Spring is in the air, and I catch myself daydreaming about sun on my back and dirt under my fingernails. I can’t wait to get my garden started – it’s hard to hold out for frost-free nights! Gardening is a great hobby; it allows you to commune with nature, learn about the environment, and feed your family whole, seasonal foods at an affordable price. Nothing the grocery store has to offer can compare with the flavor of my garden’s fresh offerings.
I know some people don’t have the space, knowledge, or inclination to garden. Getting started seems like a big commitment: sod removal, fence building, etc. This week we’re going to explore one way to cut those costs – plants that you can grow from food scraps. No digging up the lawn, no buying expensive equipment or even seeds. Some grow right in the kitchen, and others will need a pot or garden plot. It’s a fun and affordable way to cut your gardening costs and produce budget by using the same purchase over and over again!
1. Herbs: Basil, rosemary, and mint (and probably many others!) can be propagated and planted – a good return on that overpriced bunch of herbs from the grocery store! Pick a longer stem from the bundle and trim off the bottom and top leaves right where they meet the stem. Place the bottom of the stem in water and leave it. In about a week you’ve got little roots forming. Once the plant is substantial enough, you can transplant it to dirt. Step-by-step directions can be found on A Blossoming Life blog.
2. Celery, Romaine, and Other Bunches: When you bring home a bundle of celery, romaine lettuce, bok choy, or other veggie bunches, the first thing you do is hack off the stump end and toss it, right? I know that’s my process. But the root end of those plants can continue to produce! Cut off the stalks, and place the root end cut side up in warmish water. Every day, change out the water and within two weeks you should see new growth out the top. After 10 days-2 weeks, the plant is ready to be re-planted into soil. Step-by-step directions and pictures can be found on One Thousand Words blog. I love how she explains that veggies aren’t dead yet! Another post I saw referred to this regrowth as “zombie gardening.” That might be the hook I need to get my teenage son to participate and eat more veggies…
3. Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes: I can’t tell you how often I find the potatoes in my pantry sprouting and starting to rot. Commercially grown potatoes are cleaned before they’re sold, and that starts the decay process sooner than it does in nature. To use that growth rather than throw it out, cut the potatoes into pieces no smaller than a golf ball, making sure each piece has at least one eye. Voila, seeds! Kevin Lee Jacob’s site, A Garden for the House has a whole article on planting, growing, harvesting, and storing potatoes.
4. Onions and Garlic: Another veggie with a re-grow-able stem end is green onion. They’re super easy to grow, just cut off the tops you’re going to use, and put the stem ends in water. They’ll just grow back and you can keep clipping and regrowing from the same set of stems. Other onion varieties and garlic can also be regrown. Kalyn’s Kitchen has a good look at green onions. From Simple Daily Recipes, the directions for garlic. From Instructables, onions.
5. Seed-bearers: Bell peppers, lemons, apples, avocados, and other seed-bearing fruits and veggies can easily be regrown. Just remove the seeds, and let them dry before planting. Of course, apples and lemons are going to have to grow a whole tree before you get fruit from them, but if you’re interested in that project, you probably already have the seeds right in your kitchen.
A number of blogs and how-to sites have covered this topic very well, and they even offer info on some of the more complicated plants you can regrow, like pineapples:
DIY & Crafts
Simple Household Tips
Happy Money Saver
A few other thoughts on kitchen scraps:
*Veggie scraps, produce that’s about to turn, and chicken carcasses simmered together become chicken stock. This is virtually free and it’s much healthier than the expensive canned stock available commercially.
*Composting means using biodegradable food scraps and yard waste to create nutrient-dense soil. There are many how-to’s online if you’re interested in making your own nutrient-rich soil.
*Increase the nutrient density of your garden soil by burying banana peels beneath your roses or tomatoes, or by sprinkling crushed egg shells under your tomatoes. More info on Daddykirb’s Farm
Waste not, want not! Have a happy spring, and don’t forget to share your scrap-recycling and gardening ideas in the comments! (Disclaimer: I’ve linked to a lot of blog posts that do a great job describing “zombie gardening,” but in most cases that post is the only thing I’ve read on the site. I’m not necessarily endorsing the whole blog, you’ll have to check it out for yourself.)