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new life from leftovers
April 25, 2012 9:06 PM   Subscribe

Don't toss that celery base! Did you know you can use it to re-grow a new bunch of celery? The same thing works for romaine lettuce and bok choy. You can regrow scallions or leeks or any cooking onion. You can grow garlic. What about lemongrass or ginger? Try planting pepper seeds or key lime seeds; a leftover pineapple top or the classic avocado pit. You can eat the leaves from carrot tops or sweet potato vines or just keep them as houseplants. Seeds Straight From Your Fridge (NYT link)
posted by flex (108 comments total) 327 users marked this as a favorite

 
How do you grew pineapple top? I cut it off two months ago, while it's surviving, it's not rooting and not thriving at all. I suspect my pineapple will be dead by next month.
posted by Carius at 9:10 PM on April 25, 2012


This is going to piss off Monsanto big time.
posted by hippybear at 9:23 PM on April 25, 2012 [17 favorites]


Our backyard is home to a white fleshed nectarine tree - about 8 ft tall and 6 ft wide - which has produced some of the most beautiful fruit over the past couple of years despite it being a very young tree.

The tree was produced after my father, on a whim, planted the stone of a nectarine in some potting mix after he had eaten the fruit which surrounded it.

Not only that, but in looking near the base of the tree recently I'm sure I spotted another small sapling growing - presumably produced from a stone of a fruit which fell on the ground and germinated.

Amazingly simple but so satisfying to have this happen
posted by chris88 at 9:24 PM on April 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


Sorcery!
posted by elizardbits at 9:26 PM on April 25, 2012 [12 favorites]


How to grow a pineapple from its top. (as a counterpoint / companion to the article linked in the FPP)
posted by hippybear at 9:26 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


In 2 or 3 years, it will grow another pineapple.

this seems awfully inefficient
posted by elizardbits at 9:32 PM on April 25, 2012 [26 favorites]


I have this book, which covers many of the same topics. I have had several items bookmarked for the future, like chickpeas, fenugreek, celery, and some others I will need to go to an import grocery store to get. So glad for the reminder!
posted by annsunny at 9:34 PM on April 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ha, grocery stores here are quite zealous in cutting the roots of leeks and leek-like things to prevent such double-dippery.
posted by smoke at 9:35 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


These ideas are fine if you're a beginning indoor gardener on a limited budget. With time you may desire the challenge of a more advanced gardening project:Happy indoor gardening!
posted by Nomyte at 9:35 PM on April 25, 2012 [34 favorites]


In 2 or 3 years, it will grow another pineapple.

this seems awfully inefficient


But the pineapples from the supermarket are not from sweet fruits of your labor. Sorry that was lame.
posted by Carius at 9:36 PM on April 25, 2012


Often it is cheaper to buy potted herb plants instead of the already cut herbs at the supermarket.
posted by girlhacker at 9:42 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


this seems awfully inefficient

If you know another way to make pineapples other than growing them, you should patent it and start a company. You'll be rich rich rich for being so efficient.
posted by hippybear at 9:43 PM on April 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


This is perfect for lemongrass. It's simple. Go to an asian market (okay, maybe not so simple) and get a bundle of lemograss. Look through the bundles for lemongrass with a fully formed bulb at the end (not just hacked off), and little white wormy things coming out of it. Those shouldn't, by the way, be worms, they'll be roots starting to form. Get home, chop off the bulb (bottom half to quarter of an inch) and put it in water until the roots start to sprout. You might need to change the water a couple times, it might take a couple days. Once the roots have started to divide and spread out, plant your lemongrass, and await a giant, delicious monster with an irresistable scent that will threaten to take over the world, or at least your garden.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:51 PM on April 25, 2012 [10 favorites]


It seems weird in retrospect, but I always sort of assumed that the stuff at the grocery store had been sterilized via some kind of industrial agribusiness sorcery to prevent people from doing this. I guess a lot of fruits and vegetables are grown via hybridization or cloning (from cuttings, I mean) so it wouldn't work with everything, but I always assumed that the corporations who sell produce had ways of keeping their customer base captive.

I'm sure they're working on it.
posted by Scientist at 9:53 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


await a giant, delicious monster with an irresistable scent that will threaten to take over the world

Ah ha! We've solved the mystery.
posted by hippybear at 9:53 PM on April 25, 2012


Is this something that someone who can barely manage watercress can do?
posted by arcticseal at 9:54 PM on April 25, 2012


Yah, lemongrass won't quit. We started with a sprout at one yard and ended up with a refrigerator-sized patch by the time we moved.
posted by telstar at 9:56 PM on April 25, 2012


I once grew a pepper plant from seed recovered from a grocery store pepper. I kept it in the bay window behind my couch for a couple of years. They self pollinate, so whenever it blossomed I would vibrate the stem by tapping it with my fingers while I watched tv. It kept producing year-round until I finally set it free in the garden for one last crop.
posted by Knappster at 9:58 PM on April 25, 2012


Potatoes are stupidly easy to grow. I planted one a month ago for fun, it's almost two feet tall now. Next time, don't throw away potatoes with buds. Grow them instead.
posted by Carius at 9:58 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey hippybear, about that Monsanto. Yeah most store-bought vegetables and fruits are already Monsanto-stamped. Buy Organic! From your Farmer's Market!
posted by TangerineGurl at 10:10 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yay! I've been meaning to get on to growing lemongrass. This should spur me. Probably.
posted by pompomtom at 10:11 PM on April 25, 2012


Potatoes are stupidly easy to grow. I planted one a month ago for fun, it's almost two feet tall now.

