Cooking dinner at a friend’s house one evening I noticed several cups sitting on the counter with water and green onions in them. The green onions had been cut and then had re-grown their stalks. Excited by this discovery of the amazing regenerating green onion, I wondered what other vegetables would follow suit. Re-growing vegetables from the vegetable scraps themselves is sustainable and easy, and extends the growing season into winter. Plus, considering the projected increase in produce prices due to the drought, saving cash on certain veggies is definitely nice. And with little effort required…where do I sign up?
Green onions are great sprinkled on everything from omelets to salads, and their small root bulbs make them the perfect candidates for a very simplified hydroponic system. On a larger scale, hydroponic systems consume far less water than soil methods by growing the plants directly in water, which gets continually recycled through the system. A much more complex version of hydroponics was believed to be used in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.
How-to: Cut upper, darker stalk of green onion off and place the bulb and remaining stalk in a cup of water with the top out of the water, and in a sunny spot. Refresh the water once or twice a week, and either replace the stalks with fresh ones every month or two, or plant in soil (the onion taste comes from sulfur in soil). Note: This also works with leeks and fennel.
Produce companies like Live Gourmet have started selling greens with the roots attached like living butter lettuce and upland cress. This is because the intact roots help to preserve freshness and extend shelf life, make the veggies seem extra fresh, and help educate consumers about the hydroponic methods used to grow the crops. When life gives you lettuce roots, plant them in soil and let us see what happens.
How-to: Cut head of lettuce, leaving a small stump connected to roots; straighten out roots if they have been balled up. Fill small planter with soil (maybe jazz it up with some compost) and make a deep hole for lettuce roots. Plant roots with green stump above soil, and water regularly. Note: Find a nice sunny windowsill for your lettuce; it prefers bluebird days too.
Imagine you’re preparing your favorite tuna salad recipe, complete with freshly chopped dill, diced red onion, and the staple of any tuna salad, celery, when you discover…you’re out of celery. Avoid this catastrophe next time by saving the stump and re-growing new stalks of celery, a vegetable that has been used for centuries to treat ailments ranging from insomnia to high blood pressure to toothache.
How-to: Place celery butt in dish of water so all but the top is submerged. Keep moist and in the sun until roots and new leaves grow (approximately one week). Transplant to a small pot with soil; keep it sunned and watered. In a few weeks, it will grow new stalks. Note: Apply this same process to re-grow bok choy, romaine lettuce, and cabbage.
~ Are you a windowsill gardener? Lettuce know below.