Make the most of the leftovers from your vegetables. We show you how to use the bits you would normally throw away to regrow at home
If you’re a regular reader of this magazine, chances are you eat a lot of veg – and good for you, it’s wonderful stuff! But you might sometimes look down at your vegetable remains and think “seems a shame to throw that away” and “I wish I had some more”. Well you might be surprised to learn that there’re all sorts of edible plants and vegetables that you can easily regrow at home using little more than the remains.
You might not be able to grow an infinite supply of turnips from the same few dead ends, but you can at least get a little more mileage out of your vegetables with a bit of know-how and good old H2O. It’s amazing what you can achieve in even the smallest of spaces; all you need is a windowsill with enough room for a few jars and pots, and you can regrow an impressive selection of plants. Here’s our list of fantastic foods that you can regrow at home.
Left to its own devices garlic will begin to sprout after a while. Separate the bulb into individual cloves and place them in a glass or a small dish with a little water. You should eventually see green sprouts growing out the top of each clove – the sprouts should be light green at the base and darker towards the tip. These sprouts will have that garlic flavour, but they’re much milder so they can be used fresh as a great garnish, or added to salads, pasta, sandwiches, and any other dish where you want that distinct garlic hum without the huge hit that you get from the cloves themselves.
Basil is a terrific fresh herb. It’s an absolute must-have if you’re making pasta or pizza, and you can’t beat making your own pesto with a huge handful of the vibrant green leaves, some good olive oil, and some pine nuts. Lots of us buy potted basil from supermarkets, but did you know that you can take cuttings and regrow an army of little basil plants? Take clippings from your basil plant, making sure you have at least three inches of stem. Place these in a narrow-mouthed glass or small vase so that the basil leaves will keep the stems from sinking. Put your glass or vase in direct sunlight and wait until you have visible roots about two inches in length. Once the roots are big enough, you can re-plant each stem in its own pot of soil, and with enough care and the right conditions each of these stems should become another large and healthy basil plant.
Don’t discard your carrot tops, you can keep them and grow gorgeous little carrot leaves that are perfect for salads. Keep about the last half inch of your carrot ends and place them open side down into a shallow dish. Add water until the carrot ends are about halfway submerged and place the dish on a windowsill or somewhere bright where they’ll get a decent amount of natural light. It shouldn’t take long for little green carrot tops to appear, and these mild, slightly sweet, distinctly flavoured little leaves can be a great addition to all sorts of salads.
Spring onions, or scallions in the US, are probably the easiest plant to regrow. Make sure you leave about an inch at the pale end of each onion. Place these in a glass of water, making sure they’re covered and the roots are facing down. You’ll need to change the water every two or three days, but this takes mere seconds. After a week or two, you should have a whole new set of spring onions to use. You need to make sure there’s some root left on the original spring onions you want to regrow from – if they’ve been overly ‘tidied’ and there’s no visible root then it won’t work. If you want larger onions, just transfer from the glass to a little pot of compost after a week or so and remember to keep watered.
These leaves are the star of many a salad, and the great thing about them is that they’re really easy to regrow. Make sure you save the bottom stump of your romaine lettuce – cut the leaves off in a chunk so that you have the whole dead end remaining. Keep the end in an old jam jar or a mug, submerging the remainder of the romaine in half an inch of water. Keep them somewhere cool and light, and if you can go a little further and plant the ends in soil then the regrowth will be even better.
Lemongrass is an incredibly fragrant ingredient, and we can’t imagine making a Thai curry paste without it. The ends of lemon grass are incredibly hard – often too tough to use in cooking – but you can regrow new tender stems from these tough little ends. Place your ends upright in a tall glass or vase, and fill with water so that the lemongrass is almost completely submerged. You’ll need to leave them like this for two to three weeks, making sure to change the water every couple of days. When you see roots develop you should transfer to soil and plant them securely – you can do this outdoors if you’re sure of reliably warm weather, but it’s best to keep them indoors and allow them to get good sunlight.