How to Regrow Vegetables from Scraps
Did you know that you can Regrow Vegetables from Scraps? You really can and here's how to do it!
I'm not the best at gardening but we keep trying. It's one of the best ways to save money on whole foods, in addition to making your own processed foods like homemade seasoning blends, salad dressings, and basics like coconut milk, and preserving food.
Plus gardening is something you can get your kids involved in too. But did you know you can Regrow Food in Water?
It's true that you can and if you're as frugal as I am and interested in gardening on a budget, it really doesn't get more frugal than this.
The only plant I can keep alive is the Lucky Bamboo.
I'm sure you guys remember that bamboo plant that was really popular about ten years ago? The bamboo that's often sold at kiosks at the mall? The one that doesn't even need dirt or sunlight, just rocks and water?
Yep, that's the one. A decade ago, I fed three beautiful bamboo shoots headache-inducing fluorescent light from my office desk 24 hours a day and offered it fluoridated tap water to drink. And it thrived. A perfect fit for my black thumb.
My friends and family have beautiful gardens, and I admittedly am jealous. I would LOVE to spend a sunny afternoon watering my plants, showing the kids how to pick zucchini, and pulling up home-grown potatoes for dinner.
Instead, I'm having to add organic zucchini and potatoes to the shopping list, since both summer squash and potatoes are listed on this year's dirty dozen.
I know that having a well-producing garden takes hard work and a lot of effort, and I'm completely willing to go through a few seasons of a poor crop yield in order to turn my black thumb green, but it's just not in the cards right now.
Our small yard is suitable, but it gets very little sun. The one area we do get sun in the same spot where the neighboring feral cats prefer to do their business. And cat poop is a big no-no in gardens.
I have a plan to deter the cats from using pine cones and perhaps a lavender plant near their entry point (with reminders on my calendar to water it). If these work, I'll give my two (black) thumbs up to a raised bed garden in the small area of sunshine. Of course, it'll be lined with chicken wire--just in case.
But until then, I'm growing lettuce in my oatmeal bowls.
It sounds strange, I know, but it couldn't be a more ideal situation. In fact, it reminds me of my Lucky Bamboo days.
No dirt required, just a little bit of sunlight.
Have a black thumb? No room for a garden? Got bowls? Then there's hope for you too!
How to Regrow Lettuce in Water
1. Chop Off Bottoms of Lettuce
When preparing lettuce for salads, chop off the bottom 3 inches or so and keep it intact.
Fit anywhere from 1 to 4 bottoms into a shallow bowl and fill the bowl with 2-3 inches of filtered water - enough to cover the roots but not the top of the plant.
Set the bowl in an area that gets sunlight. Countertops and window sills would be excellent choices.
2. Add / Change Water
Add and/or change the water as necessary (likely every couple of days) and within 2 weeks you should start to see new growth from the inner portion of the lettuce bottom.
Continue to water and the plants will continue to grow.
3. Transfer Plants
When or if the bottoms outgrow the bowl, transfer the plant(s) to a larger vessel. Within 4-6 weeks, you will have successfully grown another half-head of lettuce!
Note that I said half-head of lettuce.
Since only the inner leaves will produce again, this technique will only yield about a half-head worth of lettuce leaves.
The regrowing process also only works one time. I've heard of some trying for round two, but the results haven't been consistent. (But then again, if it's only costing water, it couldn't hurt to try, right?)
Regrowing lettuce works best with romaine, but some of the "fancier" varieties like green leaf, red leaf, and butter lettuce will produce too, just at a much slower rate.
Guess what? This same regrowing technique can be used with lots of other produce you're likely spending your hard-earned grocery dollars on too!
Other Plants You can Regrow in Water
- Green onions can be grown in small, skinny glasses (think shot glass) and will produce a full-sized green onion as the original. This also works for red onions, pearl onions, white onions, scallions, leeks and fennel. Just make sure your container is wide enough to fit the root.
- Thai foodies will be happy to hear that lemon grass re-grows just like green onions, although it takes a bit longer to see progress in growth.
- Celery can be re-grown in a shallow, small-diameter dish (think mini-pie tin or small custard cups). The outer stalks will eventually turn a darker color while new stalks grow from the center.
- Even bok choy and cabbage (both red and green) can be re-grown similarly too.
There are a few more foods that can be regrown from scraps, but I've left those out because they require dirt. And I don't have dirt, remember?
