Growing Food from Food
Growing Food from Food
In addition to growing vegetables from seeds or plant starts, there is a fun, easy method to try without needing to buy or acquire anything extra. Many types of food are very easy to grow from scraps not otherwise used. A gardener just needs to think like a plant! With luck, a small garden can produce practically free food to eat and will have reduced food waste at the same time.
Put simply, plants are built to reproduce, and they usually come prepared to plant themselves. Volunteer tomato plants can often be found coming up without any help from the resident gardener near where last year’s plants were cultivated, for example. Perhaps green onions are already growing roots in the refrigerator vegetable bin. The list of vegetables that are easily grown from kitchen scraps is long, and anyone can experiment with whatever is most appetizing to them.
Green onions usually come with some roots already peeking through the white part of the stem. Placed in water, they can develop serious root systems as well as new green shoots. They can be planted into a pot with soil or straight into the ground, watered, and will produce a constant supply of tender green onions. Harvesting by cutting off the green leaves to just above soil level allows new shoots to grow. Other stalk plants that can work with this technique are celery and leeks. Basil, mint, and other herbs can also regenerate in this way.
Lemongrass stalks that seem thicker and knobbier at the bot tom can be transformed into living plants. Just like green onions, roots can emerge when placed in water. Once planted in soil, the lemongrass will continue growing and new shoots will come out as well.
Root crops such as carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuce, and fennel bulbs can regenerate with just bits of growing material. Placing a carrot top with a little bit of leaf still attached into water can lead to greenery growing and new roots emerging. If a potato is sprouting, new plants can grow from the sprouts, sometimes even after being tossed into the com post. Even if it hasn’t sprouted, the eyes on the potato can be planted into dirt and should sprout greenery and develop roots. The bottom of a head of lettuce can also be planted this way.
Foods that have a lot of seeds, such as squashes, tomatoes, and pumpkins, are particularly easy to grow. By cutting off the bot tom of a butternut squash gourd, where most of the seeds are, and filling it with soil, the gardener will soon see dozens of seeds sprouting and ready for trans planting within weeks. By the end of summer, there may be a steady supply of butternut squashes maturing.
A few issues may come up for the home gardener. If the food used is from a hybrid plant, it may be unable to reproduce, much like most mules are infertile. Variation may need to be tested in regards to the timing of transplanting to the outdoor garden. There is a lot of information online — anecdotal and scientific — that can provide great ideas of what to try.
Holly Johnson is a member of Alameda Backyard Growers (ABG). ABG is dedicated to teaching Alamedans how to grow food. Visit www.alamedabackyardgrow ers.org and join the mailing list to receive timely gardening information. Visit the ABG Free Seed Library at 2829 San Jose Ave. to pick up seasonal seeds. ABG’s Project Pick is always looking for fruit trees to pick and volunteers to help pick them for delivery to the Alameda Food Bank. To sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org.