How's the sun and drainage for that? Any time I've tried, they just disappear.
posted by pompomtom at 10:16 PM on April 25, 2012


TangerineGurl, I'm not sure if you are denying this or not but it seems that a pepper or something grown at one's home via organic farming practices from the seed of a grocery store pepper would be no less organic than a pepper grown via organic farming practices at a local farm and sold at the farmer's market. The breed might be different I suppose, but it would still be organic. And certainly about as local as it gets, too.
posted by Scientist at 10:18 PM on April 25, 2012


My garden has an Accidental Potato growing in it. It's going strong! It's in pretty dense soil but it's also on a small hill in the middle of the garden so I guess it probably gets pretty good drainage. It's under the Accidental Papaya Tree that rules the top of the garden hill, so it's not in full sun.

My garden plot is full of all kinds of crazy volunteers from all the compost that's been fed into it over the years. Whenever I'm weeding and I see something that's not obviously grass or clover I usually let it be for a bit to see if it'll turn into anything interesting. I've been pleasantly surprised a couple of times now! My garden is not the most orderly place, but it's interesting!
posted by Scientist at 10:22 PM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Most of this stuff I just throw into my stock.
posted by grouse at 10:22 PM on April 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


How's the sun and drainage for that? Any time I've tried, they just disappear.


I live in an apartment, so no outdoor garden for me. I just planted it indoor in a pot of potting soil right by window with no direct sunlight and water once a week. It's thriving now.
posted by Carius at 10:24 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh. Scientist please understand I am still learning.

If I use a seed that is already genetically modified ... won't that grow a genetically modified offspring?
posted by TangerineGurl at 10:24 PM on April 25, 2012


Scientist: "It seems weird in retrospect, but I always sort of assumed that the stuff at the grocery store had been sterilized via some kind of industrial agribusiness sorcery to prevent people from doing this."

Interesting thing about pineapples is that, unlike the original S. American parent, commercial cultivars are mostly (all?) self-sterile. Fertilization = seeds, which are matchstick-head sized, rock hard, & scattered all through the fruit (pineapples are a compound fruit; each 'bump' on the pineapple = an individual flower in the florescence), so nobody wants them. Plants are reproduced vegetatively from suckers, as the fruit from replanted crowns is smaller and less commercially desirable.

Plants of the same cultivar can be grown alongside each other without fertilization, but different cultivars will cross-pollinate and produce seeded fruit. That's why, in most places where pineapples are grown, the importation of hummingbirds (their natural pollinator in the wild) is illegal. Additionally, separation is maintained between different cultivars to prevent accidental cross-pollination - often, in any given region, you'll only find a single cultivar produced.

I know at one stage there was some research locally into developing a completely sterile cultivar, but I don't know if it was ever achieved. I do know that, with the downturn in local production, research here has been almost completely abandoned.
posted by Pinback at 10:32 PM on April 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


When I was in high school, I had a friend whose parents' little garden patch had a bumper crop of zucchini one year. That summer, when all of her dad's coworkers and their families gathered at her house for the annual company picnic, every one of them left with a grocery bag full of plump zucchinis, along with some handwritten recipes for cooking them.

The next spring, her family was shocked to find gigantic, lush new zucchini patches growing alongside of their country road... where heaven-knows-how-many guests had tossed their gift zucchinis into the ditch as soon as they'd gotten out of sight of the house.
posted by argonauta at 10:39 PM on April 25, 2012 [64 favorites]


It's really not so surprising. Did you know that many plants have evolved to become especially worth eating? It's a true fact! It kind of turns the idea of predator and prey upside down, and it works especially well for plants, who can't run away from predators.

The idea is that you will eat the plant, then you will walk some distance away and poop the seeds on the ground, surrounded by the wonderfully nutrient-rich poop, and that plant species will be transported to a new host environment, using your poop and your legs.

It's a wonderful symbiotic relationship. If you want to be a part of the great cycle of nature, don't plant a garden. Instead, eat a bunch of fruits and vegetables, go into the woods, and take a shit.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:48 PM on April 25, 2012 [15 favorites]


non-organic =/= genetically modified.

Yes a GM seed, if it grew, would retain its GM characteristics. But a seed from any non-GM factory farm produce would be as organic as you wanted it to be.

Quite a few organic people insist on absolutely no treatment of their seeds. For mine, that's a step or two to far.
posted by wilful at 10:50 PM on April 25, 2012


The idea is that you will eat the plant, then you will walk some distance away and poop the seeds on the ground, surrounded by the wonderfully nutrient-rich poop, and that plant species will be transported to a new host environment, using your poop and your legs.

Pineapple is native to South America. I can't think of any animal in South America that's big enough for this work.
posted by Carius at 10:59 PM on April 25, 2012


You can also grow (some) herbs from the leftovers of fresh herbs you buy, if they are in stem-and-leaves form and not just loose leaves. Cut a bit off the stem ends, as you would with fresh flowers, and place them in a glass of water. As soon as you get roots, in three-to-five days, transfer the new 'plants' to your garden. I have had great luck with peppermint, spearmint, tarragon and oregano. No such luck with damn, fickle basil.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 11:03 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, to elaborate on the GM vs. Organic thing: genetically modified foods are understood to be food organisms (plants or animals, really just plants for now) that have been genetically engineered (not just selectively bred, as all commercial food crops have been, but modified in a laboratory) to possess certain characteristics deemed desirable by their producers.

