Preparing and serving fresh foods typically results in wasted bits that end up in the trash or compost heap. You can cut back on the waste and save money when you regrow a few foods from leftover scraps. Saving money and waste is certainly nice, but the process is also fun and can be a great learning project for kids.
Fast-growing greens are best for regrowing but you can also grow a few colorful veggies from scraps.
Here’s a break down of some of the best foods for regrowing. Some of these plants need to finish growing in your garden, but a number of them will work in indoor or kitchen window gardens.
Are Regrown Vegetable Scraps Nutritious?
Regrown vegetable scraps can be just as nutritious as produce you buy at the store, but a few factors influence the actual vitamin and mineral content. In general, nutrients in fruits and vegetables vary—factors like the type of soil, time of harvest, transportation and storage time (nutrients are lost with time), and processing all play a role.
Lettuce and Cabbage
Lettuce and cabbage are good for any diet because they’re so low in calories and can take up a lot of space on your plate, providing crunch and filling fiber. Any variety of head lettuce, cabbage, and bok choi can be regrown in a sunny area in your home without much difficulty.
All you need is a shallow dish and the leftover bottom portion where the leaves were attached. Place the lettuce or cabbage bottom in the dish and add water to about halfway up the greens. Place in a part of your home that gets sunlight every day.
You’ll need to add or replace the water every two or three days. It helps to mist the leave with water once a week. In about three days you’ll see roots growing and new leaves will appear. Now you can plant it in your garden, or leave it in the water and pick the leaves as needed.
Scallions, also known as spring onions, are good for you because they’re low-cal and a good source of minerals and vitamin K.
You can regrow scallions much like lettuce and cabbage (If anything, it’s much easier). Use the green parts of your scallion for cooking and place the leftover white bulb, with the roots down, in a small container of water like a shot glass. Place near a sunny window. Change the water every day and in a week or so you’ll have more scallions in your kitchen.
Whether you call it cilantro or coriander, this herb adds flavor to many healthy dishes. If you use fresh cilantro in your cooking, you can regrow new plants from a few leftover stems.
Place the stems in a glass of water and leave near a window. Add water every day or two. In a few days, you’ll see roots appear. When they’re two to three inches long plant the cilantro in your garden or in a pot of soil and keep it in your home. Pick new cilantro leaves as needed.
Garlic is perfect for dressing up savory dishes and its strong flavor means using garlic in your cooking may help you cut back on added salt. Plus, eating garlic may help reduce your risk of some types of cancer. With leftover cloves of garlic, you can grow both garlic sprouts and whole garlic.
For garlic sprouts, just place leftover whole cloves of garlic in a cup (with the green sprouty tip side up) and add just a little water so just the bottoms of the cloves are wet. Change the water every day or two and harvest the greens to use on salads or veggies.
If you want to grow more garlic you could plant any leftover cloves in your garden in the springtime.
Note: sometimes garlic is sprayed with a compound that stops it from sprouting. If you leave your garlic cloves in the fridge for a week or so you’ll see if a small green sprout appears.
Celery is another healthy veggie that’s perfect for soups and salads.
Take the base of your celery (with about an inch or two of the stalk, where you see little tiny yellowish leaves) and place it bottom side down in a small dish. Add water until it’s about halfway up the celery. Change the water every day or two and in about a week you’ll see little green leaves start to grow over the stalk.
At that point, plant the celery base in your garden or in a flowerpot. Cover the base with soil, but leave those little green leaves peeking out. Water and tend to the celery plant and you’ll have a few stalks to harvest in about four months.
Fresh basil is so fragrant and delicious. You can often buy fresh basil in pots and pick away at the leaves as you need them. But, if you buy basil that’s already been picked, you can take any leftover stems and regrow them.
Put the leftover stems (leave a leaf or two on them) and put them in a glass with enough water to keep the bottom part of the stems covered. Place the glass in a sunny area and change the water every two or three days.
In about a week you’ll start to see new roots. Leave them in the water for another two or three weeks and when you have thicker roots about an inch or so in length, you can transplant the basil into a flower pot filled with potting soil or plant it in your garden.
Potatoes are an excellent source of potassium, plus vitamin C and fiber. But if you buy more potatoes than you can use, you may start to see some sprouts popping out of the “eyes.”
Cut the old potatoes into pieces about two inches long and make sure each piece has at least two eyes. Lay the potatoes out to dry for two or three days before planting them about eight inches deep in your garden soil or large outdoor planter. It takes them several months to grow, so it’s best to plant the potatoes in the spring.
Fresh ginger adds so much flavor to your cooking and it may even help relieve nausea. You can regrow ginger, although it may take the better part of a year to get results. But, if you have a larger rhizome (ginger root piece) than you can use up, you can leave the rhizome out on your counter until little sprouts appear on the various nodes.
Cut the ginger up into pieces and plant them into flower pots with potting soil. The pieces should be near the surface and not planted too deep. Leaves should sprout and grow and you can harvest the ginger whenever you want, but it takes a long while to grow, so one option is to harvest your ginger one time per year. Use a few rhizomes and plant the rest.
Pumpkin, Squash, and Peppers
So far all the plants described have grown from fleshy leftover scraps, but you can also save the seeds of some plants. Pumpkin, squash and pepper seeds can be planted in your garden in the spring and you can harvest new plants in the summer or fall.
What About Regrowing Fruits?
In general, regrowing fruits is much more difficult than regrowing vegetables. For example, It’s possible to grow avocado plants from the large seeds and you can grow pineapple plants from leftover crowns, but they’re all slow to grow and generally, you won’t be able to harvest any fruit. Similarly, you can plant the seeds from citrus fruits, cherries, peaches, and apples, but at best you’ll only end up with house plants.