Picture this…it’s a chilly night and you’ve decided to make a warming dinner of a hearty vegetable soup. You pull out your knife and cutting board and get to work. You chop a few potatoes and carrots, dice some celery and garlic, and slice a couple green onions. To finish it off, you pull out some parsley and basil for extra pizazz. Once everything is in the pot and the soup is simmering, you start to clean up and prepare to eat. You wash the knife, put the cutting board in the dishwasher, and pull out a bowl. Finally, you scoop all the vegetable scraps into a pile and throw them in the garbage –
Stop right there. Those scraps are not trash! They’re full of life and potential! All of them. Even the carrot tops, Even the green onion roots. And even the extra sprig of basil. They all can be used to grow new plants. Often, the parts of fruits or vegetables that are thrown away are just what is needed to start a thriving garden.
Here are my top five reasons to grow your own food from table scraps:
IT’S A PERFECT ACTIVITY FOR KIDS
I first learned about utilizing food scraps for gardening when I was serving in FoodCorps, an organization with the mission of connecting kids to healthy foods. This was a perfect activity to do with kids because it not only taught them about the importance of eating fresh produce, but it was also something they could easily do at home that provides a sense of empowerment.
YOU CAN DO IT IN ANY HOME
You don’t need a back yard or even any soil. All that is needed is a piece of produce that was otherwise destined for the trash can.
IT REDUCES WASTE
The vision of FoodCorps is “to create a future in which all our nation’s children––regardless of race, place, or class––know what healthy food is, care where it comes from, and eat it every day.” This dream encapsulates many of the benefits of growing plants with kitchen scraps. It reduces waste and saves money, not to mention that it’s just downright fun.
IT’S AN EASY AND AFFORDABLE ENTRY INTO GARDENING
Now, let’s all admit it. Gardening is intimidating. Even after serving a year in FoodCorps and teaching kids how to garden, I’m still sometimes daunted by the prospect of growing my own plants. There are a variety of factors to consider when growing your own food: the type of soil to use, the kind of seed to buy, the amount of sunlight and water the plant will need, how much space the plant will take up, the temperature where it will grow best, and more. The beauty of kitchen scrap gardening is that it takes away many of these worrisome factors. There are no seeds to purchase, there’s little to no extra cost, and many vegetables can be started inside without any soil.
IT ONLY TAKES FIVE STEPS
Let’s look at the green onions that were used in preparing the soup. To regrow a green onion, all that needs to be done is to cut off the bottom couple inches of the onion above its roots, place the root piece in a small jar, and fill the jar with warm water so that the bottom half of the onion piece is covered. Then, the next steps are to place the jar in a sunny spot, replace the water every couple of days, and transfer the onion to a bigger jar when it outgrows the one that it’s in. The onion can be planted in soil after it has started growing, or it can be kept in water. Other vegetable scraps such as carrot tops or the base of a celery stalk can be used to start plants following the same steps.
Now, you may be saying that it is all well and good to know how to regrow some vegetables, but what about other produce like tomatoes? There’s nothing to fear here either You can even grow plants from fruit scraps, too! When it comes to fruit, it’s all about the seeds. (Yes, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, and many other “vegetables” are “technically” fruit.) The trick is to rinse the seeds, dry them completely, and save for planting. The seeds can be planted in a pot or outside in a garden. Easy, peasy.
The next time you make soup or any other meal, don’t mindlessly throw away the parts of plants you don’t intend to use. When it comes to repurposing the odds and ends leftover from cooking, the limit is only what you can fit into the grocery cart. When it comes down to it, most produce items can be regrown. All it takes is a simple online search to find out how. And, the little bit of effort it takes is well worth it. There’s nothing more satisfying than eating food grown at home, especially when you’re reducing waste, improving your nutrition, and having fun at the same time.
(photo credit: Shutterstock)
Agricultural educator for Whispering Roots
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