Growing vegetables and fruits doesn’t always have to start with a seed. We all know that an avocado pit can be grown into a tree, but if you are looking for something that can be grown a bit faster from your castoffs, look to your kitchen produce scraps. Using kitchen scraps is an effective way to save money and learn a bit more about gardening.
Celery can be grown from the bottom of the stalk. Cut the bottom inch from the base of the bunch. Place it cut side up in a bowl. Put a small amount of water in the bowl and place it in a sunny window. After a few days, roots will develop and leaves will begin forming. At this point, you can plant it in a larger pot and wait for the stalk to regrow.
Romaine lettuce grows much like celery. Cut the bottom of the plant off about one inch from the base. Place it root-side down in a shallow glass of water and the leaves will soon start to regrow.
Green onions are also easy to regrow. Cut off the bulb and place it roots down in a class of water overnight. Replant the next day in a pot and the tops will quickly regrow. Leeks are similar but are slower to grow. Cut off the bulb and put it in a glass of water. Leeks are a little fussy, so you need to change the water daily. Harvest when they are big enough to eat.
Plant a clove of garlic with root-side (flat end) down in a few inches of dirt. When shoots start to grow, cut them back so the bulb will form.
Potatoes are always grown from another piece of potato. Use a quarter of a potato, but make sure the piece has at least two eyes. Let it dry for at least one day to prevent mold from growing. Stick toothpicks into the piece to suspend it over water, making sure the eyes are underwater. Add water as needed to keep the eyes submerged. When the potato develops leaves, it can be transplanted into a large pot. Or just keep it in water and enjoy the beautiful plant. Sweet potatoes are grown in the same manner, but start with a half a potato instead of a quarter.
Cut the top off a carrot and place it in a shallow bowl of water. In a few days the carrot fronds will begin to grow. The top can then be planted in a pot of soil and the roots will regrow.
Pineapples can also be grown from the top. Cut the top off the plant and use toothpicks to suspend it above a bowl of water. Change the water every other day to keep it fresh. Roots will begin to form in a week and the top can be transplanted into a container of soil.
Herbs such as cilantro, basil and parsley are also easy to regrow. Save a few sprigs and place them in a cup of fresh water. In a few days, roots will form and the plant can be placed in a pot of soil to grow.
Of course, all kinds of plants can be grown from seeds you salvage. Seeds from vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes and pumpkins can be harvested during preparation of your meals. Dry the seeds for a few days, then plant just like any purchased seed. Cherry, apple, lemon and peach seeds can all be planted in soil to grow a tree. A tree won’t grow as fast as the other plants mentioned here, but it will grow.
Growing plants from kitchen scraps is a great way to turn trash into a treasure — and a great way to add freshness to your meals.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (907)474-7201