Veggies from Scrap
June 11, 2020 11:41 AM   Subscribe

How to Grow Vegetables from Kitchen Scraps. Spring onions, bok choy, celery and other vegetables can be grown from scraps in just a little water. In soil you can grow carrots, potatoes, turnips, beets, bok choy, cabbages....
posted by storybored (24 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
We've been keeping some spring onions in water at home and the tops grow so fast! Measurable growth in a day. For fun we also took the top off a pineapple and have started growing that. Nothing was happening for so long and then all of a sudden so many roots grew. We haven't moved on to putting it in soil yet but I don't know if we're going to go that far with it.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:54 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

On one hand, I'd love to be able to do this. On the other hand, all brown thumbs...
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:57 AM on June 11

I have a very casual composting setup in my backyard, and every year one of the beds gets the half-formed compost mixed into the soil. It's probably not the most efficient way of gardening, but I always have fun seeing what volunteer veggies show up in the plot that year. A lot of winter squash, some tomatoes, and apparently I have a run of potatoes growing in one bed.

Other plants I've grown:
sprouted onions (one onion becomes 4!)
sprouted potatoes
sunchokes (cut up like potatoes)
bok choy (once)

I also let my lettuce go to seed, in the hopes that they'll sprout a fall crop. I've had one kale plant and one lettuce plant last through the winter, and it's fun to see the life cycle continue. I am also amazed how well the compost squash seeds seem to sprout in the spring compared to the ones I plant. I don't know if it's because they've been primed in the compost, if the soil moisture is better, or if 90% of the seeds rot, and there are just many more seeds than I plant. But compost squash plants always seem happier!
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 11:57 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]

I am currently growing a little ginger nublet in a pot.

In other news, my father successfully cultivated potatoes from peels in a bedding of excess maple leaves. Nary a one was bigger than a golf ball, but he technically did it.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 12:16 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Lettuces, chard and such are still edible when they start to "bolt" or flower, but the leaves start getting more and more bitter. At some point, unpleasantly bitter! Still, it's fun and you can eat them.

My brother in law gifted us with a container of various lettuces and greens last spring. I didn't have high hopes for this as they only got half-day sun. But with just me and my wife eating them, we got a surprising amount of use out of them. Couple lettuce leaves here and there for a burger or chicken sandwich, a few leaves of chard or whatever mixed into grocery store greens, etc. The homegrown stuff has FAR more flavor than grocery store lettuce. Yes, there is indeed an actual FLAVOR to lettuce that is home grown, and even adding some to typical grocery store stuff does add a lot of flavor to otherwise humdrum salads.

We share a garden with our neighbors. They have little kids and the parents are semi-hippie types, so they grow various tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers. We all end up with some eventually. I'm just gonna flat out say I'm a better gardener than them, though. They often choose various heirloom and weirdo variety plants ...and with our short growing season (oh, Chicago) most tomatoes end up wasted as hard and green by the end of the summer/early fall. I finally convinced them to try some "Early Girl" tomato varieties this year and they went for it. So hopefully our produce garden is more usable by the time August - September rolls around.

They do it as a project with their little kids and I love that they do this (they are awesome people and parents) but trying to grow "ground cherries" and tomatoes that require a long-ass season to ripen kind of kills the end result of the idea.

Remember: heirloom vegetables aren't always the best choices depending on where you live. You should still choose varieties that are organically grown but have been bred for your local climate. There are some legitimate reasons why many the "heirloom" veggies went out of favor. If you spend months caring for them but can never eat them, the cool/wrinkled/weird purple/yellow tomatoes aren't any good to anyone if they never ripen.

The neighbors do get us lots of cucumbers and some tomatoes as well as herbs! So I'm happy they do it and I'm happy to help out! Meanwhile, I'm the guy growing more ornamental things, flowers and perennials and indigenous flora. I grew up gardening, and have been a plant-head my whole life and I LOVE having a yard and garden again.
posted by SoberHighland at 12:49 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Potatoes are extremely easy to grow in my experience. But they take a lot of space, need to be harvested carefully. And in my experience... homegrown potatoes aren't markedly "better" than store-bought. It makes for a fun project though for kids, and the plants look pretty neat.

I've never had good luck growing sweet peppers. It seems, based on my trials and errors, that the hotter the pepper, the easier it is to grow a lot of them. Cucumbers are very easy to grow, though they are susceptible to cucumber beetles and verticillium wilt, which not only hurts the plants and the yield of cucumbers... but it also makes the plants look really, really ugly. You can just grow them up a chain link fence even. They shoot out little tendrils that will grip on and tightly wind around. It's neat to see.

