4 Ways To Regrow Produce From the Grocery Store
Did you know you can regrow old fruits and vegetables? Here’s how to start your garden.
Before you throw that chunky lettuce stem in the trash, think about how much food waste ends up in American landfills. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, “Food is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills.” But most fruit and vegetable scraps can actually be regrown. “You can grow green onions, celery, romaine lettuce, garlic, ginger, potatoes, herbs, and mushrooms, all from items you’ve bought at the grocery store,” says Emilly Barbosa Fernandes, a small-space gardener from California and a consultant at HouseGrail.
To learn how to regrow food from your produce, start up a small garden, and reduce food waste overall, consider these tips.
1Keep Your Expectations Low
Regrowing your own food is sometimes more about the fun and experimentation than yielding a whole crop in your apartment. “Depending on what you grow, indoor regrowing may never produce much more than some garnishes or small amounts of new edibles,” explains Melissa J. Will, blogger at the Empress of Dirt. “The bigger purpose is having fun with experimental gardening while reducing food waste. Plus, it’s a great way to better understand how plants grow.
She also notes that the parts used to regrow certain fruits and vegetables are all generally edible but may regrow in new ways. Garlic and shallots, for example, “produce edible leaves only, not bulbs as they do outdoors.” Still tasty, just different.
2Familiarize Yourself With Parts of the Plant
Not all produce can be regrown. Knowing which parts can be used versus which should be composted can help kick-start your garden. “Regrowing vegetables can involve seeds, roots, stems, or leaves that we may grow in water or soil, depending on what works best for the plant,” says Will. Before just dropping some seeds on the ground a la Johnny Appleseed, research the proper propagation requirements for the kind of food you’re looking to regrow.
3Save the Scraps
Some vegetables can be easily regrown using parts of foods you don’t eat or use. Examples include the bottoms of green onions, or the “butt” of the celery where all the stalks are connected. “Simply place them in water until they root,” Fernandes suggests.
A bowl of water is a good starter, and once the roots begin to grow, you can replant them in larger pots or in the ground. “Ginger and garlic can be planted in the ground once the root starts to appear,” she tells CircleAround. “Potatoes are the simplest: Once the white root starts to appear, cut them in half then plant them.”
Seeds and pits from lemons, apples, cherries, and other similar foods can also be used to grow new produce, but each kind of fruit or vegetable has its own regrowth process. Apple seeds, for example, need to have their hard coating sanded down but not completely removed. On the other hand, lemon seeds need to have their coating completely removed.
4Create Mini Greenhouses
Seeds need moisture to germinate. Most can be wrapped in a wet paper towel, placed in a container with a lid, and stored in a cool, dry place until they’ve sprouted. Once you replant them, cover the seedlings with a plastic or glass “house” to help keep them moist and warm. You can easily use an old water bottle by cutting off the top so you’re left with a tube, a glass jelly jar, or a large gallon jug with the top also cut off. Just make sure whatever you use is transparent enough that the seeds get much-needed light to kick photosynthesis into gear.
“Make sure you plant in soil that's rich with organic matter or use a good quality fertilizer,” Fernandes adds. She also notes that the growing conditions will be different for each fruit or vegetable.
“Some need to be planted close to the surface, some need full light, and others aren't picky,” she says. “Make sure to use plant support for ones that need it. Make sure they have plenty of water, and weeds are kept under control.”
The Bottom Line
You can easily reduce food waste by regrowing plants from produce you don’t eat. Next time you’re at the grocery store, you’ll feel better about what you buy, knowing no part of your produce will go to waste.