How to grow produce from scraps
By Melissa Erickson
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One person’s trash is another’s treasure, even in the kitchen.
Not only is it possible to grow food from kitchen scraps, the practice was common about 100 years ago, said Shelby DeVore, an animal expert and founder of the blog Farminence, which educates people interested in becoming more self-sufficient.
“We’ve gotten so used to food being easily accessible that it’s commonplace to toss out scraps,” DeVore said. “Plants in nature are constantly regrowing parts that are eaten by animals and insects, so it’s not that unusual that plants can regrow parts fairly easily.”
It’s also surprisingly easy if you pick the right foods.
“Not all plants will regrow from scraps, but many will. The ones that will regrow from scraps are simple to start. Most just need water, a small container and a sunny location. Once your plants are started, you may need a little soil to keep them going,” DeVore said.
Getting your greens
The easiest plants to grow from scraps are plants from leafy green vegetables that make a head.
“Think head lettuce, bok choy or celery,” she said. “Green onions are also easy to start. To start these plants, leave on the root and about 1 inch of the base of the head or onion. Place them in a shallow pan of water in a sunny spot.” New leaves will appear soon.
Garlic and potatoes
“You only need one garlic clove to start a new plant,” DeVore said. “Make sure that it’s a fresh garlic clove that comes from a non-refrigerated head of garlic. Plant it pointy side up in a few inches of soil and keep the soil moist. The clove will sprout and you’ll be able to turn one clove into a whole new head of garlic.”
Potatoes past their prime can also be planted.
“When potatoes sprout from eyes, you can plant them and grow a new plant. In fact, one potato that has multiple sprouting eyes can be cut into sections and planted to create multiple potato plants,” DeVore said.
Keep leafy greens in a shallow water dish for a short time, DeVore said. To harvest from them more than once, put them in quality potting soil and pot them or plant in a garden.
Kitchen scrap plants need to be kept moist with plenty of sunshine.
“It’s also a good idea to refresh the water every few days to prevent the water from becoming stagnant or slimy. Simply pour off the old water and immediately replace it with cool, fresh water,” DeVore said.
Ginger, citrus plants and avocados are a few higher level plants that you can sprout from scraps, she said.
“You’ll have the best luck with produce that hasn’t been treated with chemicals. Some produce is treated specifically so that seeds won’t develop, which forces you to purchase their produce again,” DeVore said. Choose produce that is organic, since it hasn’t been treated with chemicals.
“With that being said, many non-organic produce scraps will regrow just fine, so it’s worth a shot if you’re going to toss the scraps anyway,” DeVore said.