Growing food from leftover scraps probably won’t be an answer to your ever-rising grocery bill, but it never hurts to be a little more self-sufficient and you may actually save a few dollars in the process. At the very least, you can have fun growing some interesting and unusual plants.
Here are five super-simple ideas.
Save several healthy, 4-inch (10 cm.) stems from a bunch of basil. Pinch the leaves from the bottom three-quarters of the stems, then put them in a glass of water with the remaining leaves above the water. Place the glass in bright, indirect sunlight.
Change the water every couple of days and watch for tiny roots to appear. When the roots are about 2 inches long (5 cm.), plant the stems in a small container filled with commercial potting media. Snip a few leaves and stems as needed.
Once you’ve mastered the simple technique for re-growing basil, you can easily grow a new cilantro plant. Put the stems in a glass of water as noted above. Put the glass in a sunny spot, away from direct, hot sunlight. Plant the cilantro in a pot filled with commercial potting mix when the stems have several healthy roots.
Be patient because it may take a few months to grow a full-sized plant. In the meantime, you can snip a few leaves here and there for culinary use. (Note: This technique works for a variety of herbs, including rosemary.)
Growing sweet potatoes is a fun project for kids (and adults too), and the vine is downright pretty. Place the potato in a jar of water with the pointy end facing down. Insert toothpicks horizontally into the sides of the potato to suspend it above the water.
After a vine appears, usually in a few weeks, begin adding a few drops of water-soluble fertilizer to the water about once a month. As the vine grows, cut it back occasionally to force bushier, healthier growth. When it reaches a healthy length, you can leave the sweet potato vine indoors and enjoy it like a houseplant, or plant it in the garden in late spring and dig homegrown sweet potatoes in autumn.
To grow ginger, just break a chunk from a store-bought ginger rhizome. Plant the chunk in a container filled with commercial potting soil and place the pot in a warm, sunny spot. When the plant is mature, pull it up and use the rhizome for cooking. Save a small chunk for replanting and you’ll never need to purchase ginger again.
Cut celery across the stalks at the base of the bunch, then place the base in a shallow bowl of water with the cut edge facing up. Put the bowl in a sunny spot and watch for new growth sprouting from the center in a few days. Change the water frequently.
The outer leaves may fade, but new growth will continue to grow from the center. When the celery is growing well, pop it into a pot filled with potting soil (or plant it directly in the garden).
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