For instance you might modify a tomato plant to grow tastier tomatoes, or more of them, or tomatoes that transported more easily, or that grew in colder climates, or that were resistant to a pest, etc. Many people object to this on the grounds that this kind of tampering capability is too new to be well understood, leading to the potential for undesirable outcomes like invasive crops or toxic food, and also on the grounds that it gives industrial agriculture even more of an advantage over traditional agriculture.

Now, organic foods are simply foods that have been grown without the use of artificial fertilizers or pesticides. There are lots of good reasons for wanting to do this, including improved sustainability (artificial fertilizers come from oil, and also allow us to grow crops in places that are probably inherently unsuited for mass agriculture) and reduced levels of toxic pesticides in the foodstream and in the environment.

There are counterarguments to both the non-GMO movement and the organic movement, and while they have some merit I personally think that on balance it's probably good to push back against industrialization of agriculture in general, to the extent that it's possible. Ideally I think we need to radically restructure our food production to make it sustainable and less harmful to the biosphere, but we can probably only do that if we have fewer mouths to feed. Which I think we eventually will, one way or another, given the aforementioned unsustainability of modern agriculture. That's a whole 'nother discussion, though.

Anyway, non-GMO and organic foods are two different things. They are not mutually exclusive, and indeed most organic foods (most food in general, nowadays, though this is changing) are non-GMO.

None of this takes into account the local food movement either, which is what one is supporting by going to a farmer's market or growing one's own food. Many of the arguments for buying/growing local are similar to anti-GMO/pro-organic arguments (though there are others as well) but it is, again, a totally separate and non-mutually-exclusive thing.

And that is a quick primer to why planting a peach pit in your back yard is a political act. Up with this sort of thing!
posted by Scientist at 11:07 PM on April 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the number of agricultural crops 'genetically modified' (as opposed to simply selectively bred) is fairly small. Seed & oil crops (wheat, corn, flax, canola, soybean), some tomatoes / potatoes / squash, and a few others like tobacco & cotton.

Carius: chinchillas and bears, apparently. Remember, the native strains likely have smaller fruit than commercially-grown varieties, and they're a compound fruit with many many seeds. So the animal doesn't have to be able to eat the whole thing, merely a few mouthfuls, to swallow the seeds.
posted by Pinback at 11:07 PM on April 25, 2012


Also, humans both eat pineapples and poop. Arguably we don't contribute that way anymore since we've managed to prevent the pineapples from growing seeds, but on the other hand we've really done them one better by clearing out swaths of rainforest just for them and planting millions and millions of them and carefully tending and guarding and propagating them and taking them with us wherever we go. Lucky pineapples, not so lucky for the organisms that used to live on what are now pineapple plantations.
posted by Scientist at 11:12 PM on April 25, 2012


What you eat are cultivars. The flesh surrounding the stone of the wild ancestor of the cherry is barely thicker than a fingernail and is eye-wateringly tart. Whereas my neighbor's untended Queen Anne cherry tree has fruit approaching the size of plums and biting into one is like drinking a bottle of nectar. No, perhaps no wild animal can eat and scatter a modern pineapple, but its wild relatives will have seeds under the skin where birds and monkeys can end up eating them as they tear into the fruit.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:23 PM on April 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


My punk ass 13-year old kid says he wants to hi-five you for this wonderful post. Our tiny balcony will never be the same.
posted by ouke at 11:30 PM on April 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


What we eat are cultivars, but I'd be surprised if modern pineapple cultivars were more than a couple hundred years old. Meanwhile there've been humans in South America for tens of thousands of years. We don't eat pineapple seeds, but I'm sure humans have done many, many times. We used to poop in the woods a lot more often than we do now, as well.

I'm just saying that even if we don't really uphold our end of the food-for-dispersal bargain anymore with pineapples, we probably did do historically. And anyway we've given the pineapples something even better in modern times: the full backing of industrial agriculture.
posted by Scientist at 11:42 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


The link about carrot tops does not mention eating them and I have heard there alkaloids in them can cause issues, but the debate doesn't seem to be over yet.

Anyway, it is good to be aware.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:47 PM on April 25, 2012


I used to grow tomatoes on my apartment's balcony, using seeds that I got from inside supermarket tomatoes. Various of my fiends were surprised that this worked, and I was surprised by their surprise. How did they think the tomatoes from the supermarket were grown?
posted by baf at 11:54 PM on April 25, 2012


Twoleftfeet wrote: Did you know that many plants have evolved to become especially worth eating?

What's even more amazing is that weeds have evolved to mimic cultivated species, and have become useful crops in their own right! This is how rye and oats probably evolved: farmers collected a few weeds among the ears of wheat and barley they harvested. Farmers tried to avoid replanting the weeds but they inevitably left a few seeds behind - the ones with nice big seeds that looked like the original crop. The descendants of those seeds ultimately became rye and oats, with a useful genetic legacy of flourishing against all odds.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:28 AM on April 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I grew a plant from a ginger root once; easy to do, very attractive. But I found myself looking at this nice plant and thinking about what I could have cooked with the root. I suppose you could say I learned a kind of lesson about myself and my gut.
posted by Segundus at 12:46 AM on April 26, 2012


Carrot tops = happy rabbits.

