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Regrowing the produce section
June 27, 2012 - Ilsa Matthes
Last week I wrote about my exciting discovery that it was possible to regrow store bought celery. I am please to report that my little celery plant is doing well in a window box that I can easily view from my kitchen table. Seeing how much it has grown — sometimes with a tape measurer in hand — has become almost an addiction.
One little celery plant isn't enough. I need more.
Perusing the local grocery store for garden plants is usually reserved for the spring planting season, when store sell flowers, tomato plants, and other well established greenery outside in temporary greenhouses. Last week I took the gardening passion inside to the produce section and in search of other plants I could regrow.
My excitement was difficult to contain as I examined the tiny roots on green onions and the bases of a dozen vegetables. After a few strange looks from grocery store employees, I left with my treasures and a plan to discover the limits of produce.
I have had fantastic success with green onions. Unlike celery, there is no soaking period to start the plants if you only use the top. Just cut off what you need then plant the bulb part of the onion in soil with the top breaking through the surface. Because onions don’t take up too much space underground, the bulbs can be planted close together and in small containers without problems. Water, set in a window, and wait.
If you are someone who uses the bulb part of the onion, I have read that the very bottom of the plant can also be regrown if the roots are intact. Onions started this way may need to be started in water, but I haven't tried it myself.
I am astounded by how quickly these little plants grow. In a little over a week the onions are longer than they were when they came from the store. The bright, crisp-looking, green tops are much more appetizing than the tops that were on the same onions a week before.
Also sitting in front of my kitchen window are two romaine lettuce plants and one bok choy plant. Lettuce and bok choy need the same water soak jump-start that celery does.
Cut the top off the plant and use as usual. Set the bottom piece in water so that it is half-covered, and with the cut edge of the plant facing up. As long as the plant has access to sunlight you will begin to see growth in a few days. Plant the started plant in soil with the new growth above the surface.
The interesting thing about this is that celery, lettuce, and bok choy are all from different plant families. Somehow they all respond to the same soak start and seem to have similar light, water, and soil requirements.
As a note of caution: these plants apparently share viruses as well. If one of these plants is doing poorly in your garden, consider planting new plants away from any sick plants.
If you decide to harvest whole heads of lettuce, remember to harvest in the morning when it is cool and the plants have been drinking up water throughout the night. You can always soak and restart lettuce again.
Unlike green onions, it takes more than a few days for lettuce and bok choy to grow into something harvestable. However, if stir-fry isn’t a staple in your house and you have other ways to supplement salads, this method allows you to take what you need as you need it.
Even if it takes a little longer than a shopping trip, you are getting twice as much — or more! — than you paid for at the store for a “single use” vegetable. Your plants won’t have any pesticides unless you add them yourself, there is no packaging material waste, and there is less pollution from shipping trucks. All for a very meager amount of work.
--- I would love to hear your thrifty and sustainable tips and experiences. Leave me a comment.
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