Several kitchen scraps can be regrown in the garden to make an encore appearance back in the kitchen.
Kitchen scraps or future snacks?
Plants are a part of a healthy human diet, and while it is common for them to start in the garden and end in the kitchen, here are a few of my favorites that can travel in either direction.
Ginger is a common flavor in a variety of foods (common in Asian cuisine) and drinks (such as ginger ale). A little goes a long way, and ginger roots are sold in fairly large pieces so it isn’t uncommon for leftover pieces to start to sprout before they can be used up.
Luckily, ginger roots aren’t really roots, they are rhizomes. Don’t let that bother you since a whole one is a “hand”, and the growth buds are called “fingers”, so ginger isn’t known for being exact. The rhizome can be planted and, with luck, will take and start to spread.
The ginger can be cut into sections as long as each section has a “finger” or growing bud on it. Plant the ginger in a shallow container with the sprouting tip pointing up and cover the main rhizome with an inch or so of a quality potting mix.
Once started, they can remain container houseplants, or in zones 9-11, planted outside under filtered sunlight in a well-draining medium as a perennial. It is known for being a pretty low maintenance plant once established. Frequently grown in patches and harvested from as needed.
A couple of mint leaves can add a refreshing flavor to iced tea or foods. Although best used fresh and not after it has become kitchen scraps, there is often some leftover. Fresh mint is frequently sold in bunches and individual sprigs can be treated as cuttings. Root in aerated water or as per personal preference.
Mint can be grown outside in zones 5 through 11. Once established, it can spread aggressively, so care should be taken to keep it in check. Although leaves harvested right before bloom are the most flavorful, they can be collected and used anytime they are green.
Garlic is one of my favorite flavors. It is common in many different cuisine genres, and even a clove or two finely chopped can add zest to a dish.
It is often recommended not to use store-bought garlic for planting for a couple of good reasons. First, some big corporate garlic is sprayed with a rooting inhibitor that increases shelf life but ruins it for planting, and second, mass-produced garlic may not be suitable for your area. The easiest solution to these issues is to buy and use locally produced small-farm garlic. They generally don’t spray with rooting inhibitors, and, if grown locally, they should be appropriate for your area.
To plant, take any cloves that are starting to sprout and carefully separate them from the head of garlic, leaving the paper skins intact. Plant shallowly, sprout pointing up. Harvest when once the lowest first few leaves have withered and the bulbs (check with care) have swollen in size and appear well-formed.
Once shunned in some areas for its kinship to deadly nightshade, homegrown tomatoes are a tasty treat.
While most regular tomatoes in stores are the result of commercial hybrids, and as such don’t breed true, heirloom tomatoes can be a source of heirloom tomato seeds.
As with any tomato, the seeds should be scooped out and collected along with the gel encasing them. Eat the rest of the tomato. Keep the gel and seeds in a sealed container for 3-5 days in a 60-70 F degree area, shaking or stirring a couple of times daily. If mold develops on the top, remove the moldy layer, and continue. Then pour off the liquid (the good seeds should sink to the bottom), rinse the seeds, and dry them for a week or so before storing.
Also known as scallions, green onions are immature onions used for their tops in salads, soups, and anywhere an onion flavor is desired.
When preparing the original green onions, leave a little extra (about a pinkie finger width) when cutting the roots off. Then plant with the roots under the soil and the top sticking above. Water regularly, and in time, the roots should start to develop and the top should regrow. The tops can be harvested as needed and each plant can be trimmed at least a few times apiece.
Kitchen scraps can be not only a source of new plants but reusing them can be a learning experience about our relationship to our food.