Wait! Before you toss those leftovers into the compost bin, you can stretch your dollars and get double life from your produce purchases by re-growing your kitchen scraps! 

If you’ve ever noticed how fast the green scallion stems from the market shoot up when the rooted ends are stored in water, or sprouted an avocado seed as a kid, you’ve probably wondered about planting those roots in the soil and continuing the harvest. But turning kitchen scraps into producing plants in the garden isn’t limited to just onions and avocados! Here are some more unique foods you can regrow from kitchen scraps:

1. Lemongrass

Lemongrass is a distinctive and delicious herb, but generally only a little is needed in a recipe, and it can often be difficult to track down in stores. So when you get a bundle (you can almost always find them in asian markets), save a few stalks for re-growing your own plant that’s available whenever you want!

Rooting lemongrass for replanting is ridiculously easy. Simply stand the leftover stalks in about an inch of water, or enough to cover the bottom bulbs. Place the stalks in a warm, sunny location until some solid roots are formed, about 2 inches worth, and be sure to change the water frequently. Once the lemongrass has a nice root system going, transfer the stalks to soil and enjoy. Keep in mind that lemongrass will get quite large and spread if it has the space, and is sensitive to cold, (it’s happy above 7°C/45°F), so if you live in a colder climate or have limited space, keep your lemongrass in portable containers. Lemongrass does well indoors, as long as it’s in a nice sunny location, so it’s ideal for apartments. With a prospering lemongrass plant, you can get your fill of lemongrass tea, curries, or delicious recipes like Minced Tempeh Salad with Lemongrass, Sesame and Cashews without a trip to the Asian Market.

2. Ginger

The part of the ginger plant we eat is referred to as a root, but it’s actually a rhizome; a bundle of nodes, each of which can root and produce an entirely new plant. Look for pieces with a good growing bud, or little finger bump growing off the main rhizome. Unlike lemongrass, the ginger knob goes right into the soil, and it’s important that the soil is rich, not too wet, and well draining. Place the knob a few inches into the soil, growing buds facing up, water well, but don’t soak, and keep in a partly sunny location. Ginger doesn’t take up much space, so it’s ideal for beds or containers. After the leaves have died down, usually around 8 to 10 months, harvest and divide the rhizomes, keeping a few good nodes for replanting.

3. Garlic

I’ve tossed out many a sprouted clove of garlic before I realized I could plant those sprouts! Just one sprouted clove can produce an entire new bulb of garlic, and they are relatively easy to grow. Simply plant the clove in rich, well drained soil in a sunny location. When the tall green stalk, called a scape, sprouts from the clove, cut it off so the plant can send all it’s energy to producing a nice fat bulb of garlic.

4. Greens, Celery, Onions, Leeks, Fennel

The thing to look for when attempting to re-grow greens, is a core. If you’re looking through a bag of mixed greens, you probably aren’t going to have much luck. Instead, try heads of lettuce, romaine, collards or any bunch of leaves still attached together at the stems. When finished with the leaves, place the remaining core in water in a sunny windowsill. Once you have some good strong roots, plant the greens in garden beds or containers in partly sunny locations. Snip the greens from the top as needed, and they will continue to grow for quite a while. Keep the celery, leeks, fennel, and onion cores intact as you use the stalks, and when finished, place the core in a bit of water in a sunny location. When strong roots appear, plant in soil, in bright sun.

5. Pineapple

Before chopping up your pineapple to eat, remove the core by grasping the top leaves, twisting and pulling. The leaves, along with the small center core should come out, without the fruit flesh which would just rot and jeopardize the rooting process. Once you have the small core out, peel off a few of the bottom leaf layers so you have a good chunk of core. Slice off the very end of the core to get rid of any possible remaining fruit, and pin a few toothpicks along the bottom edge of the remaining leaf layer. Prop the toothpicks and the core onto a glass of water, so that just the core is submerged. Place glass in a sunny location until roots form. If you live in a tropical location, the pineapple can be planted directly outside, otherwise, plant it into a container. Note that pineapple plants generally won’t produce fruit for at least two years, but the foliage is lovely in the meantime.

6. Rosemary, Basil, Lavender and other herbs

Cuttings from plants can often be successfully propagated with the help of a rooting hormone. To root cuttings, choose a long sturdy, but not woody stalk, and carefully remove the bottom 1/3 of leaves. Dip the bare stem into a root hormone stimulator, and then place it into a glass of water. In a few weeks, the cutting should have a decent root system, and can be transplanted to garden beds or containers.

7. Seeds

The seeds from many fruits can be replanted, though often they will grow into trees, which may or many not eventually bear fruit, depending on climate, pollination, and location. However, it’s fun to experiment with sprouting seeds from fruit or from your pantry, like mustard, coriander,  garbanzos, mung beans, chia seeds, popcorn, raw nuts, etc. Remember to always buy organic, since some non-organic kitchen scraps have been treated with growth inhibitor and simply won’t re-root.  

Explore your kitchen, expand your wallet, and experiment to see what foods you can multiply by re-growing!

 Image source: Markus Leupold-Löwenthal / Wikimedia Commons