Meal plans and grocery lists, the cycle never ends. While some of your foods may come from carefully cultivated seeds or seedlings planted in your garden, did you know that you can grow food from food? You have probably heard that romaine lettuce regenerates easily if the base is placed in water, or that basil and cilantro cuttings will turn into entire plants, but there are many, many more foods that will grow from your kitchen scraps. Here’s a highlight reel. Bon appetit!
Growing your own garlic is easy as well as rewarding. Start with a healthy bulb of your favorite varietal. Separate the bulb into individual cloves. Then place each clove into the soil with the pointy end facing upward. Allow 4 to 6 inches between each clove for a bulb to form. Cloves should go into the ground in the fall, before the first frost, and will be ready to harvest in the spring. After harvest, hang dry the entire stalk. You can braid stalks together for compact storage. During the winter and summer months, you can plant cloves indoors and enjoy the garlic greens, but don’t expect bulbs to form in these conditions.
Seeds from both sweet peppers (red, green, yellow and orange) and hot peppers (jalapeno, habanero) can be dried and used in the garden next season. Be sure to choose seeds from healthy, non-hybrid plants for the best chance of success. Remove the seeds from a well-matured fruit and lay them out to dry. Store dried seeds in a cool location, like your refrigerator, and be sure to label the jar. In late spring or early summer, plant your seeds in soil. Thin and replant once they grow a few inches high.
Tomato plants often have issues with bacteria, so make sure you choose fruit from very healthy plants and allow the fruit to ripen completely before harvesting the seeds. Once ripe, scoop out the seeds along with the gel that surrounds it. Place the seeds into a jar with some water. Stir the mixture twice each day until the mixture ferments. Around day five, the seeds will sink to the bottom of the jar. When this happens, pour off the liquid, rinse the seeds and dry them spread out on paper towels or cloth. Store the same way as for peppers.
Peas and beans
Again, this is a situation of harvesting the seed for your next harvest, saving you the cost of purchasing new seeds or plants. Wait until peas or beans are very dry and turn brown on the plant before harvesting. You should hear the seeds rattle inside the pod. After removing the entire pod from the plant, lay it to dry for at least two weeks. At this point, you can remove the seeds or leave the entire pod intact and remove the seeds when planting season arrives.
Some argue that potatoes need to be grown from potato starts specific to the purpose. However, any backyard gardener knows that if left alone for an extra week, those potatoes in the drawer will sprout voluntarily. To grow your own potatoes, cut your sprouting potatoes into large chunks, about two inches around, and leave them to dry out for a few days. In early spring, drop the chunks into the soil for harvest in mid-summer. Barrels or large pots work well for creating layers of potatoes in a compact space.
This one takes a little patience, because strawberry seeds are very small. You may not have even realized that the little seeds on the outside of the berry can produce more plants. To harvest the seeds, use tweezers. Alternately, you can “peel” the outer layer off the strawberry. Place the peel or seeds in soil and cover lightly with more soil. Place in a sunny windowsill and water regularly until the starts emerge from the dirt and are ready for transplanting outdoors.
You may have heard how easy it is to grow your own ginger, so it’s not surprising the turmeric will grow using the same technique. As rhizomes, the large bulbs divide and regenerate well. The trick is to plant the root sideways, which may feel contrary to what you’re used to. Turmeric naturally grows best in tropical locations, so it will probably perform best indoors across most of the United States; it will be happiest at 75-80 degrees. Plant the root in soil, water frequently and allow it a few months to mature. Harvest when it begins to dry out.
If you’ve ever thrown a pumpkin into a compost pile, you’ve probably seen a plant shoot out of the ground some months later. Grow your own pumpkins (on purpose) by drying a few seeds from last year’s jack-o-lantern. Create a dirt mound in your garden and plant the seeds well spaced apart, or thin the plants once they pop through the soil.
When you think pineapple, you probably envision tall, swaying palm trees and tropical breezes, but it is possible to turn one pineapple into another in the comfort of your home. Cut the top off of a healthy pineapple and prop it above a container filled with water. You want it to hover rather than float — toothpicks can help with this. Keep the water level consistent until you see roots begin to form. At this point, transplant your pineapple into potting soil.
It does take a long-term commitment, but apple, nectarine, peach, plum, apricot, cherry and even lemon trees will grow from seed. Simply save seeds from healthy, non-hybrid fruits. Dry them thoroughly, and plant them in quality soil in an area that receives direct sunlight. For the best results, plant a few of each type of tree next to each other.