Grow Vegetables from Kitchen Leftovers

When it comes to beginning a garden, it can be difficult to start plants from seeds. You can save a lot of time, money, and frustration with an unexpected tool: your kitchen scraps. Most people have experienced roots sprouting from an old potato, but you can easily grow many other vegetables from the leftover parts of your meal prep. You can keep your vegetable drawer full while reducing kitchen waste with these easy-to-grow plants.

Science Experiments: Many people are now homeschooling or considering virtual learning. Growing plants from kitchen leftovers is a great way to teach science to children – and it is fun for everyone to participate in.

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First, let’s explore how this works in general.

Plants are extremely resilient. They always find a way to grow, even in adverse circumstances – and they have an incredible ability to re-sprout their shoots and roots after trauma, such as being cut or chopped. When you understand what each vegetable needs in order to regrow, you can turn the produce from a single grocery store visit intro a small garden.

Potatoes: This favorite food is a classic example for recycling kitchen scraps. Potatoes are tubers, which means they are modified stems filled with starch. They sprout roots from their eyes (the small black indentations in the peel) . They do not have to be whole in order to regrow. As you have a small chunk with at least one eye, it will be able to sprout new roots. Simply leave the piece to dry overnight, then plant in soil with the eye facing upward. Each eye present on your scraps will sprout a root from which a new tuber will grow.

Sweet potatoes: Unlike potatoes, which are stems, sweet potatoes are modified tuberous roots. To propagate an old sweet potato, cut it in half and suspend it above a few inches of water. After a few days, small root extensions will begin to grow down into the water, and sprouts will grow from the top of the sweet potato. These baby plants are called “slips”, and should be cut off of the parent sweet potato once they get to be about 4 inches tall. Place the bases in water until roots grow, then plant in soil. You will harvest 3-5 new sweet potatoes per slip.

Alliums (onion, garlic, leek, shallot): You may have had onions resprout on their own if you forgot about them. They are eager to regrow, so simply set the rooting part of the bulb/stem in shallow water, and new green tops will appear shortly.

Leafy greens or celery: In order to grow these vegetables, cut off the bottom  and place or suspend in shallow water. Situate them in a sunny window, and new leaves will be growing in just a few days. You can plant the new celery in a pot or garden until it grows into a new mature plant. A new head of lettuce will regrow within a few weeks–it likely won’t be as big as the original, but it will be enough for a few sandwiches or a salad.

Root vegetables (carrots, turnips, beets): Since we eat the roots of these vegetables, you need to keep the tops of them as opposed to the bottoms. Set the tops in water on a warm windowsill until new green sprouts grow on top. Once they have grown, you can move the vegetables to soil so new roots can grow.

Because the Tampa and Sarasota region has such beautiful weather year round, you can grow a mini-vegetable garden on your lanai or in your sunroom. Stop by Big Earth Landscape Supply for the containers, soil, and nutrients you need. You’ll be munching fresh vegetables before you know it.