Radishes are neat and fun to grow from seed in containers. And home-grown radishes are HOT and very, very flavorful. If you have 6 hours of sun, you can easily grow them on a balcony even, and you can plant them in waves and harvest them in waves. They prefer the cooler weather, so peak summer is tough on them. But you can keep growing them even into light frost. And you can eat the green parts of radishes like salad greens. Hot and tasty.

Garlic is easy to grow. You just have to buy organic heads of garlic from a farmer's market. Grocery store garlic is treated with a hormone powder that prevents the heads from sprouting and keeps them fresher for longer term storage. Anyway, you can split the head into individual bulbs then poke them a few inches into light soil. If you do it in May-June, you'll end up in several months with a giant head of garlic from each little bulb! Downside is these won't be treated with the hormones, so you gotta take them out, cut off the green pars and roots, then dry the in a cool place. You'll have tons of garlic that won't last super-long (no hormone powder), but they're fun to give away to friends and family.
posted by SoberHighland at 1:09 PM on June 11

Updated your PC Optimum offers, did you storybored? (Without looking at it, I presume it's the same video that was part of today's "load your offer" message.)
posted by sardonyx at 1:11 PM on June 11

I've found that TJ's garlic sprouts super early, so they're candidates for garden planting. Plant them in the fall and you can get them in the spring/early summer. I have garlic and a replanted onion set curing right now.

Also, the hybrid plants shouldn't sprout, but heirlooms from local farms will produce plants appropriate for the region, as long as you don't mind the interesting hybrid results (my garden is just to supplement our summer CSA)
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 2:09 PM on June 11

I don't trust this. The new leaves have to come from a source of energy. This can be sun, or stored energy.

For something like a potato, I think it's transforming the potato energy into leaf energy. If you'd rather eat leaves over taters, I guess that works.

But for onions and lettuce, when I have tried this in the past, it doesn't work. It makes a single limp effort. I believe the leaf is the result of the energy in the root trying desperately to make enough photosynthesizing leaves to survive. But, there's just not enough energy down there to make a fully happy new one. You can see that in her video - even after a month, the green onions are hollow and limp.
posted by rebent at 2:54 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]

If you decide to eat parts of the plant that you normally don’t eat, do a quick Google to see if they’re safe. You shouldn’t eat any part of a potato plant other than the tubers, for example.
posted by Anne Neville at 3:31 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]

We have some green onions regrowing in a cup of water on our windowsill right now. I thought it couldn’t possibly work because it seems too much like getting something for nothing. But it did work. I’ve planted a few in the garden, we’ll see how they do (it should be said that I’m not very good at gardening).
posted by Anne Neville at 3:34 PM on June 11

I buried a viviparous tomato with EXTREME PREJUDICE a few weeks ago, and now I have a pot with many little tomato plants. I doubt they'll come to much, but I'm enjoying the combination of horror and wonder that I feel whenever I tend all its little babies.
posted by Westringia F. at 3:37 PM on June 11

(We've rooted the store-bought basil, too, so now I only need to figure out how to grow mozzarella from leftover pizza and we will be set for scrap caprese!)
posted by Westringia F. at 3:42 PM on June 11 [11 favorites]

As far as I know, if you do this with a carrot, you will get carrot greens but not a new carrot. The greens may flower and produce seeds, which you could then plant for new carrots.
posted by TheClonusHorror at 4:06 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Saving and planting seeds can be fun but the results can be... unpredictable. A friend raised a "pumpccini," resulting from a cross between pumpkin and zucchini. Who knows what your plants are getting up to, right? It was interesting but not particularly promising to eat.

The tomato crosses were generally OK, but usually not as good as their parents.
posted by sjswitzer at 4:10 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

I don't trust this
I mean it’s not super highly productive but it is productive. You are right that some use stored resources, but sunlight and water go a long way too. Photosynthesis is semi-magical. My several leaves of re-sprouted lettuce may not have that many more calories than the stump I started from, but I can tell you which is tastier and more pleasant to eat ;)
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:33 PM on June 11

Plus one for accidental compost growing. Right now I have potatoes and tomatoes from buried compost. I have really bad soil and am a bad gardner who rents, so I thought I'd bury the compost all over the garden do enrich the place, and the result are plants that are vigurous and luxuriant, though we'll see if they produce anything. I especially like the potatoes - they are flowering at the moment and look like grand dames lording it over the garden with their rich foliage.

Sadly, we are having a bad year for aphids and snails, so the glory might be short-lived.

