Propagating Plants from Kitchen Scraps
Throughout most of human history, food was collected of grown within just a few miles of where people lived. Today, most Americans depend on food imported from far away for much of their diet.
We go to the grocery store and buy bananas from Ecuador, grapes from Chile and strawberries from Mexico. But it can be fun and educational to grow your own. You can even use kitchen scraps to grow a new plant—some for food, others just as an interesting houseplant.
- Tubers: Have you ever had potatoes begin to sprout in your pantry? I often plant them out in my garden. In our area, it is best to grow potatoes in a container or raised bed with new soil in order to prevent infestations from wireworms. You can start harvesting new potatoes when plants are big and blooming. Commercial potatoes are often treated to delay sprouting, so only plant those that have started to grow on their own. Planted Jerusalem Artichokes will multiply and grow into pretty sunflowers.
- Bulbs: Just recently I rescued some green onions from the compost pile. They were a little limp from the fridge, so I stuck them in a glass of water to hydrate them before I planted them out. I often plant extra garlic cloves into my garden beds. They grow quite nicely, but need to be marked because they are hard to find when dormant
- Rhizomes: Ginger and turmeric are tropical plants that can be grown inside to make an attractive houseplant.
- Cuttings: Many people put basil and other herbs in a glass of water to keep them fresh longer. Some herbs will grow roots and can be planted. To prolong harvesting, pinch off flowers. You can also regrow many plants from their top or crown. For pineapple, cut the top a quarter-inch or so below its base into the fruit and plant it in a sandy soil. The tops of carrots, beets, turnips and celeriac can similarly be planted to grow greens. For celery, cut most of the tops away and put the bottom in a dish of water until the leaves turn green and grow; then plant in soil.
- Seeds: You can grow houseplants from avocado, citrus, mango, and raw coffee bean seeds; but don’t expect to be harvesting anytime soon. They take many years to flower and fruit. I get kiwi, melon, squash and tomatoes coming up in my compost all the time, but store-bought varieties may require a warmer climate, or, due to cross pollination, the resulting fruit may be surprisingly different. You can try planting nuts, but I always have trouble with squirrels digging them up before they sprout. You can also try planting a bag of mixed dried beans in May. You can even plant birdseed, but usually the rodents and jays do that for you, especially the sunflowers! You could try planting spice seeds: anise, caraway, coriander, cumin, dill, fenugreek, mustard, poppy and sesame. Some, however, such as Fennel are considered noxious weeds in Washington. Fresh seed is best.
In the 17th century the Dutch East India Company brutally seized control and protected their monopoly of nutmeg production by executing natives and smugglers. To prevent the availability of fertile seeds they drenched the nutmegs in lime before shipping them out to be sold—So before you throw out or compost living plant material, decide whether it still has value. Perhaps you can regrow it!