For many of us, the long pandemic-induced quarantine days of 2020 will always bring back memories of baking banana bread, whipping up Dalgona coffee, and cutting our own hair. But another trend that sprouted during that period has taken root with those wishing to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle.
Seeking to stay socially distant while also keeping busy, people during quarantine turned to tinkering with growing — or regrowing — vegetables in whatever confined spaces they found themselves in. Thus, all those social media posts of leafy greens bravely budding in glasses, coffee mugs, and whatever else was available. More than two years later, the trend has blossomed as people seek to reduce the amount of kitchen waste — and therefore their carbon footprint — with a little DIY gardening. If you’re looking for ways to make the most of your food — and cut down on the scraps you’re tossing into the compost heap after every meal — then regrowing your vegetables might be for you, too.
What is regrowing?
As simple as it sounds, it means taking your leftover fruits and vegetables and turning them into new plants instead of throwing them away . And no, it does not take a horticulturist to produce results. Frankly, you don’t even have to be much of a gardener. If you’ve ever planted a seed and watched it grow, you’re more than qualified.
Not only is this an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint, but it also minimizes waste and means you are getting that much more out of your groceries — critically important these days considering rising food prices. Moreover, because you are consuming less food, fewer vegetables need to be grown, harvested, and transported — reducing the energy-intensive drain on already-strained resources.
What vegetable should I start with?
When you are starting out, stick to the basics. And little is more basic than Romaine lettuce, with its elongated, dark green contours. Simply cut off the leaves just above the stalk — two to two-and-a-half inches will be enough — and begin the process. Obviously, an affinity for gardening will be helpful, but watching your own little plants grow is also fun. And how cool is it to grow your own lettuce? It doesn’t get any better than that.
Now that I have my stalk, what do I do?
Recalling all those quarantine images on Instagram, put the stalk in a glass of water. It’s essential the water only covers the lower part of the stalk. The edge cut off at the top should remain about two-thirds above the water line, ensuring a new plant can emerge from it. This step takes about two or three weeks. Remember to also change the water daily — otherwise your beautiful, sustainable project will no longer be a crunchy salad, but just a rotting piece of vegetable in a glass.
If you may have trouble remembering this — say, you’ve buried a few houseplants in your past — make this part of your morning ritual. Prepare your breakfast and while doing so, give your new plant some fresh water, too.
When do I put it in a pot?
When the first small leaves emerge from the stalk, new roots have already formed. That’s when it’s time to put the lettuce in a pot. As soil, you can use normal potting soil mixed with a little sand. This way, water will not form in the pot, but flow through it. Before you put it in the pot, you should remove all the leaves that may have gone bad on the stalk. After some time, lettuce will have formed — and you’ll have grown two lettuces for the price of one.
Now that I have lettuce, what else can I grow?
Plenty of other vegetables — from onions and carrots to beets and cilantro. The process works the same way with celery, leeks, and garlic, as well. Garlic can even be planted directly in the ground. To do this, you simply take a clove from the bulb and then plant it directly in the ground with the bottom side down. After some time, a plantlet will form.
You can also regrow ginger, mint, and basil
For ginger, apply the same instructions to a piece of ginger and then insert it into the soil as soon as a few roots have formed. A new root will grow in the soil over time. And once you’ve regrown one, it’s likely you’ll be hooked — and well on your way to living more sustainably.
When we began regrowing our veggies instead of discarding them, we suddenly enjoyed propagating other plants such as basil and peppermint, too. Again, the process is the same. Simply take small trimmings of basil or peppermint with a length of about four inches, remove the lower leaves, and put them in water. After a few days, some tiny roots will form, and you can plant these cuttings into small pots again.
Just give it a try — sustainable living can be so much fun.