Growing Vegetables From Scraps & Avoiding Waste

by | Apr 28, 2020 | Growing Guides

If you can eat vegetables, you can grow vegetables from scraps

Honesty time. I waste so much produce! My greens go slimy in the back of the fridge and I always buy more potatoes than I can eat! I’m not proud of it. If you can identify, good news, there is a solution that will ease your conscience and even your wallet. One viable option is composting. Tossing food scraps in the compost bin allows you to harness the food’s nutrients to feed your next garden. But did you know that you can also use those scraps to regrow your produce at home? Waste not, want not. Stick that cabbage right back in the ground (more or less). In hopes of saving some precious pennies and grocery store trips, here’s a simple DIY guide to turning your kitchen scraps to fresh produce at home.

Leafy Scraps

It’s salad time! Instead of letting your greens become wilted in the fridge, you can pick the fresh leaves right off the growing vegetables from scaps in your windowsill. 

Romaine Lettuce

Don’t throw away those leftover leaves. With just a few inches of leaf still attached to the lettuce’s base, place the base (leafy side up) in a saucer or jar and add just enough water to cover the base of the plant. Set the dish in a warm place like a windowsill where it can get lots of light. In a few days new leaves and new roots will begin to grow. After three or four days, when the new roots have grown to a sturdy size, you can transfer your lettuce to soil. Continue to water and watch it grow.

Bok Choy

Bok Choy is a personal favorite. The process of regrowing is actually very similar to that of romaine lettuce. 

Place the base in a dish of shallow warm water and store it in a sunny spot. And if variety is truly the spice of life, also try regrowing cabbages in this way. Bok choy, Romaine Lettuce and Cabbage are all classified as brassicas and their new growth will sprout from the hard base. 

Just a tip, cabbage can go right into a shallow planter of soil, but keep it nice and moist. 

Root Scraps

When growing vegetables from scraps, you simply cannot forget the hardy root vegetables, especially if you’re eternally hungry, like me. While some root veggies, like potatoes, can reproduce the entire plant, others like carrots, beets, and turnips can regrow their green tops which are surprisingly useful. 

Potatoes

Remember those wrinkly old potatoes you forgot that you bought a few weeks ago? Before you throw them out, check to see if they have begun to sprout. Especially if you store your potatoes in a cool, bright place, sprouts will soon form. Note that some veggies sold in stores are treated to prevent sprouting, so it’s a safer bet to go with a locally grown or organic option. But isn’t that always the case?

Once the eyes (sprouts) have formed, you can get ready to plant. Small potatoes can be planted whole, while larger varieties should be cut, making sure that there are a few eyes on each piece. 

Now, where to grow them? You don’t need an acre of garden space to grow a good amount of potatoes. You can even grow them indoors or on your porch in a planter or bucket. Good news for us hungry, city apartment dwellers. You’ll want a container that can hold about 3 gallons of soil. I’m excited to go through the process of growing potatoes in a bin on my itty bitty city balcony, then I’ll share everything I’ve learned. Until then, walk through the process of growing potatoes in a container

Sweet Potatoes

If you can believe it, sweet potatoes are even easier to regrow than regular potatoes. No need to wait for eyes to form. You can even plant them whole. However, if you would like to grow more than one plant, cut the sweet potato in half. This is where the toothpick method comes into play. Do you remember this jewel from junior high biology? Suspend each half of your potato in a container of water using toothpicks pressed into its sides to brace it. New roots will begin to grow into the water. Once your root ends are about an inch long, you are ready to plant.

Carrots

When replanting carrots, what you will be able to harvest are the green, leafy tops. If you’re not accustomed to using the green top of the carrot, this is new territory for me also,  check out these super accessible carrot top recipes. I’m dying to give the cashew carrot top pesto a taste. 

Cut the top of the carrot about one inch from the thick top end. If your carrot still has greens growing out of the top already, go ahead and trim them down to an inch or so. Place the carrot end in a shallow dish of water with the chopped side down. Place the dish in a sunny spot. You will begin to see new green sprouts from the carrot tops and thin roots growing from the base in about three or four days.

Just for fun, when you replant in soil, try putting a few together in a pot. The leafy tops actually make beautiful house plants. You may want to keep a pot of carrot greens in your sunny kitchen window and use the finely chopped clippings to season your dishes.

Simply follow the same process to grow the tops of turnips, beets, radishes and parsnips.

