Kitchen Scrap Gardening
Compost bins are filled with all kinds of special wonders – worms and bugs, favorite foods in all stages of decomposition, and a host of smells both sweet and savory. Did you know, though, that some of the bits of food that land in your compost bin can live a second life? Many of the food scraps that we discard can be turned into new plants and, eventually, more food! Creating a kitchen scrap garden is incredibly easy and equally as fascinating, and it can lead to fantastic experiential learning on the topic of plant growth and biology.
Plants possessing the ability to regenerate easily fall into a few different categories. Edible bulbs, like scallions and green onions, will happily continue to produce flavorful green shoots so long as their white bulbs are preserved. Biennial green stalk-y plants like celery, bok choy, lettuce, and cabbage can grow anew if the portion of the plant where the leaves and stalks originate from is saved. Plants whose roots we enjoy, however, work a little bit differently. Rather than saving a small, inedible portion of the plant to regenerate more edible stuff with, food scrap gardeners actually use the edible portion of the plant to sprout more. Ginger and potatoes both grow in this way.
While the time to plant outdoors in western Massachusetts has passed for most, it’s never the wrong time of year to sprout plants indoors. Many foods that can be re-sprouted can live entirely aquatic lives, and those that can’t can sometimes be grown successfully in small containers indoors – either for eventual consumption or simply for pleasure. Kitchen scrap gardens are easiest, least expensive, and most sustainable when their contents are determined simply by what gets eaten at home. Rather than rushing out to buy all of the foods that you wish to grow, wait until a food ends up on your plate, then add the scraps to your collection! Young kitchen scrap gardeners can learn all about the ways in which edible plants grow by watching small scraps sprout roots, leaves, and shoots. Help young gardeners to make meaningful observations of their food scrap garden collection by asking them to compare the shape, size, and growth pattern of plants; helping them to track the growth rates of plants in order to compare and contrast; and allowing them to test food scraps of their choosing to see if they’ll grow (and if they, do how it will happen!).
Try growing food from bits left over from:
- green onions, leeks, scallions, or fennel
- lettuce, celery, bok choy, or cabbage
- sugar cane
- carrot tops