SoberHighland, we use green tomatoes to make delicious sour pickles. You wash them well, arrange them in a big (like more than 2 litres) glass jar together with other veggies (depending on preferences: horseradish slices, carrot slices, chilli peppers, garlic, celeriac, dill stalks, thyme, cellery leaves), then cover with hot boiled salt water (20 g of salt per liter of water; boil for 5 mins and then cool slightly from boiling point), let settle for a while and then top up as needed - the water needs to cover the veggies. Cover, leave to stand for 24 hours, then add 1 tablespoon of vinegar per liter of water to the jar (don't remove the foam that might form on top). Seal hermetically and move to the pantry/ a cool dark place. 4-6 weeks later, you have delicious sour pickles.

Make sure the tomatoes are rock hard and unbruised.

Here's a picture.
posted by doggod at 5:39 PM on June 11 [7 favorites]

Who knows what your plants are getting up to, right?
This is the distinction between heirloom varieties that breed true, and hybrids for which the F2 generations are wildly unpredictable. Growing seeds from my purple Cherokee tomatoes works fine, growing seed from the ‘sun sugar’ hybrid cherry tomatoes is a total crap shoot.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:43 PM on June 11

Updated your PC Optimum offers, did you storybored? (Without looking at it, I presume it's the same video that was part of today's "load your offer" message.)

lol, sardonyx! I did update my PC Optimum offers but it's not that video. The PC Optimum video was pretty good but the FPP video shows the results you can expect after n days which I liked!. Props though to PC Optimum for pointing me there in the first place. I plead guilty for stealing their headline. :)
posted by storybored at 5:53 PM on June 11 [1 favorite]

I have a hybrid compost seed story. SOme years ago now I noticed that we had a pumpkin vine growing from our compost bins and let it grow. It grew so vigorously that it covered my entire back yard and began colonising the wooden fence pretty much as you watched it. So far so good. Then it started growing pumpkins, but nothing that I'd seen before - it appeared to be a cross between a Kent and a Butternut squash. My god. It kept making pumpkins and we kept finding them. And then they all started ripening. Huge giant pumpkins that wouldn't stop growing. I gave them away to friends. I gave them away to neighbours. My mother's craft group. I made liters upon liters of pumpkin soup. I froze roasted pumpkin. It was never ending. My family would run in terror when I showed up with yet another monstrosity, begging for them to take it off my hands.

That one single pumpkin vine produced monsters. The smallest was 9 kilos. The largest was 15. In total, I estimate we had more than 110kgs of pumpkins from that thing. The seeds were sterile, which was probably just as well, because it took me two years to clear my freezer and I haven't looked at pumpkin soup in quite the same way for years.

I had another slightly out-of-season volunteer this year, but the frost killed the plant last week with only one, small, normal-looking Kent as a result. The garden is safe once more. I can sleep again....
posted by ninazer0 at 11:53 PM on June 11 [9 favorites]

rebent, did you watch the whole video? The water-soaked scraps mostly produced roots for re-potting, or flower stalks for re-planting. I don't think the presenter was trying to say you could just turn half an onion into a whole edible one, or anything. It was just about kick-starting a vegetable garden from leftovers.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 4:01 AM on June 12

I too have a bunch of spring onions in a glass of water by the sink; I change the water & rinse the glass every couple of days. As long as I leave at least 1 growing leaf on each onion, they keep growing. (The first onion, where I cut off both its leaves, is also growing back, but more slowly).

As a household-of-one, the growth rate more or less matches the amount I use. And it's really nice to be able to just cut up a spring onion leaf into scrambled eggs or salad or whatever.
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:27 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]

Thanks for this. Unfortunately, I have no yard or garden to transfer plants to, but I should be able to grow herbs in my kitchen, so I'll hunt for videos on how to do that. I have the worst time with herbs. The amount sold at the stores is usually too much for me to eat before the rest is no good, so I don't buy them. If I can grow them, I can just pick as I need and not waste money or food.
posted by droplet at 12:38 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

I put the leftover napa cabbage in some water as a nice decoration. It grows a few leafy greens and then sprouts some beautiful yellow flowers. Lasts a couple of weeks, after that, the whole plant starts to wilt. But, it's nice display while it lasts.

This is the distinction between heirloom varieties that breed true, and hybrids for which the F2 generations are wildly unpredictable.

I think really serious gardeners will save seeds from the best produce each year, until they end up with a variety that is optimized for their particular garden and tastes. That's a lot of dedication, though. Personally, I can never seem to grow tomatoes at all, and the few times I did, bunnies and squirrels ate them before I could. :(
posted by Stargazey at 6:56 AM on June 14 [1 favorite]

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