While this works, adding some minerals to the water is a help since plants really do need minerals in order to grow well. I haven't calculated how much, but adding a tiny amount to some water and then adding a few drops to your regrowing container should be good.
Why Regrow Vegetables in Water?
It sounds silly almost, to let what we would ordinarily throw away sit on our countertops for a month and a half, just so that we end up with half the amount of food we originally started with. But there are some valid and good reasons to at least make the attempt.
1. Re-growing food doesn't cost anything. There's no dirt, no special equipment and if you really want to pinch pennies, use the cold water that runs from the shower while you're waiting for it to get hot (Note from Adrienne--Unless you have a fancy whole house filter, tap water is for sure not desired. See Is Your Water Safe?). It would then literally cost you nothing.
2. Re-growing food actually saves money. Even though the process takes some time and may not yield an enormous crop, it's still food to eat that you won't have to buy. Small changes like these can add up to greater savings in the long run. (And with my meager grocery budget, I'll take all the help I can get!)
3. If you start with organic, you'll grow organic. The list of most contaminated foods gets scarier each year, and three of the vegetables listed above rank high on the Environmental Working Group's list of produce with the most pesticides (celery ranks #2, lettuce is #14 and green onions are #29).
4. Even the blackest of thumbs can regrow food. Like the Lucky Bamboo, minimal effort is required. Just add water, change it, and let it sit where there's the sun. Could it be any easier?
If you're going to be growing all of this lettuce and other greens, you are going to need some dressing to go along with it.
More Frugal Gardening Tips to Help You Save Even More
Tiffany is a frugal real foodie who is trying to master real foods and incorporate them into her kitchen without breaking the bank. She documents her baby-sized strides at Don’t Waste the Crumbs.
What color is your thumb? Have you tried regrowing your own food?
Were you successful? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
Thanks a lot for the article.
Regrowing food is great ... some more that work well are Rocket and Chives, Coriander - if I buy organic or pull up from my veggie patch a few roots by mistake - I replant them in my wheelbarrow next to the kitchen and with some watering i have whole new plants!
So great! I'm updating this post soon with more info!
Started a celery base a while ago and it is growing like crazy. What I would like to know is if there is a time that you plant it into dirt? Also, I keep mine near the sink --not in a window, since I live in Florida and it just might burn the delicate leaves growing.
I have been regrow in celery bottoms for years. I now have about 24 celery plants that continue to produce year round here in California. I cut stalks from the outside of the plant as I need them. I use kitchen shears but you can use a very sharp paring knife. I usually place the celery bottoms in about 1 inch of water until the inner leaves start to grow. I then transplant them into well turned soil outside. I cover them with an empty gallon milk container from which I've removed the bottom, for a few days until they are established then remove the cover and allow to harden.
Sounds great! Thanks for sharing!
for the celery do you need roots or just the bottom inch or so? I love the idea of having celery to harvest continuously..
I just have one question, how many times can you regrow a plant this way? I am regrowing my lettuce right now and it is doing great. Will I be able to grow another plant from this plant?
I tried 2 weeks ago to grow the romaine stumps in water. I changed the water everyday and put them under grow lights ,all they did was rot. Not sure where to go from here seems to work for other people but not me. Any ideas? Betty
Hi Betty! Lettuce seems to regrow best when there's about 2-3 inches of "stump" left and in just a shallow amount of water. If they rotted, I'd guess that there was either not enough food left, too much water or too warm of a temperature. 🙂
How about saving time?
Do you mean that this is another benefit of doing this?
I tried this several times in my kitchen window which is sunny in the AM but shady later in the day. After a month it was only 3"! And I changed water daily. It started getting slimy as well around the base. I was trying Romain and green leaf.
I am so sorry - have you looked for possible reasons online?
I have been trying to regrow green onions and they did grow but the roots ended up with mold on them. How do I keep that from happening? (I changed the water every once in a while, but when I did too often, they stopped growing)
I will see if Tiffany can come over and respond - thanks!
Regrowing food sound great. I have celery lettuce ready to try. I the water use is my tap water after it has sat on the counter overnight. No more chlorine or ammonia.
I am growing lettuce and celery in my kitchen window. It is doing great.
I need to try this. Thanks for the reminder.
Seriously?! This is crazy! I'm going to try this. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂
Unbelievable, huh? Hi Trisha!
I have been trying this ever since you posted this blog. imine have been getting slimy and don't grow very high, maybe one of the bunch will grow a couple of inches if that. maybe due to being in the hot arizona or too much water? any tips? thx!