Garlic

Garlic is the base of basically every recipe…or maybe that’s just me. So nice to have on hand, so why not grow your own?

Break the bulb into individual cloves. Do not remove the paper-like shell of the clove. Leave that baby on. You plant the clove directly into about eight inches of potting mix. Place the blunt end of the clove down and the pointed end facing up two to three inches deep. To dive deeper into the process, check out How to Grow Garlic Indoors. 

Ginger

Ginger loves a warm tropical environment so it’s best to grow indoors in many climates. Ginger is truly the gift that keeps on giving because you can dig up and cut a piece of ginger root and then recover and continue to grow your plant. Just be sure to save some of the rhizome to replant and grow again. 

Start the process of regrowing your ginger from the root by soaking a good-sized section of the root in a dish overnight. Follow this detailed guide to plant and regrow your ginger.

Onions

Onions of any variety are very easy to regrow. Large red or green onions will often begin to show new shoots on their own if forgotten in your pantry. This happens to me far too often. You can also cut your onion in half and sprout it in a dish. Place the blunt side down in shallow water. New shoots begin to sprout from the onion’s center and roots from the bottom. At this point you are ready to move the onion to potting soil. 

Green Onions and Leeks

Instead of throwing out the white root end of your green onion in the trash, put it in a cup or jar. There is no need to plant these in soil, unless you really want to get your hands dirty. I get that. But, you can just place the root end of your green onion in your mason jar or cup, with the root end down. Keep it in a sunny spot and the green shoots will begin to grow back within a few days. The onion shoots will be ready to snip off and eat in less than two weeks. 

You can follow this same process to regrow leeks. Leeks have thicker, more sturdy green shoots and a hint of garlic in their taste. I can’t think of a single drawback. 

Scallions

Am I the only fool that didn’t realize that scallions and green onions are the same thing? We learn something new every day.

Avocado

Avocados are the true superfood, said every Millennial ever. How great would it be to have fresh avocados growing in your home? Though you should expect the fruit to be significantly smaller than those commercially sold, it is possible to grow new plants in pots at home. 

For best results choose a young, fresh avocado. After removing the avocado pit, soak it in room temperature water. When it has become a little soft you will be able to remove the seed coat (thin brown layer) more easily.

Press toothpicks in the avocado pit – equidistant to one another. Using the toothpicks, suspend the seed in a cup. Fill the cup with water to the bottom of the seed.  Place the cup in a warm place but out of direct sunlight. Now you wait. It will take a month or so for the seed to split and new roots and sprouts to appear. Allow the new stem to grow around seven inches over the next few months. Then it will be sturdy enough to replant. Patience is a virtue when it comes to growing vegetables from scraps, but it’s well worth it.

If you want to learn how to grow seeds indoors, start here.

Fennel and Celery

Fennel and celery are two vegetable scraps that are incredibly simple to regrow. For fennel, place the base of the bulb in shallow water and keep it in a fairly warm place. Likewise, for celery cut off the bottom of the plant and place it in enough water to cover the bottom of the plant. 

In a few weeks, leaves will begin to grow from the center of the plant. You can harvest the leaves as you need, or replant in a potting mix to grow to full size. 

Herb Scraps

Many herbs, such as cilantro and basil, can easily be regrown in a glass of water using stem cuttings. Simply make a clipping of the stem about 4 inches long. Place the clipping in a glass with water, keeping leaves above the waterline. Place the glass in a sunny spot. Once the new growth of roots has reached a sturdy couple of inches, replant in soil. What a fresh and functional kitchen accessory! 

Other herbs such as lemongrass, however, need to be regrown from the base root, much like green onion or scallions. So, after using the green shoots of the lemongrass, set aside the bulb with a few inches of green remaining. Place in a glass with the thick lower end in water. New growth will come from the root. Replant when a few inches of new roots are visible. 

It is painfully simple to turn food waste into fresh herbs and vegetables. If you have a little patience, a little sunshine, and maybe a windowsill that needs filling, you are in business. Use these tips to start growing vegetables from scraps today!

By Devri Chism

By Devri Chism

Devri loves making the most of her in-home garden. While she was raised on a farm in the Ozarks, she traded the rolling hills for big city livin’ - and an itty bitty living space. She loves growing herbs, as well as, accent plants that can be used decoratively around her home.

About Us

My husband and I are attempting to turn our tiny city condo into an urban gardening oasis. Join us on our journey toward sustainable living and making the most of our space.

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