Gardening naturally lends itself to reuse and recycling – just think of compost and last year’s seed pots. So if there’s a way to reduce waste while saving money on produce, you can count me in. And one of my favorite ways to do both is to replant vegetables from kitchen scraps.
Instead of throwing away or composting the bottoms (or tops) of vegetables when you’re prepping them, you can turn them into leafy greens and other tasty treats right on your windowsill.
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that these methods are unlikely to produce plants that will do well in your garden, so I don’t recommend replacing your seedlings this way. But they’re likely to provide a side dish or two, and you can never underestimate the value of a fun project.
General tips: Sprouts will grow well in a sunny location. Use warm water and change it every day or two to prevent bacteria growth. Don’t worry if the submerged part of your cuttings is a little slimy, but if everything turns brown, toss it in the compost pile and start over.
It’s a beet
What I love most about beets is that one plant provides two side dishes – tubers and tasty greens. Although you can’t grow beets indoors by cutting them, you can certainly create more leafy greens: Cut a 1 1/2-inch section of the beet and place it cut side down in a container with enough water to hold it. the sliced end is dipped in water. New leaves will sprout from the top within a few days and you can start harvesting them after a few weeks. (This method also works with parsnips and turnips).
Cut 3 inches from the bottom of the celery head, then cut a strip from the bottom of the 3-inch segment. Place right side up in a shallow bowl and pour in 2 inches of water. Within a few days, new growth will sprout from the center.
Cucumber and leek
Cut off all the white part from the base of the leek or onion stalk, then place it in a jar or glass that holds an inch of water, root side down. If the stem overflows the pot, move it to a larger one. New growth will be harvested in a few weeks.
Cut the romaine lettuce 3 inches below the head, then remove the outermost leaves. Place the 3-inch “heart” in a shallow dish to which you have added half an inch of water. Within a week, a sprout will emerge from its center. It is normal for some of the outer leaves of the heart to turn brown as it grows. Take them out. When the center growth is big enough for a salad (or sandwich), cut it and enjoy – then wait for it to grow more.
Jessica Damiano writes regular gardening columns for the Associated Press. His Gardening Calendar 2021 was named a winner at the Garden Communicators International Media Awards. His Weekly Dirt Newsletter won two Society of Professional Journalists PCLI Media Awards.