Hi Kim! I haven't run into this issue before, but my best guess would be the combination between heat and moisture causing additional growth. I live in a very temperate climate, but an increase in temperature makes all of my indoor growths (fermentations included) a bit more slimy. Maybe try to find a cooler spot, in the shade, using less water or maybe putting an ice cube in the water can help!
Kim, I have the same problem and I live in Wisconsin! We're certainly not too hot here! I've never been able to re-grow anything in water, and have had minimal success regrowing in soil. As much as I would love to do this, I think I'll have to stick with seeds! Great idea for those who can pull it off, though!
I'm definetly going to try this with celery and leeks. You've inspired me! Thanks!
You're welcome Suzanne!
I love the idea but unfortunately don't have a good windowsill or counter space near a window. Do you think this could work outside? If anyone has tried it, any precautions to be aware of?
You could certainly do this outside! A spot with protection from extreme weather elements, i.e. too much wind, too cold, etc., and the average garden pest would be great. Also check the water more frequently since warmth from the sun may cause a quicker rate of evaporation. Good luck! ~Tiffany
I loved this article and wondeirng if I can re-post it on my site (with links and credit of course)?
I would also like to send you a copy of my video set "Grow Your OwnGroceries" to review. Drop me an email with your address...
Hi there. I am open to an excerpt but not the whole article as that will impact SEO. Google doesn't like duplicate content on the internet. Most likely your SEO would be the one impacted the most but please don't do it anyway. I'll try to get to you later - thanks!
Thank you so much, several ??? I had about other plants to regrow besides my Romaine lettuce were celery,onions,cabbage-woohoo. I am growing Romaine right now in several glasses at different stages. I have to say it is exciting and rewarding. Ditto on another comment where collecting the water from shower/bath before the water gets hot works with little or no effort at all. I really enjoy finding and reading ways to be green and eco :0)
Thx for commenting. Be careful about that shower water though....tap water is filled with icky stuff. Check out my link in the post :).
Yes indeed, that is what were looking into-whole house-fluoride and chlorine filtering 🙁 we have a filter undersink and icemaker/w/o fluoride and chlorine total 0% or at least 90% and are heavily researching for the best whole house that does all that's needed. We rely heavily on reviews of systems and want the best filter. It's mind boggling yet the research will continue. Thank you for the heads up, so far I just water outside plants with it. I also rinse my glass coffee/tea carafe with filtered water and keep for outside plants, water from container from celery kept in frig-it all adds up. :0) Any helpful info on personal happy with there filter system would be much appreciated and most welcome.
I have a Cl filter but not whole house Fl. I have info on the company I like in my Water Safety post. There's a link in this post :).
It's fun to regrow food and while it may save a little money I'd be concerned about the nutrient content of plants growing only in water. I think that is why you can only regrow them one time. The inner leaves probably use up any nutrients left in the outer leaves, then all is depleted. You may end up with more nutrient rich veggies if you stick it in a pot of good soil after you see roots appear or just put it in the soil from the start and keep moist. I've done it the latter way.
You make a good point on the nutrient content. If I remember correctly hydroponic farms add water-soluble nutrients in order for their plants to grow with relatively the same nutrients as those grown in soil. If I had a garden or even a pot with soil then transplanting it would be ideal. However, for those where that simply isn't an option (like me), water will just have to do.
I also consider though how many nutrients could come out of a single green onion or a single half-head of lettuce fully grown in soil in comparison. I'd venture to say that none of us are expecting to get a large number from that single item anyway, and since you're really only eating that half a head of lettuce every six weeks, regrowing in water is more of a fun (and free) way to get just a bit more bang for your buck. 🙂
Yes, that's right. I was looking into hydroponics and found you could buy the nutrients or make them yourself. So that's one thing you could add in if you want.
I love it! the pic of the 1/2 size grown lettuce head looked like it had dirt in it. do u transplant it into dirt at some point? thx!
Thanks Kim! The picture showing the larger cup is still in water... just dirty water. 😉
I started the bottoms of green onions in a cup about two weeks ago. Now they are almost 7" tall. It's really amazing. I also started romaine lettuce, celery, and leaf lettuce. The Romaine and celery are slowly growing (about 2-3"), but the other lettuce is doing well. I finally put the onions in some potting soil and I think they're doing much better.
Wow - neat!!!
I am so going to try this. I have romaine in my fridge right now...
Anything to save a few cents here and there 🙂
I hope to try it with celery - can't wait!