If you have furry herbivores in your house (like me) this can be a great way to get pesticide-free greens for them to eat without going to the grocer's every other day. I've also started the seedlings for the summer garden (little round container carrots, wee!).
posted by Salmonberry at 12:48 AM on April 26, 2012


the fruit from replanted crowns is smaller and less commercially desirable

but I can personally attest to their deliciousness.
posted by flabdablet at 1:18 AM on April 26, 2012


Cool, except the celery in this house usually comes out of the fridge many weeks later in the form of sloppy soup in the bottom of a plastic bag.
posted by mattoxic at 2:03 AM on April 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


I find it amazing how these kind of things are surprising to people these days. Have we become so very separated from the actual source of our food that we do not know how they grow?

The problem is its actually quite difficult to grow enough to make the exercise particularly worthwhile and economical. And you need a lot of space, good soil, sunlight, good weather and its quite a bit of work and the yields can be poor.

I can see the celery in particular being useful as its something that you often just want a stick or two of for stock. And I have often grown various herbs and spices but even those can be difficult if you are away for a week or so.

On the GM foods issue - I believe you will find that quite a few GM foods are actually sterile and do not produce viable seeds or any seeds at all. I"d also be surprised if you could find a Organic Grower that used GM seed - as one of the key GM goals is engineering pesticide resistance in the foodstuff of interest. (and Organic Farmers do not use pesticides).
posted by mary8nne at 2:40 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Be right back. *raiding fresh spices, making seed incubator, wet paper towels, all set* 'K back.
posted by New England Cultist at 3:01 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find it amazing how these kind of things are surprising to people these days. Have we become so very separated from the actual source of our food that we do not know how they grow?

My parents always had a garden when I was growing up. My grandparents had an even better one. I walked past farmers' fields to get to school. I now live in a semi-rural area just down the road from some farm land. I've successfully grown various things in the past in my own little patch of dirt. Just saying, I'm not totally ignorant about such things. But it is still amazing and slightly startling to see the garlic I planted last fall sending its little green leaves up out of the soil.

It requires very little space, a few hours per year of work since I really just do the minimum, and I don't really care if the yields are poor compared to what I could possibly get if put in more effort. Very much worthwhile.
posted by sfenders at 4:04 AM on April 26, 2012


Burpee is not going to be happy.
posted by crunchland at 4:14 AM on April 26, 2012


The curious thing about apple seeds is that even if you take the seed from a really good apple, plant it, nurture the sapling for half a dozen years until it bears fruit, you simply won't get the same apple that you ate years before. The only way to get the same apple is to take a branch off the tree that it grew and graft it onto the roots of another tree. The majority of apple trees produce apples that are awful for eating, but great for making hard cider. That's what Johnny Appleseed was after when he planted all those apple seeds.
posted by crunchland at 4:22 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Botany of Desire.
posted by crunchland at 4:30 AM on April 26, 2012


Super excited about the lemongrass revelation--it's the ideal thing for me to grow 'cause when I need some I REALLY need some (certain dishes or cocktails where nothing else will do and the lemongrass is meant to be the highlight), but its availability here is super unreliable, which always drives me nuts. Thanks for the info!

Personally, I hate the way there are zone tradeoffs with what works and what doesn't--I can grow huge bushes of basil with my eyes closed, catnip, dill, and rosemary too, but I've tried 4 years in a row to do mints, parsley, and cilantro (would save me a ton of money 'cause I use huge bunches every week) and they never, ever work. Sometimes when I'm drifting off to sleep at night I fantasize about a magical place where I could grow all manner of mutually exclusive things--mangoes, cabbage, hot peppers, fennel...
posted by ifjuly at 4:43 AM on April 26, 2012


I have done quite a bit of growing plants from seeds or cuttings obtained from fruits/vegetables.
Another thing to do is to take a bag of beans such as lentils (probably about 99 cents) and use them to grow sprouts for your salads, sandwich, or other dishes
posted by 2manyusernames at 4:45 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


We have wild-grown cayennes sprouting up in a scrubby but sunbaked patch of ground in our front garden. Every year, a squirrel nips off a pepper thinking it's a tasty fruit. On discovering it isn't, the pepper's discarded nearby, where it seeds next year. And on it goes. Every year, I'm surprised and delighted that I'm surprised and delighted by this.

The wild peppers are a bit less fleshy than store-bought, and are packed with seeds. One can light up a pot of chilli; two can make it inedible.

My back lawn is almost entirely spearmint. Cutting clears the sinuses something wonderful.
posted by scruss at 4:46 AM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yes a GM seed, if it grew, would retain its GM characteristics.

Only if the plant was self-pollinating. Otherwise only half the seed's genetic material would be from the GM plant.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:58 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Considering the only plant we've managed to keep alive is a Christmas poinsetta, this doesn't seem that workable as these are all practical, normal, non-poisonous options. I would say it would be nice to have more garden stores around; I don't think the tiny local hardware store has the pots and soils really necessary for this kind of thing, and I don't remember seeing any seeds on display last year. Which is a shame, since many of the houses around here do have nice light and extra backyard space.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:06 AM on April 26, 2012


Cool, except the celery in this house usually comes out of the fridge many weeks later in the form of sloppy soup in the bottom of a plastic bag.

Wash the celery, shake off excess water, and wrap fairly tightly in two layers of aluminum foil before placing in the fridge. Will stay crunchy for weeks. I don't know why it works.

