Whether we've been swept up in the "dig for victory" mentality or are trying to live more frugally, being in lockdown has meant more of us are yearning for the Good Life than ever before. Since the pandemic took hold, Google searches for "growing vegetables from scraps" have rocketed, garden centres have amassed digital queues and there's even been a surge in hen-keeping.
Growing your own isn't just a fun way to make your food shop go further, it also reduces waste, saves money and fosters a connection with the produce on our plates. One that got lost somewhere among the plastic-packed, strobe-lit supermarket aisles.
The methods aren’t exact and you won’t always be able to get whole new fruit and veg from your scraps but, having salvaged and coaxed life from my own compost bin rescues, I can vouch for the joy it brings. Plus, it's a welcome screenless way to keep kids entertained. So, when it comes to sourcing locally grown grub, save yourself a trip to the supermarket and turn to the contents of your kitchen cupboards instead.
Sowing new growth from old seeds
It might feel strange to bury a slice of tomato in compost instead of popping it into your mouth but after spotting this post by biophilic homeware brand Chalk & Moss I decided to try my luck. All you do is slice up your tomatoes, then soak the seeds overnight before rinsing. Then place them in a pot, cover with soil and water. I skipped the soak and rinse bit but that hasn’t stopped the above from sprouting.
Peppers are the pinatas of the vegetable world. Scrape the seeds onto some tissue, let them dry out overnight and sow them thinly. I re-used a plastic takeaway container covered in a plastic wallet to create greenhouse conditions. Leave it on your sunniest window if you don't have a garden. With an abundance of seed confetti at your disposal, it’s no biggie if the first lot doesn't come up.
Carefully collect the fiery seeds from chillis (and try not to touch your face after) and sow them thinly in seed compost or sieved multi-purpose compost. You could experiment with watering the soil first to stop the seeds becoming dislodged. If the chillis have been dried with heat, it's unlikely they'll germinate so try with fresh chillis instead.
We’ve yet to have any success sprouting an avocado from the stone. But it seems plenty of people have. There are two popular methods to sprout a pip. One involves cocktail sticks, the other a dark, warm cupboard. The latter is explained in detail in episode 16 of Jane Perone’s podcast. As Perone explains, avocados naturally sprout from the dark, damp confines of animal dung, so mimicking this setting improves your chances. Before you go to the effort, remember you won’t be able to grow actual avocados this way but you will get an attractive new house plant and lots of kudos within the plant community.
Get your sprout on
Peas and marrowfat peas
A fast-growing and high yielding crop, peas and marrowfat peas (the ones used for mushy peas) are a tasty cut and come again crop which freshen up soups, salads and sandwiches. Soak dried peas overnight and scatter them fairly thickly before covering in soil and watering. A crate from your local grocer or off licence would work well as a container if you’re trying out microgreens. Remember to provide a frame for your peas to climb up if not.
Lentils and chia seeds
As well as having a high nutrient content, this lot are also fun to grow. And you don't need much equipment, space or a sunny windowsill – just a mason jar (or a leftover sauce jar) and a mesh cloth. Rinse your seeds, then cover them with water and leave overnight. In the morning drain the seeds using a mesh cloth (or old, clean tights) and repeat the process twice daily for the next three to five days. Avoid sunlight and you should have a delicious and nutritious harvest in a few days. For water to seed ratios, check out this chart from Sprouting101.
Potatoes Are your potatoes sprouting eyes? Don't ditch them, just cut them up and plant them in a big container or bag of soil. With a bit of patience, you'll have new spuds.
Here we grow again
When it comes to spring onions, leeks, lettuce, bok choy and celery, just cut off the base and sit the stump in a shallow container of water until you see new sprouts. You can eat the new vegetation if you're keen or once there are roots, you can transfer to soil for a higher yield. Do the same with the carrot and radish tops and plant up once they've sprouted. The leafy heads are great in salads or as a parsley substitute.
Have you been growing from your food scraps? Share your results with the Candide community.