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Growing vegetables from scraps: 10 easy veg to try

Try growing vegetables from scraps

Did you know you can save money and cut back on waste by growing vegetables from scraps that you'd normally throw away? There’s a whole list of vegetables, herbs (and even a popular fruit) that will regrow from leftovers, saving your precious pennies and providing you with home-grown pesticide-free food.

You don’t need lots of horticultural expertise, it’s simple to do, and doesn’t require any sophisticated equipment – for many vegetables, all you’ll need to get started at home is a bowl or jar of water and a sunny kitchen windowsill.

You don’t even need a garden! Growing vegetables from scraps is a skill well worth learning. And in these financially uncertain times, it's a wonderfully cheap garden idea that can anyone can have a go at. But it’s also great fun to try with kids as a first gardening activity, plus, the result is free food! What more could you want?

Using the scraps from your favorite store-bought veggies, you're not only saving on waste but you're saving money by growing free plants. There's no expensive kit required either. All you need is a vessel for water, and somewhere to plant your veggies on afterwards.

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By Geraldine Sweeney

(Mehriban Aliyeva / Alamy Stock Photo)
1. Celery

Growing celery from scraps is easier than from seeds, as even experienced gardeners find it tricky to germinate them. You can start off this free indoor garden with your celery stump in a bowl of water. It’ll grow fresh, spicy leaves in a few weeks. 

Harvest these and add them to salads, or use them to make pesto. If you have space in your backyard, plant celery outside in early summer, and give it bags of moisture - you’ll be cropping the crunchy ribbed stems in a few short months.

Use them to add bite to winter soups and stews, or raw with summer party dips. 

(AGEphotography / Getty)
2. Lettuce

When you’ve used up all your juicy lettuce leaves and are left with an unpromising-looking brown stump, don’t throw it out! You can regrow fresh salad leaves in a couple of weeks on your windowsill. 

It really is super-easy and needs no previous gardening experience. For this reason, and because it’s so speedy, it’s one of the best garden activities for kids, and one of the first to try if you’ve never tried growing vegetables from scraps until now. 

And once you’ve used the newly grown leaves, pop the stump back in fresh water, and it will regrow all over again. Genius!

(Mehriban Aliyeva / Alamy Stock Photo)
3. Scallions

Scallions are yummy added to salads and sandwiches, and the good news is, they’ll produce shoots in water in no time. Just like lettuce, they’re so simple that they’re a great veggie to start off with and a perfect plant for beginners. 

Grow them on your kitchen windowsill in a bowl, and in a couple of weeks you’ll be harvesting your own scallion shoots. Or you can plant the bottom bit with roots into soil and grow on to produce bulbs, which takes 3-4 weeks. 

Or let your plants flower which will produce seeds to collect. It's an easy method to get free seeds, which you can then sow. 

(Mehriban Aliyeva / Alamy Stock Photo)
4. Carrots

Carrots can regrow from scraps in water too – you just need the top end of the carrot root to start you off. First you’ll get the green asparagus-like foliage which you can chop up and sauté, or use to make carrot pesto. 

Carrot top greens are hugely nutritious, being high in potassium, with a parsley-like flavor. If you’re keen to know how to grow carrots whole, transplant the tops out into the backyard once they’re shooting, and you’ll have fresh roots in 2-3 months. 

Allow one to flower and you’ll get carrot seeds too.

(Oreolife / Alamy Stock Photo)
5. Basil

These extremely useful herbs that we use all the time in cooking can be easily started off from a leftover stem in a jar or bowl of water. This is great, as they’re difficult to keep fresh for long indoors and can be temperamental. 

If you're learning how to grow basil using scraps, it’s best to start in spring or early summer. Keep them handy for culinary use on a sunny kitchen windowsill, indoors or outdoors as part of a vertical herb garden, and harvest regularly. 

For the best flavor, don’t let them flower. Don’t pick more than a third of the plant at any one time, and they’ll keep producing for you. 

(Washington Imaging / Alamy Stock Photo)
6. Pineapple

It’s perfectly possible to regrow a pineapple from a leftover pineapple top. You might have to wait a while, as they can take two to three years, but you’ll certainly impress the neighbors once they're ready. 

Pineapple plants are bromeliads, and like all other bromeliads they flower once, produce one fruit and promptly die. But you can propagate new plants by digging up the small plants or ‘pups’ at the base, advises Gardeners’ World. 

Pineapples need space – they have to reach 6ft (2m) to flower and require full sun, so you’re best growing them in something like a DIY greenhouse in cooler climates.

(EyeEm / Alamy Stock Photo)
7. Garlic

Learning how to grow garlic from leftovers at home takes almost no room, so is easy if you’ve no outside space. There are two methods to try – either put cloves in a jar with water, and harvest the shoots, or garlic greens, which have a milder flavor than the bulbs, and snip into salads and dips. 

Or plant cloves outside as part of your budget backyard, root-end down below the soil. Organic guru Bob Flowerdew recommends doing this in the fall, for bulbs around five months later.

Plant garlic near roses and fruit trees as a companion planting method, he says, as the smell deters pests, but keep it away from beans and peas.

(alenaloginova / Alamy Stock Photo)
8. Potatoes

You can grow a whole container full of potatoes from a few leftover potato scraps with ‘eyes’ on them. Okay, it’s less sure than buying seed potatoes from garden centers, but it's free and perfect for a small vegetable garden. 

If possible, choose organic varieties that are less likely to have been treated with growth-retardant chemicals to stop them shooting. 

Grow potatoes from scraps by cutting it into pieces and start off in water. Once they shoot, plant outside in the ground or in a large bin in multipurpose compost, with the ‘eyes’ upwards. Any kind of potato can be used – you can grow sweet potatoes this way too.

(Rocklights / Alamy Stock Photo)
9. Beets

Beetroot is one of the easiest vegetable to grow, so why not try growing it from scraps too? 

Beet leaves are delicious eaten fresh in salads or chopped into stews, stir-fries, and soups. Beetroot is another vegetable that regrows foliage easily in water. Use the top of the globe cut off with its leaves removed, and new ones will regrow. 

If you can transplant them and grow beetroot outside in garden soil, they’ll produce leaves for longer. Some varieties of beets have particularly attractive colorful leaves, and they’re packed full of good things – they contain iron, potassium and magnesium as well as vitamin K.

If your leftover beetroot is healthy, you may even get a second harvest in your kitchen garden. 

(different_nata / Getty)
10. Watercress

Watercress is easy to grow, happy in shade, and is packed with vitamins and minerals. You can easily grow your own supply all summer from leftover pieces of watercress, either as healthy microgreens on your kitchen windowsill, advises Alys Fowler, horticultural author, or outdoors in moist soil or in a pot as part of your gardening container. 

Start in spring, using leftover stems in water to produce roots. After that, pot up in moist compost and continue to grow on your windowsill, or transfer it to a large garden planter or moist soil in a shady spot outdoors, making sure it never dries out. 

(velien DOosje / Alamy Stock Photo)

Try growing vegetables from scraps to cut down on food waste and save money on your weekly shopping