Growing Food from Scraps for Winter

Near the end of the growing season, we wish we could eat fresh food all year. Our gardens will die back, and farmers’ markets will close. But the good news is – we can eat fresh into winter!

No matter how little room you have, you can grow from the scraps you compost or <gasp> throw it away. If you grow from scraps, you will save money, eat locally, and recycle. Plus it’s a great project for kids. Smithsonian Gardens has created a project curriculum called Don’t Pitch It, Plant It!.

You’ll need:

  • containers that hold water for rooting
  • pots with drainage holes
  • trays or plates to put under them
  • high quality potting soils
  • sunny windows or grow lights in a warm place.

Determine how much space you have, and plant accordingly. You may be able to put some of your plants into the garden next year, too.

So go ahead and experiment with these this winter!

 

man gardening inside

Head lettuce, cabbage, celery, and other greens

 

Any lettuce with a butt end is suitable to regrow. Green leaf, red leaf, butter crunch, iceberg, and romaine will put out roots from the end. When you process a head of lettuce, save one to two inches from the end. Place it in a shallow container of water without covering the top. Check it every day and don’t let it dry out.

Greens will grow from the top. When you see roots, transfer it to a quart or gallon nursery pot filled with soil. Don’t bury the top where the new growth is. Water it in well, and place in a sunny window or in bright light. Consider putting several in one large pot for bigger harvests of baby greens. Do the same with Asian greens, such as bok choi.

Cut off and plant the butt end of a cabbage. You will get small tender leaves for stir fries or adding to soups and stews. Cut two inches off the end of a head of celery. Harvest the new leaves for seasoning. Move your plants into pots when they have new roots.

 

Green onions

 

Cut off two inches of the root ends from a bunch of green onions (scallions). Place them upright in a container of water and new shoots will soon grow from the top. When there are new roots, plant them closely together in potting soil, and place in a bright or sunny area. Cut and use the greens as soon as they are a useable size.

 

Garlic

 

Use garlic you have grown or buy bulbs with the roots intact on the bottom. Separate the bulb into cloves. Prepare a pot of soil and plant the cloves with the point up about one inch apart and one inch deep. Water in well. You will not get bulbs, but you can use the greens anywhere you would use garlic.

 

Sprouted head garlic and lobules on wooden gray table beige background

Ginger

 

Ginger needs hot weather to grow outdoors, which makes it suitable for container-growing inside. Be sure to give your plant enough sunlight and heat. The pot can be moved outside in summer.

When you use fresh ginger, save the end of the rhizome with the growing buds on it. Soak it overnight, then plant with the buds facing up, in a wide, shallow pot. Cover the root with about one inch of soil, and water it in. There will be shoots in a couple of weeks, and you will get your first harvest in a few months. Here are detailed instructions for growing ginger.

Basil

 

Basil can be propagated from stem cuttings. Cut three to four inches from the tips of healthy basil branches, strip the bottom most leaves, and put them in water. When the roots are a few inches long, transplant into soil. Keep moist and out of full sun until you see new growth. Then put the pot in a sunny window.

 

Indoor Herb Garden, Potted Container Plant by Window Sill

Food as houseplants

 

Some kitchen scraps need exacting conditions to produce food, making them better houseplants. Pineapple and avocado are two of those.

 

Pineapple

 

Growing pineapple is a little more involved than other plants. Cut off the top of the pineapple and remove the rind and all the fleshy fruit. Slice the stalk towards the leaves a little at a time until you see a ring of dots on the surface. These will become the roots.

Let your cutting dry out for a few days, then plant in cactus potting soil. Place the pot in a warm bright spot. Cover with a plastic bag to maintain humidity. The plant does not need a lot of water at this point. It can take several months to root. Get details about growing a pineapple plant before taking on the project.

 

Avocado

 

Wash the pit and insert three toothpicks around the middle. Fill a jar with water and prop the toothpicks on the edge with the broad end of the pit facing down. Make sure there is always water covering the bottom third of the pit.

Roots will form, and the top of the seed will crack open and send out a shoot. When roots almost fill your jar, transplant into well-draining soil. You may never get fruit off an avocado grown from a seed, but the plant makes a stunning tree.

 

avocado growing from a glass

 

Instead of creating more garbage with your kitchen scraps, create more food out of them!

 

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