How to regrow food from kitchen scraps

Plant-based food is an essential component of our daily meal. The World Health Organization recommends at least five servings of fruits and veggies every day for adults aged 25 with normal activity level (Stephens). It’s no stretch to say that produce – fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices – will always make the top of a regular grocery items list, and the bulk of a monthly family budget. Produce, depending on the season and the source (in terms of distance/transportation), can be cheap or expensive. Whatever the case, their basic necessity to optimum health and nutrition means that both money and time must be spent to get them from farm to store to the dining table. Furthermore, there are health and sustainability concerns posed by pesticide-riddled produce, such as apples, celery, spinach, green beans, bell peppers, cherries, tomatoes, and strawberries, as listed in USDA 2006 Consumer Reports (Fossel 13), which pushed consumers to switch to organic food in recent years, and create nifty hacks in home gardening.

One example is regrowing food from scraps kitchen leftovers such as tops, stems, bubs, root bottoms, seeds, and peelings, which typically end up in the world’s millions of tons of decomposable wastes. For instance, vegetables such as celery, lettuce, bok choy, and cabbage are regrown from the snipped base of the plant, about two to three inches long. The base is then placed on a container filled with water, enough to cover half of the plant. It usually takes three to four days for roots to appear, and new leaves to sprout from the layers. I suggest a full week (or more) of regrowing the base before planting it in soil, depending on the status of the roots, i.e. if they’re longer and stronger. This will ensure a more viable growth to maturation of the new plant. When planting, cover everything with soil, except the new shoots of leaves, of course. It takes several months for the regrown part to completely develop into a new plant, like for instance, celery, which takes about five months (Button 50).

The methods of regrowing for ginger and potato are essentially the same. Both uses a piece with three to four “eyes” (Oshiro 33; Beaty), or the bumps where shoots sprout from. The part with the eyes is cut from the rest of the gingerroot or potato, and is either submerged in water (the portion with the eyes face up) for root growing, or planted directly in four inches of soil. For the first option, I use a glass or jar (moderately deep and wide-mouthed) of water, puncture and surround the plant part with four toothpicks, and place it suspended in water. It takes more than a week before tiny roots appear on the sides, and shoots start appearing from the eyes. When the roots reach an inch or so, I transfer it to the soil.

Carrots, turnips, and radishes, and even pineapples can be regrown using their tops, with leaves or stems still attached. Pineapple top is regrown in the same attitude as ginger and potato, except that instead of using toothpicks, the water-filled jar must have an opening wide enough to hold the base of the pineapple top while an inch of it is completely submerged in water. The leaves of the pineapple will keep it suspended. For carrots, turnips and radishes, a shallow plate or bowl will suffice, with a single layer of marbles to keep the part afloat (Rhoades). Half of the base must be submerged in water. It usually takes a few days for new leaves to grow and roots to sprout, afterwhich, planting in soil is carried out.

Perhaps the easiest scraps to regrow are those with already existing roots upon use, such as leeks and chives. Two inches of the bottom part is placed in water for a few days, until such time that new shoots about three inches long grow from the area where the original leaves where cut. The new plant is moved to potting soil immediately.

Regrowing basically sums up very important tips for all types of plants. Water will decrease in level due to evaporation, so refilling is done every other day. Misting the portion exposed to air is also necessary to keep it moist, and stimulate further the growth of new leaves. Changing the water twice a week helps in preventing stagnation that makes the water slimy and smelly. The whole setup is placed on an area where there is sufficient sunlight, to maintain good photosynthesis and hasten the growth of roots and leaves. Not enough light will make the plant sickly, yellowish, and eventually, susceptible to wilting and death. Likewise, exposing it to too much sunlight will cause drying. For greens and onions, too much water will melt the entire plant, turning it to a gooey and malodorous substance, so I try to keep it from the reach of strong rains as much as possible.

Finally, the place where these plants will be permanently situated, either indoors or outdoors, is considered, more importantly in fact, prior to raising a garden from regrown leftovers. For indoors, the windowsill, terrace, or any part of a room where there is ample sunlight during most of the day are the best places where plants can be grown. There is a wider spectrum of choices for outdoor gardening, where lot space is sufficient to accommodate different kinds of plants. To save on space, vertical gardening is a very good alternative, which doesn’t just allow housing of more plants, but also add more to the orderliness and aesthetic of the whole garden.

Works Cited

Beaty, Vanessa. “25 Foods You Can Re-Grow Yourself from Kitchen Scraps”. DIY & Crafts. 20

February 2014. Web. 24 June 2016.

Button, Kimberly. “Kitchen Magic.” Vegetarian Times 413 (2014): 48-50.

Fossel, Peter. Organic Farming: Everything You Need to Know. Minnesota, USA: Voyageur

Press, 2007.

Oshiro, Kathy. Growing Fruits in Hawaiʻi (also Herbs, Nuts, and Seeds): A How-to Guide for

the Gardener. Honolulu, Hawai’i: The Bess Press, 2000.

Rhoades, Jackie. “Grow Carrots From Carrots – Sprouting Carrot Tops With Kids”. Gardening

KnowHow. n.d. Web. 24 June 2016.

Stephens, Pippa. “How much fruit and veg should we eat?” BBC News. BBC. 1 April 2014.

Web. 24 June 2016.