stalks into the ground, leaving only the tops visible. The next step is to place a plastic layer with poked holes over the container. Keep a watch to check the moisture. If the soil seems dry, spray a mist of water on the plastic to drip through the holes. Your mushroom harvest will be ready within two weeks to one month.
Tip: Don’t leave out the straw base. Mushrooms thrive in cool, damp conditions, and the straw is essential for keeping the moisture level up.
Pumpkin seeds are more than tasty snacks
Roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious. However, to make sure you have a steady supply, save some seeds for growing more pumpkins. Separate the seeds from the pumpkin pulp. Rinse them in a strainer, making sure no pulp remains on the seeds. Select the biggest ones to dry in the sun on a towel or another cloth. After about one week, they will be ready to plant.
Tip: Late spring to early summer is the time to plant pumpkin seed. You can store them in a container in the fridge or another cool, dry place until the time is right for planting.
Ginger supply could be never-ending
Ginger is versatile with multiple culinary uses and even more health benefits. Grate the ginger into a stir fry, stew and soup, or add it to a smoothie or a cup of tea. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties reduce pain and inflammation. You can grow your own zesty ginger root in a jiffy. Select a piece of ginger with an eye bud and place it eye bud up under one or two inches of soil. Remember, it grows sideways, so choose a wide container. Keep it moist but not wet, and then be patient. Within two or three weeks, it will start making new shoots. However, your ginger will only be ready for harvesting after several months.
Tip: It is worth the wait because you can harvest as much as you need once you have it producing. If you cover it with soil again, it will continue growing to provide fresh ginger for all your culinary and health requirements.
Fresh tomatoes from scraps
As far back as I can remember, we had arum lilies right outside the kitchen, and among them several tomato plants that produced a never-ending supply of fresh tomatoes. Whenever my dad found an overripe tomato in the pantry, he’d bury the whole fruit among the arum lilies. As with my simple repurposing of potato scraps, those who know more about growing veggies from scraps suggest a slightly more complicated process for growing tomatoes from scraps.
Start with a round one-gallon container filled with soil. Cut your favorite tomato variety in thick slices, which you place in a circle in the soil — cut side down. Cover the slices with soil and water them regularly for the following week or two. The seedlings will appear above the ground, and you must select the strongest ones for transplanting. Transplant those in groups of three or four in another pot. When they begin growing, choose the strongest ones again to plant in a container or the ground outside.
Tip: Avoid starting your tomato plant with one of those Genetically Modified ones you find at the supermarket. They are tasteless, and the tomatoes you harvest will be equally disappointing. Start with quality to yield quality.