Great post. I have a habit of using the seeds I buy as spices, so it's always nice to have alternatives.
posted by j.edwards at 5:11 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find it amazing how these kind of things are surprising to people these days. Have we become so very separated from the actual source of our food that we do not know how they grow?

The surprise you see may be more of a combination of people thinking plants can only come from seeds, and thinking the supermarket produce may have seeds but that those seeds would be sterile. Or that the fruit or vegetable is, once picked, basically a dead thing (kind of like how hair is dead - you don't need a blood transfusion when you cut your hair, it's a detachable thing).

I mean, I'm garden-conversant, but the only plants I'd ever heard you could grow from cuttings (which is what a lot of these tricks really are) are inedible things like spider plant vines. The bok choi is going to come in very handy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:34 AM on April 26, 2012


I bought a chive plant many years ago. Transferred it to a slightly larger pot and left it on my back porch. Every year I would harvest it a bit at a time for yummy fresh chives and chive flowers (also yummy). Every winter it would seemingly die. Every spring it sprouts lush and healthy again. In that same small pot. I do nothing to fertilize it. It just refuses to die. I'm pretty sure that if I had planted it in my back yard instead the whole area would be chive plants by now.

Oh and...

MetaFilter: Those shouldn't, by the way, be worms
posted by Splunge at 5:59 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


This year we're growing corn, green beans, squash, cucumbers, peas, eggplants, carrots and beets, all from seeds/root stock of things we ate this winter. (Except corn, I got a handful of seed from the real farmer down the road.) And to be honest, there is wild carrot growing everywhere because of the wild bunnies, I only planted some so that maybe I would get a few. The mint I started last year has become jurassic and threatens to take over. I'm having real trouble with herbs for some reason though. We've also got pear trees, peach trees and pecan trees, but I think they're all too young to be fruitful this year.

And has anyone successfully gotten an avocado to sprout in the last 5-10 years? Because when I was a kid, every single one would sprout. But my son and I have tried dozens and dozens and dozens of them, and nary a one has even looked like it would sprout; which leads me to believe that avocados, at least the ones I have access to, even at the farmer's market, are sterile.
posted by dejah420 at 6:05 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


...but I've tried 4 years in a row to do mints, parsley, and cilantro (would save me a ton of money 'cause I use huge bunches every week) and they never, ever work.

Parsley and cilantro, like most lettuce and cabbages, are really cool weather plants. They'll do best in the spring and fall because as soon as the weather gets warm they'll bolt ( grow rapidly and start flowering, becoming spindly and useless to eat.)

Mints are essentially weeds, and are usually very hardy and easy to grow.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:09 AM on April 26, 2012


And has anyone successfully gotten an avocado to sprout in the last 5-10 years?

My mother, but then she can grow anything. We now as a result have an avocado plant that will one day probably take up most of the living room. Tragically, while I have no problem growing things outdoors, I have black thumb when it comes to anything indoors. I have killed Chia herbs, which the box assured me was near impossible.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:12 AM on April 26, 2012


grow rapidly and start flowering, becoming spindly and useless to eat.
Except that cilantro, if you let it bolt, will put out pretty white flowers which then dry up into coriander seeds - two herbs for the price of one, plus next season's cilantro seeds!

This discussion reminds me of friend who had an apple tree in her back yard. One day her father had a guest over so he picked a few apples for them. The other guy looked at him with mild disgust and said, "I won't eat that - that's a tree apple". They never did figure out where that person thought apples came from.
posted by Gortuk at 6:30 AM on April 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


I've got an avocado tree that I grew from a pit about three years ago, and an enormous pineapple plant that I grew from a pineapple top. Both supermarket buys, now lovely plants on my back porch. Actually, the pineapple plant is so large and the leaves so spiky that it's becoming a problem (in a few short months there'll be a toddler running through my house). It's rad, though.
posted by statolith at 6:39 AM on April 26, 2012


But a seed from any non-GM factory farm produce would be as organic as you wanted it to be.

This is not, strictly speaking, correct. Commercial use of the term "organic" is regulated by the USDA, which requires certification from one of a number of certifying bodies.

This certification requires, among other things, proof that only approved inputs have been applied to the growing medium. Think of the inputs required for proper organic growing as a white-list, not a black-list.

In general, an organic producer must use organic seeds if available. Seeds are an input. As are suckers or root stock. You don't just get to start with whatever inputs you want and then "grow them organically."

This is complicated by the terminology: there are a lot of growers and gardeners who use the term "organic" without certification to mean any number of things such as "no artificial pesticides" or "intensive pest management methods only". Some of these are practices that are grandfathered into the organic farming community from before the USDA took over the specification, but they really shouldn't use the term without present certification.

There are also a lot of practices that tend to go along with the use of organic inputs that have nothing to do, from a certification standpoint, with organic growing. If you're just growing for your own use, there's very little that the USDA can do to stop you using the term "organic" so it's perfectly fine of you to do so, but if you're using a cutting from a non-organic supermarket plant or a seed of unknown provenance, you are not, in the strict sense of the word, growing an organic plant.
posted by gauche at 6:39 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Three of my least favorite things, in no particular order, are getting dirty, working on my hands and knees, and sweating.

