Free Food: How to Regrow Plants from Your Kitchen Scraps
A favorite quote of mine, and one that I often return to when I find myself in need of guidance, is an ancient proverb that my grandmother taught me:
You reap what you sow.
She was a gardener, as well, and planted what seemed to be an endless crop of tomatoes, herbs, and berries in her backyard. She used that phrase as a catchall explanation for any kind of behavior, positive or negative, that she saw in her grandchildren — in the garden, and beyond.
Earning bad grades in school after blowing off your homework to watch TV? You reap what you sow. Winning the 100-meter dash after training all semester? You reap what you sow. Growing the most luscious, delicious vegetables after tending to them daily all spring? You definitely reap what you sow.
How to Repurpose What You Reap
Now that I am grown and have a garden of my own, I put a lot more thought into what I sow, literally. Every gardener knows that the quality of your seeds and seedlings is important and can make or break your eventual crop.
I got to thinking about this when I recently harvested a huge crop from my Tower Garden — one of the most rewarding stages of gardening and my personal favorite. I gathered more than enough fresh greens for a salad, homemade pesto, and a vegan stir-fry. After a whirlwind of cooking, I found myself with meals prepped, dishes assembled, and a pile of scraps on my cutting board, destined for the trash. Then I thought:
Wait a second, the garbage can't be the only place these scraps belong.
They were parts of the vegetables that I had grown and tended. I hated to waste what I’d worked so hard to cultivate. I was reminded of my grandmother and how she used to save and replant the seeds from her tomato crop to grow the next year’s harvest.
Believe it or not, you can adopt the same philosophy for other vegetables, too.
Plants You Can Regrow from Kitchen Scraps
If you’re like me and don’t mind using your kitchen as a chemistry lab, you can regrow vegetables from the scraps of your harvest or latest grocery store run. Not only will it save you money and prevent food waste, but also there’s something truly rewarding about upcycling what was once deemed a useless scrap into something edible.
For most plants, the process is fairly simple.
Lettuces and Leafy Greens
Sprout new greens using this method, which works well for all varieties of lettuce (including romaine, arugula, and kale), Bok choy, and cabbage.
Before tossing any unwanted leaves, save a few and place them in a bowl with about 1/8 inch of water. Keep the bowl in a kitchen window or somewhere with good sunlight and replenish the water often to keep the level consistent.
In three or four days, you should begin to see small roots and new leaves forming. You can transfer the new growth to a damp rockwool cube and then to your Tower Garden.
This process works for many herbs, too, including basil, mint, and others. The only difference is that you’ll want to save the herb’s stem — rather than just a leaf — and place it in water.
Good news: Though no one likes to eat the base of a celery stalk, you can use it to regrow the plant.
Cut off the white portion of the celery stalk and sit it upright in a dish of water. It will need plenty of sun. Replenish the water every day for about a week, and soon you should see a new, green stalk emerge from the center of the base. You can then replant the base in your Tower Garden.
This one is mistake-proof since the roots are already sprouted. Simply remove the white end of a green onion, keeping the roots intact, and plant it directly in a damp rockwool cube with the roots facedown.
Keep it moist and in the sun, and you should see new life forming over the course of a few days. After new sprouts have appeared, you can place the onions in your garden.
Tomatoes, Peppers, and Other Fruiting Plants
You’ve likely heard of heirloom tomatoes, but did you know you can also technically grow heirloom cucumbers, melons, squash, pumpkins, and peppers?
After you harvest your fully ripened fruiting plants, remove the seeds from the ones that looked especially delicious and healthy by scooping out the pulp and rinsing it under cool water until the seeds separate. Allow them to dry on a paper towel for a few days.
Once they are completely dried, you can then save them in an envelope until you’re ready to plant, or transfer them to rockwool to begin sprouting.
Beans and Peas
Another seed to save! The difference here is to let the bean pod over-ripen on the Tower. Harvest your crop, but save a few designated bean pods for upcycling.
Once the pod has begun to brown, remove it from the plant and allow it to dry for at least a week. You can then shell the seeds from the pod for immediate replanting. If you intend to replant when the new season begins, however, it’s best to leave them in the pod until the time comes for sowing.
Ready to Repurpose Your Kitchen Scraps?
I hope this blog post has been helpful or has sprouted a few fresh ideas in your mind.
Have you ever tried regrowing crops from kitchen scraps? Share you experience in the comments below.
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