Get more life out of the kitchen scraps you routinely throw away, like carrot and onion tops and sprouted garlic. Not only will this practice reduce your food waste, you’ll also benefit by getting the most out of your vegetable garden.
This is the premise of “No-Waste Kitchen Gardening: Regrow Your Leftover Greens, Stalks, Seeds, and More” by Katie Elzer-Peters (Cool Springs Press), a collection of projects for turning kitchen scraps into usable produce.
You may have tried growing an avocado tree from a pit, or a pineapple from the spiny top of a plant. In her book, Elzer-Peters gathers details on how to grow everything from ginger to cantaloupes and pumpkins to apples and lettuce. Sometimes, you may not get the edible root, as with a carrot, but you will get delicious, edible greens as you do when you regrow beets and turnips.
No-waste kitchen projects are easy because plants are programmed to produce more. Of course, it all depends on the vegetable or fruit, but whenever you plant seeds, stems, roots or leaves, you can grow something edible.
The next time you chop vegetables for soup or salad, save the tops and root tips and try one of these projects.
How to Root Garlic
The stinking rose, garlic is essential for good cooking and is easy to grow. Sometimes, garlic shoots up a green sprout when you store it in your kitchen. Use these cloves to grow new garlic bulbs or just the garlic scapes, the flowering shoot that emerges from the clove.
Many times, garlic from the supermarket is treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting. Look for organic garlic that has not been treated. When you have a clove that sprouts, tuck into a container full of good quality organic potting mix. Grow indoors to harvest the scapes. If you want garlic bulbs, place the container outside. Garlic is usually planted outdoors in the fall for harvest in late winter or early spring. Read more about growing garlic.
How to Grow Green Onions
Green onions are the easiest vegetable to regrow, according to Elzer-Peters. That’s good, because grocery store green onions tend to wilt. You can grow onions in water or in soil, or start in water and finish in potting soil. Start by trimming the tops from the green onions and leaving about an inch of stem.
Fill a cup with about 1/2 to 3/4 inches of clean pebbles and then add water. Add green onions. Place cup in indirect light like in a kitchen window. Change the water every few days. Snip off new green sprouts and add to salads and soups. In cool weather, plant the green onions in a container filled with organic potting mix, or outside in the vegetable garden.
How to Grow Ginger
Culinary ginger is the rhizome of a tropical plant and it adds zip to baked goods, curries, marinades and dressings. Growing more ginger is simple, just look for untreated, organic ginger with plenty of eyes, just like potatoes.
With a knife, cut the ginger into 1-inch pieces, making sure that each piece has eyes. Fill a container with organic soilless potting mix and pour water over it until it is just damp. Let any extra water drain into the plant saucer. Plant the ginger pieces in the soil and cover with a couple more inches of soil. Set the pot in bright light and water when the soil is dry.
After a few months, when you see shoots, pull back the soil and snap off the new ginger root growth.
How to Grow Root Vegetables like Beets and Turnips
Beets and turnips are taproots like carrots. You can’t regrow them for new roots, but you can grow them for delicious greens. Tender beet, carrot and turnip greens can be added to salads and soups and other dishes where you use tender greens.
To regrow root vegetables like beets and turnips, select roots with intact tops. Use a knife to slice off the top, about 3/4 inches tall. Fill a container with potting mix and dampen soil with water. You’re looking for soil to be as wet as a wrung out sponge.
Nestle the root tops in the soil, with the stem end up. Set pot in bright light and keep watered. When the leaves are about 2 inches tall, you can harvest them for salads. Eventually, the roots will stop growing and producing, and then you can compost the root.
Even if you don’t get the results you expected, Elzer-Peters says to keep trying. With this kind of gardening, there are lots of uncontrollable variables, and it’s rarely the fault of the gardener. Some vegetables take a long time to sprout and others may be treated with chemicals that prevent sprouting. Still, it’s a no-cost way to garden.