Not knowing that I could grow new celery from the base is not what has kept me from growing my own veggies.
posted by VTX at 6:40 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mints are essentially weeds, and are usually very hardy and easy to grow. -- And totally invasive. It's been my experience that you plant mint, and in only a couple years, you have mint EVERYWHERE. The same is true for lemon balm.
posted by crunchland at 6:41 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Parsley and cilantro, like most lettuce and cabbages, are really cool weather plants. They'll do best in the spring and fall because as soon as the weather gets warm they'll bolt ( grow rapidly and start flowering, becoming spindly and useless to eat.)

Mints are essentially weeds, and are usually very hardy and easy to grow.


Yeah, exactly--I live in an extremely hot, sunny, humid place where 10 months of the year it's over 80, often in the high 90s. So...yeah. Sadface.

And mint does great where my parents live (cool, relatively dark and dry); the weed thing is always joked about and it's always planted in containers to keep it from overthrowing the entire yard, but here it's a no go. Which is a huge bummer, because you want mint when it's hot which it always is here.
posted by ifjuly at 6:44 AM on April 26, 2012


Anyway, non-GMO and organic foods are two different things. They are not mutually exclusive, and indeed most organic foods (most food in general, nowadays, though this is changing) are non-GMO.

See my earlier comment about organic being a whitelist rather than a blacklist. I'm not aware of any GMO seeds or plants on the list of approved organic inputs.

This should come as little surprise considering the history of these two movements: the organic movement arose originally out of resistance to chemical pesticides and fertilizers. GMO seeds were created by pesticide companies to facilitate saturation of pesticide without harming the commercial crop. These two ends could not be more opposed.
posted by gauche at 6:46 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ifjuly, mint grows great in hot. Mint tea...from the south, doncha know. Mint juleps. I'm in prairie Texas...it's regularly 100 degrees here for months at a time, and we're in a 5+ year drought. The mint, is doing fine in an east facing yard, against a red brick wall. It's bloody hot, I can tell you.

That said; I know very few people who have successfully grown mint from seed, but if you get a cultivar at the local nursery that is designed for your area, you should be able to plant it, ignore it, and then beat it back with a whip when you need to harvest some. Remember, mint thrives on benign neglect. If you pay too much attention to it, it thinks it's an orchid and dies. ;)
posted by dejah420 at 6:50 AM on April 26, 2012


Commercial use of the term "organic" is regulated by the USDA,

No it is not.

Oh, you forgot to say, "in the USA". typical.
posted by wilful at 6:52 AM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sterility in plants is often just the result of hybridization, not necessarily GMO. GMO often involves forcefully changing a plant by introducing things that would not be possible naturally.

Hybridization involves crossing plant cultivars to exploit the advantages shown by each strain (resistance to viruses or pests, or fruit yield, etc.) Genetics are tricky, though - and the result is that the crossed-breed hybrid is either sterile or (more often) wants to revert in the next generation. Most hybrid vegetables will grow from seed, they just won't necessarily grow true.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:59 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, you forgot to say, "in the USA". typical.

Fair enough. My apologies.
posted by gauche at 7:11 AM on April 26, 2012


The idea is that you will eat the plant, then you will walk some distance away and poop the seeds on the ground, surrounded by the wonderfully nutrient-rich poop, and that plant species will be transported to a new host environment, using your poop and your legs.
Pineapple is native to South America. I can't think of any animal in South America that's big enough for this work.
Pineapples aren't even that impressive. It's a compound fruit, and the individual seeds are actually pretty small. Now imagine being big enough to swallow an avocado or a mango and poop out the whole pit.

No, seriously, imagine it! Scientists think that avocados and mangos co-evolved with giant Pleistocene mammals, who I guess had mouths and assholes that were big enough for that sort of thing.

Once we humans hunted the ground sloths into extinction, we started eating the avocados and mangos ourselves. Unlike other animals, we tended to pick a bunch of fruit and carry it around with us rather than just eating it right off the tree — and when we were done with the fruit we threw the pits into a trash heap, full of other organic trash like husks and bones and rinds which made it almost as fertile and nourishing as a gomphothere turd.

Eventually we got even smarter about it and started planting and fertilizing the pits deliberately, or spreading the trees by cutting and grafting. That's why there are still avocados and mangos today. But we should be grateful to all the Pleistocene megafauna who kept things going until we showed up.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:28 AM on April 26, 2012 [15 favorites]


> Ifjuly, mint grows great in hot. Mint tea...from the south, doncha know. Mint juleps. I'm in prairie Texas...it's regularly 100 degrees here for months at a time, and we're in a 5+ year drought. The mint, is doing fine in an east facing yard, against a red brick wall. It's bloody hot, I can tell you.

That said; I know very few people who have successfully grown mint from seed, but if you get a cultivar at the local nursery that is designed for your area, you should be able to plant it, ignore it, and then beat it back with a whip when you need to harvest some. Remember, mint thrives on benign neglect. If you pay too much attention to it, it thinks it's an orchid and dies. ;)


g'ah, what am i doing wrong?! trust me, i have overloved it, neglected it...each year i try something different. bizarre. does it like or dislike humidity? it's always really humid...blrm! and yeah, i've tried seeds a couple times but the rest of the attempts were all from local cultivars. dammit.

(tarragon never did well either, much to my dismay--i would love to have some growing for similar reasons as the lemongrass; when you need it, nothing else will do (so good!) and it's unreliable in shops here.)
posted by ifjuly at 7:44 AM on April 26, 2012


ifjuly:

Keep trying. Make sure that you water in your cuttings or seedlings well for the first week or so. You say you can grow catnip - which is a mint - so you should be able to coax at least some other mints.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:49 AM on April 26, 2012


I stuffed a garlic clove into a pot the other day, and it grew a foot in a week. Apparently they don't often grow new cloves indoors, but the shoots are like scallions.

