I first explored the idea of “regrowing” foods a couple of years ago when I posted here on the blog about “homegrown” green onions. I was amazed to find that you can actually regrow green onions using the root ends that you usually throw away. So imagine my surprise when I found out that there are actually several more foods that you can “regrow” from scraps! If you’ve got the patience for it, regrowing food can be fun and save you a lot of money over time!
An important note: If you’re planning to regrow food from store-bought produce, you’ll almost always get better results from using organically-grown produce, rather than conventionally-grown. Some conventionally-grown produce is treated so that it won’t sprout again, which makes further growth impossible.
Here are some common foods that are easy to regrow!
All of these vegetables can be regrown from the root end (just like the green onions from my original post). Simply remove the root end of the vegetable, and place it root-side down in a shallow dish of water for about a week. Change out the water every couple of days as necessary, and be sure to not let it dry out. After several days in the water, new roots should be forming underneath, and the top should show signs of new growth from the center.
At this point, you can transfer your plant into the ground, or into a 10-inch pot filled one inch from the top with potting soil. (Make sure to choose a pot that allows for drainage.) Place the plant into the soil, far enough down so that only the new growth is above the surface. Keep the plant damp, but not saturated, and in a month or two you should see significant growth!
Celery and lettuce can be harvested little-by-little as needed. Onions can be harvested at the green onion stage, or allowed to grow into mature onions.
If you’ve ever had garlic or potatoes start to sprout before you’ve been able to use them, you don’t have to throw them away! A whole head of garlic can be grown by planting a single, unpeeled clove pointy-side up in the ground or in a pot. Harvest your garlic by pulling up the entire plant when the leaves start to yellow and die.
Similarly, a potato can yield one, two, or even three whole plants of potatoes, depending on its size. If it’s 1-2” in diameter, just plant it whole, a couple inches deep in the ground, or in a large, tall pot. A potato that’s 2-4” in diameter can be divided into smaller pieces, but you’ll want to ensure that each piece has at least one or two “eyes” on it. Potatoes can be dug up and eaten as small “new” potatoes, or they can be allowed to fully mature before harvest.
Basil can easily be propagated from cuttings. Take a 3-4” stem of basil and remove any lower leaves, keeping only the top-most leaves. Place the basil stem in a small dish of water by a sunny window for about 2 weeks, changing the water every couple of days. By this time, the roots of your basil stem should be long enough to be able to transplant it into a small seed cup with some potting soil. If your seed cup is biodegradable, you can plant it directly into the ground or your container of choice once the plant is a few inches taller.
Both tomatoes and pumpkins can be grown reasonably easily from their seeds. Pumpkins are the easiest, as the seeds just need to be cleaned and thoroughly dried for storage until the following summer, when they can be planted.
Tomato seeds are a little bit trickier. You can collect tomato seeds by squeezing the juice and seeds of your favorite heirloom variety into a cup, and letting the cup sit in a sunny window for 3-5 days until a white moldy layer forms on top. (This process won’t hurt you, and it makes it much easier to separate the seeds from the gooey stuff.) Drain off the mold and remaining liquid, and rinse the seeds several times until they are clean. Place the seeds onto a paper plate to dry (paper helps absorb the moisture from the seeds.) Place your seeds in an airtight storage container until you’re ready to use them.