Re-Grow Your Food from Kitchen Scraps

(Above: Re-growing vegetables such as celery is both frugal and educational.)

(Above: Re-growing vegetables such as celery is both frugal and educational.)

Neither a Biblical resurrection nor a science fiction horror reanimation, we offer this tip for saving on your food budget: buy some vegetables or fruit once and then instead of throwing the scraps away, re-plant them so they can re-grow.

Many vegetables and fruit pieces that end up in the compost bin or trash can easily be re-grown into a virtual unending supply of fresh fruit and vegetables that you pay for only once.

Besides saving money, re-growing produce produces less waste and is an excellent teaching opportunity for your children.

Keep in mind that it’s the quality of the parent plant that ultimately determines the quality of the plant that you will re-grow, so always look for the strongest possible scrap to re-plant.

1. Romaine Lettuce, Cabbage, Bok Choy, and Celery

All of these veggies will re-grow themselves from the white root end of the plant. Cut off the stalks or leaves as you normally would and instead of placing the root in the garbage, put it in a shallow bowl of water. Make sure that the water covers the roots but not the top of your veggie cutting. Put it in a sunny place, such as a window ledge, and spray the top occasionally with a bit of water to keep it moist, but don’t saturate it or cover it completely with water or it will drown.

Within seven to 10 days you should start to see roots and the beginning of new leaves appear. Once you get your first leaf, transplant it into the soil. Your cutting will continue to grow until one day when it sprouts a new head of food.

You don’t need to pull your newly grown veggie out of the soil a second time either. Simply cut it off just above the soil and keep your plant moist for it to grow back again.

2. Sweet Potatoes

Set aside one sweet potato the next time you buy a bunch to plant later. Take your chosen sweet potato and bury all but the very top of it under a thin layer of dirt in a sunny location. Keep the soil moist, but not soaking wet, and in about seven to 10 days you should start seeing new shoots come out of the potato. When the shoots are about four inches in length, cut them out of the potato and replant them, leaving about 12 inches between each cutting. It will take you about four months before you get more sweet potatoes, but they are well worth the wait.

You will want to keep an eye out for slugs, however, as they love sweet potatoes. Putting a shallow bowl of flat beer near your plants will encourage slugs to get a drink, get drunk, and then drown. Harmless to pets and kids, this is an easy way to control slugs.

3. Ginger

This super healthy spice is super easy to re-grow. Take an extra piece of ginger and plant it in a pot with the small buds facing up. Ginger likes filtered sunlight, so keep it under a tree or in a sunny window behind another plant so it doesn’t get direct sun. Be sure to keep the soil moist but not soggy. You will have new shoots and roots before you know it. Once your ginger is well established, pull the entire plant out of the pot, pull off one piece and re-plant it. Even if you don’t eat a lot of ginger, it’s a pretty houseplant.

4. Garlic

This is another easy spice to grow. Take a clove (or several cloves) and plant it, root end down, in a spot that gets plenty of sunlight. The garlic will make new roots and grow fresh green shoots. Once it is well established, cut the shoots back to about 1/3 their original height. Your garlic will respond by putting all its energy into producing a big, juicy new garlic bulb. As with ginger, you can repeat the process by planting some new cloves from your newly grown garlic.

5. Pineapple

You don’t need to live in Hawaii to re-grow a pineapple: cut off the green, leafy part at the top of the pineapple and be sure that there is no fruit on the bottom. It’s usually easier to simply grab those stiff leaves and twist them off. Cut some small, horizontal pieces from the bottom until you see the root buds. Remove a few of the bottom layers of leaves so that you have about a one inch base at the bottom of the stalk.

Plant your pineapple base in a warm, but well drained location. Water it regularly at first, and once your plant begins growing again, cut back to once per week watering sessions. In about two years, you will be eating your own fresh pineapples from your garden.

6. Onions

These are probably the easiest veggies to re-grow. Simply cut off the root end of any onion, leaving about a half an inch of onion above the root. Cover lightly with soil and put in a sunny location. Keep the soil moist but not overly wet. Onions like a sunny, warm location so if you live in a colder environment, keep them in pots so you can move them indoors when you need to. Simply pull your onions out of the soil when they are ready, cut off the roots and replant.

7. For Your Children

If you have young children, let them grow their own “pet” carrot plants. Now this won’t allow you to grow an edible carrot, but it will grow a new plant. The vegetable itself is the root so you can’t regrow it, but you can grow some green tops which are pretty and fun to grow.

Simply cut the green top off of your carrot, leaving about one inch of carrot below the greens. Stick some toothpicks into the sides of your carrot piece so you can balance it in a glass or a jar. Put enough water in the glass so that the stump is covered. Put your carrot in filtered sunlight and be sure that the water level doesn’t drop low enough that the carrot end dries out. In just a few days you will see new roots and after a week or so, you can transfer your pet carrot into a pot with dirt.

Some veggies re-grow easier than others and some of them take some practice, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t have luck the first time. Also, you should always start with an organic starter plants as many conventional plants are sprayed with chemicals that stop them from reproducing themselves. Happy gardening!