How to grow vegetables from scraps

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

Before discarding old and forgotten fruit and veg, it’s worth giving them a once over to see if any can be resurrected and regrown. Here are four fun scrap growing projects to try for yourself.

Growing onions from scraps

grow onions from sraps

Onions are one of the easiest vegetables to grow from scraps. Take an old onion and slice it in half, retaining the bottom portion. Remove any papery skin from the onion and leave it to dry out for a day or so.

Poke cocktail sticks into its side, evenly spaced around its circumference and rest it on the mouth of a jam jar. Fill the jar with water so that the bottom of the onion is just touching the surface—after 4-5 days, roots should appear from the base of the onion and start to dangle down into the water below.

Half-fill a plant pot with soil, place your onion inside, root side down, then fill the rest of the pot with soil. Water your onion thoroughly after planting, and keep it moist throughout its development. It’ll take a long time for a fully developed onion bulb to form, so for a quicker onion fix, harvest the emerging onion shoots when they are 10-20cm tall.

Growing avocados from scraps

growing an avocado

Don’t expect to be munching on a homegrown avocado anytime soon, but a discarded avocado stone will yield you an attractive looking house plant with a bit of prep and patience.

Extract and clean the stone from an avocado, then using a sharp knife, gently peel away the outer skin to reveal the pale inner skin. Ensuring that the pointy end of the egg-shaped avocado stone is facing upwards, take three or four cocktail sticks and spear the stone halfway down, evenly spaced around its circumference. Rest the seed/stick combo over the mouth of a jam jar, then fill the jar with water so that the lower half of the stone is submerged.

Place the jar on a sunny windowsill, then each day, change the water to keep it fresh. After a month or so, the seed should split, sending roots descending into the water below and a stem sprouting from the top. When the stem reaches around 20cm tall, remove the cocktail sticks from the stone and transfer your avocado sapling into a pot filled with potting compost. 

Read more: 10 Avocado recipes

Growing lettuce from scraps

lettuce growing on windowsill

Don’t discard the tough, rooty base of lettuce—it can be easily coaxed back into producing more leaves.

Grab a flat-based, shallow bowl and place your lettuce remnant inside. Add water to the bowl, making sure you don’t submerge the top of the lettuce. Place the bowl on a sunny windowsill and keep an eye on the water level, replenishing when necessary.

New lettuce leaves should start to shoot relatively quickly and can be harvested whenever you fancy. Just make sure you trim away any brown leaves to avoid rot.

Growing ginger from scraps

growing ginger from root

Growing ginger is a protracted affair, but is possible with a bit of perseverance. First, you’ll need to select a piece of ginger that already has small green buds forming. Give it a wash, then place in a tall pot filled with gritty compost on a sunny windowsill.

Green shoots should start to appear in a few weeks, and after a good six to eight months you should notice a bulbous swelling where the shoots meet the soil. This is the rhizome—the knotty, papery root of which we are all familiar. Eventually the foliage of your plants will die down and you can harvest the root, although you may wish to let the plant develop larger rhizomes and nab them the following year. Dry the root somewhere dark and cool until its outer skin turns papery, remembering to save some back to continue the growing cycle.

To further your kitchen scrap adventures, we’d recommend checking out Regrown by Paul Anderton and Robin Daly. It’s a great read and features 20 herbs, fruit and vegetable projects to get your teeth into.

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