How to Regrow Vegetables from Your Food Scraps, According to an Expert
Heed these tips for produce success.
Gardening is quickly becoming an essential activity amid the coronavirus pandemic—and it's not difficult to see why. It's easy to grow lush flowers and delicious fruits and vegetables from the comforts of our yards, well away from others. But, believe it or not, you can home-grow certain vegetables and herbs sans seeds, a planting timeline, or even a garden plot; all you have to do is turn to your dinner's leftovers. "There are many vegetables and herbs, including celery, cilantro, garlic, and onions, that can be easily regrown from kitchen scraps," says Amy Enfield, a horticulturist at ScottsMiracle-Gro and spokesperson for Bonnie Plants. "Not all root vegetables will regrow new, edible roots, but some, like beets and carrots, will grow fresh greens that are great for salads."
Enfield explains that some fruits and vegetables, like citrus, avocado, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, and squash, cannot be regrown by simply replanting a piece (for these, save and pot their seeds, which will sprout an entirely new plant). For others, there's little to no hope for regrowth. "Cauliflower, broccoli, chard, kale, arugula, and anything else where you are just buying the flower bud or single leaves are probably not going to regrow," adds Christopher Landercasper, director of farming operations for Sonoma's Best Hospitality Group. "There is very little chance of growing a new plant from a single harvested leaf." Looking for more advice on how to regrow vegetables from scraps? We asked Enfield for more of her best insight.
Identify which part of the plant can regrow.
Not all parts of a vegetable can be regrown, which is why, in many cases, you need to save the base of the plant where the roots grew originally, explains Enfield. "For vegetables like onion, leeks, celery, cabbage, and heading lettuce, you need to save the bottom one to two inches of the plant," she says. "The base will form new roots and new shoots will emerge from the top." For beets, carrots, and turnips, she recommends planting the top of the vegetable with a small piece of the root attached. "The top will form new shoots that can be harvested for baby greens, but the plant will not regrow another edible root," she adds.
Plant your veggies the right way.
According to Enfield, most of your re-growable kitchen scraps will thrive in water, while others need to be planted in soil. "Most of your kitchen scraps can be started in water," she says. Some can even be maintained this way—just remember not to completely submerge the plant (just the very bottom!) and only add water as needed to keep the bottom covered. For onion, potato, garlic, and ginger scraps, she recommends starting them in water first, before transplanting them into soil once they develop new roots.
Provide conditions conducive to growth.
Just like with any other plant, Enfield says your kitchen scraps require the right light, moisture, and temperature levels to properly regrow. "Most fruits, vegetables, and herbs require a lot of sunlight to grow, so place your plants beside a bright, sunny window," she says. "They should also be placed in a spot that's warm—no cold drafts. If you're growing your plants in soil, make sure to keep it moist, but not soggy. When the top of the soil is dry to the touch, it's time to water."
Know what to expect.
While some vegetables can regrow in their entirety, Enfield says others provide only partial results. "Not everything will regrow into the original produce you had," she says. "Root veggies that are regrown for their leafy green tops will not reform a tuber to harvest. If you decide to save and regrow seeds, the vegetables you harvest may not be identical in size, color, shape, or even taste to the original."
Once you've moved your rooted scraps outside to the garden, Enfield says to treat them like you would any other vegetable. "Pick a spot that gets plenty of sun and water them regularly," she says. "Also feed them regularly with plant food, like Miracle-Gro's Performance Organics Edibles Plant Nutrition ($8.99, homedepot.com), to provide the extra nutrients they need to grow. Then harvest and enjoy."