In the depths of winter, it is easy to get the gardening itch. An easy and inexpensive way to get your green thumb busy is by starting a windowsill garden from kitchen scraps.
If you are like most of us, you tend to throw away a lot of vegetable waste. Whether it is the top of a carrot, the eye of a potato or the heart of a head of lettuce, there is potential for a garden there. Most vegetables are easy to re-grow, and many don’t even require dirt to get them started. Plus, you get the satisfaction of doing the ultimate recycling – growing food from food scraps.
Vegetables have an amazing ability to regenerate, and you can grow and re-grow many fresh vegetables – often with as little as a glass of water. You may already know about re-growing carrot tops, but did you know about re-growing celery and onions? Here is a list of vegetables that are easy to re-grow right on your kitchen windowsill.
Lettuce and Cabbage– The next time you prepare a head of lettuce or cabbage for a salad or stew, don’t toss the heart in the trash. Instead, place it in a dish filled with about a half-inch of water and set on a sunny windowsill. Replace the water every day or two.
After a few days, you will see new leaves sprouting. You can harvest the leaves for eating when they are large enough. Then, they will regenerate again.
Green Onions Scallions, Leeks and Fennel – You can place the white root base of these vegetables in just enough water to cover the bulb and then place it on a sunny windowsill.
Be sure to replace the water every few days, as it will get foul smelling. In about a week, you should see some new growth. You can transfer these plants to your outdoor garden in the spring, if you would like.
Onions -- Regular onions are easy to regrow. Place the bottom root section in a cup of water on a sunny windowsill. Once it has grown back, you can transfer the plant to a large pot of soil, or, if it is warm enough, to your outdoor garden.
Garlic – You can grow a new garlic plant from just one garlic clove. Simply plant the clove with its root end down in a pot of soil and place it in direct sunlight. Another option is to plant an entire garlic head that has started sprouting in a pot with the shoots above soil level. As it grows, the garlic plant will develop small flowers.
Ginger –To re-generate the root of the ginger plant – the part you use in recipes – simply take a fresh section and partially submerge it in soil. Be sure that the root’s nubbins are pointed upward or at least to the side. Keep the soil moderately moist, and the root will begin growing within about 10 to 15 days. This attractive plant prefers indirect sunlight. When you want more ginger, pull up the plant, harvest some of its root. Then repeat the above process.
Celery -- Celery is an easy, but slow, vegetable to regrow. After cutting off the base at about an inch or two, place it in a jar of water. Replace the water frequently and place the jar where it can get sunlight. Be patient as tiny sprouts begin to appear. After several weeks, you will start seeing substantial growth.
Bean Sprouts – Soak any leftover dry beans overnight. Then spread them out on paper towels to dry before repeating the process for a few days. Soon, you will see sprouts appear. When the sprouts are large enough, you may use them on your sandwiches and salads. Store leftover sprouts in the refrigerator.
Potatoes – As you might expect, potatoes will not stay long as a windowsill plant. However, you can get them started for spring transplanting. When a potato begins to grow eyes, cut it into small pieces with one or two eyes on each piece. Let these sections sit out at room temperature for a minimum of 24 hours to allow the cuts to dry and heal over. Then plant the sections (with the eyes facing up) about eight inches deep in a large pot filled with soil. As the sprouts emerge, add about four more inches of soil to the pot.
Re-growing vegetables takes some trial and error. You will have the best results if you use fresh scraps, replace water frequently and place them in a windowsill that gets a lot of sunlight.
Additionally, some plants are sensitive to municipal water that has been chlorinated or fluoridated. If you are not having any luck with re-growing your kitchen scraps, consider using distilled water. Also, if your plants are not thriving, they may not be getting enough light. Try grow lights.
A final note – kids love this project, so be sure to get them involved. Good luck!