You'll never replace the grocery store doing this stuff, but it's fun, and some things are much more efficient to harvest as you go.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:51 AM on April 26, 2012


Hey, wanna know what you can grow from grocery store poppy seeds?

Seriously, though, potatoes are the one thing really not worth growing from the grocery store: they're treated with something that retards the formation of eyes and roots so they can be on the shelf longer, and the supermarket varieties are terrifically prone to blight. A sack of seed potatoes for planting is not very expensive and will be more potatoes than you possibly need, plus you can get cool colors and fun varieties. (We grow purple and pink potatoes in the garden for fun and something different; supermarket varieties are so cheap it's not worth the garden space to replicate what the supermarket already does.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:11 AM on April 26, 2012


If you want to try the potatoes thing, here's a super-simple, lazy man's trick: buy a 3 cf bag of garden soil. Lay it flat on the ground. Cut two or three small "x"s in the face of the bag . Fold the flaps back so you can get to the soil, and insert your seed potatoes. Grow 'em right in the bag, the potatoes love the warmth. You have to monitor the moisture a little more carefully because the plastic isn't very porous, but at harvest time all you have to do is rip the bag open, grab the taters, and then recycle the soil in your garden or lawn.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:28 AM on April 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


Wish the potatoes here were treated. They tend to start sprouting 5 mins after getting them home (and yet I still buy seed potatoes, for the variety).

I'm currently growing them in (bought) potato bags, but if I'd seen this http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-the-Most-of-Your-Garden-Space-and-Grow/step2/Grow-up-with-a-potato-tower/ first then I'd probably have gone with that.

FWIW instructables.com is packed full of DIY gardening type hacks of varying quality, but enough good ones that I go through the RSS daily.
posted by titus-g at 8:42 AM on April 26, 2012


Scientists think that avocados and mangos co-evolved with giant Pleistocene mammals, who I guess had mouths and assholes that were big enough for that sort of thing.

Ditto the osage orange and the paw paw - Connie Barlow's The Ghosts of Evolution: Nonsensical Fruit, Missing Partners, and Other Ecological Anachronisms gives a good overview of seed dispersal by extinct megafauna.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:47 AM on April 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I've been told that whatever you do, don't try and grow potatoes in fertilized soil. You'll get great leaves, and no spuds.
posted by crunchland at 8:53 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of my proudest achievements as a small child was growing potato vines (from a spud suspended in a jar) that thrived to the point where they actually produced small potatoes.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:53 AM on April 26, 2012


Uh, Scientist? Not to be a hater, but not all humans eat poop. I respect your rights and predilections to do so however.
posted by princessmonster at 9:15 AM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you're interested in taking this to the next level, Seed to Seed is for you.
posted by OmieWise at 9:21 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


ifjuly try Texas tarragon, also known as Mexican Marigold, (Tagetes lucida) for a hot humid climate. Tastes almost like French tarragon but tolerates humidity.
posted by mightshould at 9:30 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Scientists think that avocados and mangos co-evolved with giant Pleistocene mammals, who I guess had mouths and assholes that were big enough for that sort of thing.

Metafilter: mouths and assholes big enough for that sort of thing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:36 AM on April 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


These ideas are fine if you're a beginning indoor gardener on a limited budget. With time you may desire the challenge of a more advanced gardening project:

bananas!
elbow macaroni!
popcorn!


You jest, but I'm growing some popcorn indoors right now. It's got a 250 watt HID grow light over it from the local hydroponics place. The electric bill alone has the cost-per-ear at about $45.

Inadvisable if you have pollen allergies, btw.
posted by pjaust at 9:43 AM on April 26, 2012


I love you all for your tips and gardener's insider secrets. I've had a couple neighbors through the years--always when I was little though, so their knowledge didn't help me then--who had the greenest thumbs, growing crazy shit that shouldn't have survived where and when it did, etc. Beautiful, delicious things. I'm excited to try that tarragon. Mmmm, tarragon.
posted by ifjuly at 9:46 AM on April 26, 2012


ifjuly: Mint has taken over our lawn in the backyard. We could use your expertise to get rid of it ;-)
posted by howling fantods at 10:04 AM on April 26, 2012


don't try and grow potatoes in fertilized soil

It's more a case of not continuing to fertilise them after they start flowering, or thereabouts. Also use a fertilizer with a high phosphorus to nitrogen ratio.

With the grow bag (or any tower method, such as stacking old car tyres) because you are layering them up as they reach the light you can fertilise every couple of layers to get it spread through: as per vid here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3zoVolI-Sw.

Tomatoes (and others) don't really benefit from feeding late into the season either, as they need to be hungry to trigger the fruiting.
posted by titus-g at 10:15 AM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's been my experience that you plant mint, and in only a couple years, you have mint EVERYWHERE. The same is true for lemon balm.

Lemon balm is in the mint family, that's why. So are oregano and marjoram, the latter of which especially can get invasive. Mints are easy to identify: They have square stems.

Re: nectarines: Not only that, but in looking near the base of the tree recently I'm sure I spotted another small sapling growing - presumably produced from a stone of a fruit which fell on the ground and germinated.

chris88, you might want to check if that's a sucker.
posted by jocelmeow at 10:21 AM on April 26, 2012


You jest, but I'm growing some popcorn indoors right now.

