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!