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Quarantine Series: Garbage Garden


This will change how you prepare your next meal by eliminating up to half of what you usually throw away!

Save your scraps and grow food out them…. it’s really that easy. So many of these ingredients are things you have in your house – onions, garlic, celery, a random pepper you don’t know what to do with, lettuce that’s going bad in your fridge, a bit of ginger root. All of these things can be the beginning of a sprout! I’ve heard it, but never really thought about doing it until now. Partially because I always thought it was too much work, and I thought I didn’t have the ability to grow weeds much less something edible.

However, there’s a lot of uncertainty right now, and just going to the grocery store is intimidating. Especially for high risk individuals – this article is for you! You can do most of these with the groceries you may already have. If you don’t – ask a friend or family member to drop off some of these items. You can grow more from there and you’ll be set for a while. These are the staple foods to provide healthy and delicious meals or meal components.

Truly, I am not a gardener. So the fact that I’ve gone here is a little crazy. But I also love it! I started some herbs and microgreens to cook with a few weeks ago but I realized that there’s no point in not doing this anymore. Consequently, I’m trying most of these things today, so I can keep you updated on how it goes. I’d love to hear your feedback if you try too!

So, here’s what you need to know to get started.

Things you DON’T Need: 
• To be Gardner 
• Flower pots (although it helps – desperate times call for creative measures – use an extra Pyrex, or remember that extra sauce pot you got as a wedding present? Perfect!)

Things you (probably) DO need: 
• To Save Money
• To Stay Home / Make fewer trips to stores 
• Something to do (maybe that’s just me… ) 
• Food Scraps 
• Soil – you won’t need it straight away, but you’ll need to get some eventually. You can always take some from your (or a friend’s) backyard. Target and Home Depot (HD now delivers too!) sell soil if those are more convenient locations, just make sure to get natural stuff that doesn’t have any growing additives, like this one from HD that delivers! If you want to shop around, make sure to look at ingredients to make sure the compost is from forest material rather than backyard or sewage – it’s gross but it’s a thing. You’ll be eating this food after all.

Green Onions & Fennel 
My mind is blown as a human and especially as a chef – a HUGE part of me wonders why we don’t do this in our commercial kitchen. If we kept a couple jars of green onion scraps in water we would never have to buy this stuff, let alone let it go bad so often, ever again!

Cut off your root ends (the parts you don’t eat anyways!) with an inch of the green onion, or fennel stem left. Place it in a shallow bowl or cup filled with enough water to cover the root and halfway up the stem. Check the water every day, freshen as needed. For green onions you can keep them there and take as you need. For fennel, once you see roots growing, you can plant in soil to get a new bulb as well as the herbs. Keep these jars on your counter in a well lit area but not in direct sunlight.  

Lettuce, Bok Choy, Cabbage, Celery
Simply place in a shallow bowl with water covering just the root portion. Place in an area with sunlight and mist often (or flick water like I do, if you don’t have a mister – my husband gets annoyed but I think its fun) to keep the leaves moist (not wet… moist!). When you see roots developing you can plant in soil. 

Bean Sprouts
Nutritious and delicious! I will say – these are fairly “hands on” requiring more than just a daily watering. Soak a tablespoon of beans in a jar with two inches of water. Leave overnight to soak and then drain. Cover with a damp towel. Rinse the beans each day until spouts begin to appear. Let them grow as large as you like! 

Turnips, Carrots, Radishes, Parsnips
Cut off the tops of the root vegetable and place in a container of water (again, a shallow bowl, a cup, whatever you like). New green tops should start growing in a few days. Once the root has developed you can plant it in soil! 

I am currently trying the method of halving a red bell pepper and detaching the seeds from the veins but leaving them in the pepper. Fill with soil and place in soil. As the pepper decomposes it will provide nutrients for the seeds! Supposedly, these guys grow pretty fast! Direct sunlight is the best. 

These can be tricky because you need to make sure you bought an heirloom variety in order to grow from seeds. But still, easy! You don’t need to wash or dry the seeds before planting, just dig about 1/4” of soil and squirt them out of the tomato. Cover the seeds with just a touch of moist soil and place in a warm sunny window. If you have a small container you’ll need to transfer them (if they are large tomatoes) once it sprouts. If you’re growing Cherry tomatoes, try to grow them in a taller pot so the roots have room to dig down deep.

Again – my mind is blown! How often have you found a forgotten head of garlic in your fridge or on your counter with a sprout coming out of it? One clove is all you need. Plant it with the hard root side down and the pointy end up. It’s best if you have it in a humid and moist soil with direct sunlight. Garlic likes it hot!  Once the sprout comes up, cut it off so that all the energy is focused on the bulb

Very similar to garlic. Cut the root end (the hairy end) off leaving 1/2 inch of onion attached. Place it root side down (cut side up) in soil and lightly cover. Water and watch magic happen. You can also start this process without soil by placing the root end down in water in a shallow bowl. It will flower in a few days and then you can plant it to finish growing. Do this will all your onion roots and you’ll have onions for the rest of your life! And you can use these, along with your garlic and tomatoes to make my homemade Bolognese 🙂

I started testing this one today and will keep you posted on the progress. Apparently, if you plant a piece of ginger root (I did one 1 finger width, about 2 inches long) it will grow! They say to place it with the buds facing up – mine did not have any buds, so you may need to simply keep it out of the fridge until this happens naturally, then plant in soil. We’ll see! 

For more information or other foods you can grow check out these articles that I read to get a lot of inspiration.



Happy growing!

Hi! I'm Sydney,

nice to meet you!

I left a marketing career in Hollywood to go to the Culinary Institute of America. After a few years of working in restaurants, I am now a private chef and sommelier in the 30a area.



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