To be sure: did you pop the kernels first?
posted by Nomyte at 11:58 AM on April 26, 2012


On growing potatoes or anything you bought from a grocery. Grocery stores are not required to sell you disease-free produce (plant disease not human), so be careful or you might introduce a problem into your garden that is normally treated with a commercial fungicide or herbicide. Nurseries are required to sell seed and start that are disease-free.

You could use a grocery-bought potato from the store, but I find the joy in gardening is to seek out varieties grocery stores don't offer. Why grow roma or beefsteak when you get 4000 amazing tomatoes you've never tasted?

On getting a potato to spring forth, a grow bag or deep container is recommended. Get a potato with several eyes forming and cut that it into pieces leaving ideally 3 eyes per piece. Spray or rub sulfur-based fungicide on the cut edge and let it dry for a day or two. Put the pieces in a ditch in the ground or grow bag cut side down, in soil with good drainage. As the sprout comes, bury it, and keep at it till you're at ground level or the bag is now full. Harvest when the flower dies. Do not eat potatoes that have been in the ground too long and get a green tinge. For long term storage of potatoes, see this.

DO NOT PLANT POTATOES IN AN AREA THAT YOU WANT TO ROTATE CROPS WITH. Once a potato has grown in a spot, it leeches chemicals into the soil that prevent anything from growing there. Also, unless you sift the dirt and remove every tuber, it will continue to sprout year after year. That area is now Potato Country.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:55 PM on April 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


No such luck with damn, fickle basil.

We've got about 30 big bushy basil plants lining the driveway. Every time I come home, I think to myself "mmm, I need to boil up some linguine".
posted by Meatbomb at 3:10 PM on April 26, 2012


What about rosemary? I have this giant rosemary plant in my backyard that no amount of neglect has been able to destroy. I would love to share my bounty. What's the best way to make sure that the recipient can get a usable plant out of it?
posted by Night_owl at 3:42 PM on April 26, 2012


Well, you could make cuttings.
posted by crunchland at 3:54 PM on April 26, 2012


Gortuk writes "The other guy looked at him with mild disgust and said, 'I won't eat that - that's a tree apple'. They never did figure out where that person thought apples came from."

One of my cousins-in-law is like this: won't eat anything out of a garden because it's "dirty". It's completely loony.

MiltonRandKalman writes "DO NOT PLANT POTATOES IN AN AREA THAT YOU WANT TO ROTATE CROPS WITH. Once a potato has grown in a spot, it leeches chemicals into the soil that prevent anything from growing there. "

Many crop rotation schemes use potatoes as one of their crops. You don't want to follow it or have it follow tomatoes (same plant family) but otherwise their isn't any need to dedicate garden space to potatoes. Any little potatoes left in the soil will indeed spout but it isn't any different than any other weed at that point.
posted by Mitheral at 5:24 PM on April 26, 2012


Night_owl, cuttings from rosemary are quite easy to do. I grab a bunch of just woody stick and chuck them in some quite wet soil and it mostly works, but the failsafe way to do it is to grab a low hanging branch from the bush, and try to bury it on an adjacent patch of dirt (keeping it attached to the mother bush). In a month or two new roots will start to grow from the buried branch, you can then hive it off into a pot for friends.
posted by wilful at 5:45 PM on April 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


MiltonrandKalman, what?

My parents grow potatoes each year, and rotate them with tomatoes. They do just fine.
posted by LN at 7:14 PM on April 26, 2012


I don't know anything about potatoes leaching chemicals either, and they can be rotated. however it is true that you should move your solanaceae around every year to avoid diseases. Some people get away with it and never worry about it of course.
posted by wilful at 7:39 PM on April 26, 2012


According to this, rotating potatoes with other crops works just fine. Except not tomatoes, because they're both part of the same family (Solanaceae), as are peppers and eggplants. So if you try to grow any of the others after you grow potatoes in a particular spot without adding fertilizer, you might see lower yields.
posted by crunchland at 7:42 PM on April 26, 2012


wilful: "I don't know anything about potatoes leaching chemicals either, and they can be rotated. however it is true that you should move your solanaceae around every year to avoid diseases. Some people get away with it and never worry about it of course."

This. Fungal diseases mainly, many of which are common across the Solanaceae. I understand, though, that for some reason it's much less of a problem in warmer areas with dry winters and grow potatoes as a summer crop and tomatoes as a winter crop, rather than vice-versa.
posted by Pinback at 8:19 PM on April 26, 2012


I've tried 4 years in a row to do mints, parsley, and cilantro (would save me a ton of money 'cause I use huge bunches every week) and they never, ever work.

Try growing the cilantro and parsley in hanging baskets under the eaves of your house out of the sun. Use plastic pots or line moss or peat ones with plastic to retain water. Lettuce also grows great this way and no slugs!
posted by fshgrl at 11:44 PM on April 26, 2012


Bummer I just planted the potatoes in the tomato bed from last year on the allotment. I'll have to switch them around a bit for next year. I did fertilize the bed with a good load of manure so maybe they wont be that bad off.
posted by koolkat at 2:01 AM on April 27, 2012


Regarding the poppy seeds, this is one hell of a good read.
posted by lordaych at 8:53 PM on April 27, 2012


But don't read it if you live in the US and want to grow poppies from grocery seeds (or most any seeds as far as that goes).
posted by Mitheral at 9:58 PM on April 28, 2012


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