The term garbage gardening doesn’t bring to mind the best image. But the concept is wonderful. Every time I trim vegetables for a salad or soup, I tend to muse about just what I can do with those trimmings. They go into my compost pile to nourish the vegetable garden next year. And some of them feed my worms.
But what about the bottom of the celery that once had roots attached? Or those fruit or avocado pits? Some vegetables can actually grow again and provide produce for the table. And even if they don’t actually provide food in the end, there are endless opportunities not only to have fun, interesting plants indoors, but also to start plants for the garden from things you would normally toss. Children, in particular, love this type of gardening.
Garlic (Allium sativum) — Any time you find a clove of garlic starting to sprout, whether stored from your own garden or purchased from the market, stick it in a pot of soil on the kitchen windowsill. It will send up green shoots that are fresh and tasty when snipped for a salad or stir fry. You can snip away for many weeks before it finally gives up.
Green onions (Allium cepa) — After cutting off and using the edible parts of a green onion, save the root end and plant it. You will soon get green onion shoots pretty much all winter. The same goes for bulb onion. Use the edible parts and slice off the root end, keeping it intact. Plant it for a new onion plant.
Celery (Apium graveolens) — save the root end of the celery bunch and set it in a saucer of water. Keep the root end submerged until it starts sending out roots. Then plant it very shallowly in fresh potting soil. It will begin sending up leaves that are every bit as tasty as the original plant.
Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) — cut off and eat the leaves but leave the root end of a romaine lettuce head intact. Plant it in a small pot, put it on the windowsill and small salad greens will start growing from the center. You can snip them for delicious baby lettuce.
Carrots (Daucus carota subsp. sativum) — You cannot actually grow another carrot, but if you purchase carrots with the greens attached, leave an inch or so of the carrot attached and plant it with the orange part below the soil and the crown where the greens are attached right at the soil level. The carrot is the root, so it will begin to grow and keep the greens alive. Carrot greens are a tasty bit of bitter green for a salad and even if you don’t care for the taste, it makes a beautiful ferny houseplant or table centerpiece. Radishes, turnips and parsnips will grow the same way
Kate Jerome, a Kenosha writer and teacher, holds a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and is the former Urban Farm director at Gateway Technical College. She is the owner of the consulting business Kate Jerome’s Garden to Kitchen. Her website is www.kjerome.com.