When beets, carrots, turnips, and other crops are placed in water, they sprout green shoots. Those leafy tops can be eaten. And it's possible to completely regrow some vegetables. For example, celery will regrow into full stalks, if properly nurtured. Given time, bok choy, romaine lettuce, green onions, fennel, and leeks eventually regrow to full size as well.

Important Info

First, there are a few things to keep in mind:

You must keep the scraps away from a direct heat source or they will cook instead of grow.

The taste of regrown vegetables will be milder than fresh vegetables.

Not everything will sprout. If there's no sign of life after a week, discard it.

The bottoms may become slimy. It's a little yucky, but it's normal.

colorful vegetable display

Which Scraps to Regrow

If you’re wondering which end of the vegetable to put in water and which to toss into the composter, here are some helpful guidelines. There are many other vegetable scraps you can grow as well, but some may take longer.

Grow These Tops:

Carrots

Beets

Turnips

Radishes

Daikon

Cut off about 1 inch of the top and put in water, but do not submerge.

regrowing bok choy

Grow These Roots:

Green onions

Garlic

Fennel

Celery

Romaine lettuce

Bok Choy

Leeks

Onions

Lemongrass

Cut 1-3 inches off the bottom. Place in shallow water with cut side down, leaf end up. If the scrap still has a fresh, wet cut, let it dry at room temperature overnight before putting into water. Greens should appear soon.

A few of these, like fennel and celery, can be transplanted to the garden once the threat of freezing weather has passed.

vegetable scraps growing on a windowsill

Bulb Vegetables

Bulb and bulb-like veggies root easily by following steps similar to those for rooting leafy vegetable tops.

For green onions, leeks, fennel, and lemongrass, cut 1 inch off the end with the roots. Place in shallow water. Be sure the water covers the roots, but not the top. Keep the water fresh.

All onions sprout easily and are one of the easiest vegetables to regrow from scraps. Suspend an onion bottom that has some roots over a jar of water until more roots form. Or let the bottom dry a little and plant directly in soil. Place in a sunny spot for a few weeks. Keep the soil evenly moist but not wet. When the soil feels dry about an inch down, water again.

Even if you don't have a lot of room, you can regrow from scraps you would normally compost or throw away. It saves money and is good for the environment. Plus, it’s a great project for children.

What You Will Need

  1. Containers to hold water for rooting
  2. Pots with drainage holes
  3. Trays or plates to go under the pots
  4. Good potting soil
  5. Sunny window, or grow lights located in a warm place

Determine how much space you have, and plant accordingly. You might be able to locate some of your pots on a nearby patio or deck.

Scrap gardening is a fun and educational project for children, especially during the winter months.

various vegetable scraps growing

A Word About Plastic vs. Glass Containers

Its long been known that infinitesimal bits of plastic get into our food from containers through what is known as leaching, or migration. The chemical industry has acknowledged this can't be avoided and virtually all food packaging materials contain substances that can migrate into the food they contact.

The amounts are small, but almost any plastic container can be expected to leach trace amounts of plastics. There's no right or wrong choice. Personally, I use both.

Look For These Codes Which Are Considered Safer: #2 HDPE, #4 LDPE, and #5 PP

Examples of #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene) include: bottled milk, water and juice, yogurt cups, and some plastic bags.

Examples of #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene): bags for bread, frozen foods and fresh produce, PVC-free consumer cling wraps, resealable zipper bags and some bottles.

Examples of #5 PP (polypropylene): food storage containers, deli soup, yogurt containers, straws and other clouded plastic containers, including baby bottles.

Go PVC-free

PVC (polyvinyl chloride, #3), commonly called vinyl, is a soft, flexible plastic found in building materials and consumer products such as shower curtains, toys, and packaging. PVC typically contains hazardous additives like phthalates, and releases these chemicals throughout its lifespan. You can find safer alternatives to PVC for virtually all uses.

Avoid polycarbonate (PC #7) to avoid bisphenol-A (BPA)

Polycarbonate is a clear hard plastic used in some reusable water bottles, baby bottles, commercial water jugs, and kitchen appliances like automatic coffee makers and food processors. Instead, choose glass or unlined stainless steel for drink containers. Look for appliances that don’t have plastic in food contact areas, such as French press coffee makers, stainless steel stick blenders, or glass jar blenders.

**The United States Government has tested and declared polycarbonate to be safe.**

Polystyrene (PS #6).

Found in styrofoam food trays, disposable cups and bowls, carry-out containers, and opaque plastic cutlery, polystyrene can leach styrene, a known neurotoxin.

Using plastic containers releases very small amounts of plastic. Glass does not leach.

happy child with a plant

(Sources: WebMD; Missouri Botanical Gardens; Simple Bites; homesciencetools.com