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How to Plant Food Scraps

June 15, 2013 Green Blog No Comments
Julie Lillibridge, Contributor

Judy Lillibridge,








June 15, 2013

Bethesda, Md

Ah, spring, when a young gardener’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of vegetables. Or at least mine has, because I’ve found a way to grow my own nearly for free: planting food scraps.

This <a href=http://wakeup-world.com/2012/10/15/16-foods-thatll-re-grow-from-kitchen-scraps/>article</a> on Wake Up World lists sixteen kinds of vegetables that can easily be grown anew from the parts that most people chop off and throw in the garbage. Since you already paid for the vegetable anyway–not to mention you still get to eat it!–all it costs to try your hand at this is some water, some sunlight, some soil, and some time.

I chose onions for my own foray into food-scrap gardening, because the article claims that onions are the “easiest vegetables to propagate.” Who could screw that up?

Well, me. For my first attempt, I chopped off the onion’s root end about a quarter inch from the bottom, which I suspect was too close (the article recommends at least ½ an inch). I let the onion dry out a bit, lest it rot, and then proceeded to gently float it in a bowl of water on my kitchen counter.

After five days, I could see no evidence of life from the slowly-withering husk. I did learn, however, that onion skin, when soaked in water continuously for five days, will turn that water a surprisingly dark shade of caramel brown. (Did you know that even now, people <a href=http://waysofthewhorl.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/natural-dyeing-take-2-onion-skins/”>use onion skins to dye their wool and yarn</a>?) Aside from my runway-ready onion dye, though, after a week I was left with nothing.

My second attempt came about by accident. Cooking dinner, I noticed that the onion on the cutting board had begun to sprout… moments after said sprout had been lopped off. ”I could have grown that!” I wailed dramatically. In fact, the onion proved to be so brown and mushy inside that I went for it anyway. Certain that everything had been ruined, I nonetheless plunked the mutilated bulb into another bowl of water and waited.

Below is what that bulb became.


Note the flat tips of the leaves where they tangled with my father’s knife.






After two weeks of steady growth, I transferred the onion to a pot of soil. It has since slowed its growth slightly, but it’s still going strong.

Hilariously, not a day after the picture above was taken, I discovered yet another onion in the pantry, one that had more than sprouted: it wriggled.


Vegetable or eldritch horror?


Gladly, the leaves turned a less ghastly shade of green once they were exposed to real sunlight. So now I have two onions, both grown from full bulbs, lounging on my kitchen counter like they own the place. I’m not sure what the protocol is for harvesting them—use only the greens? Yank up the whole plant and start again? (Of course, if I were really hardcore, I’d go straight for the wild onion grass in my front yard—which, yes, is totally edible, and will serve wherever scallions are called for.) Still, the experiment has inspired me; I’m thinking next I’ll try a leafy green. Spinach, perhaps.

Have any of you tried growing vegetables from scraps? And do you think “onion couture” is the next big thing?

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