How to turn grocery store produce into a garden
How to start a garden with grocery store produce.
To celebrate Earth Day 2021, we thought we'd share our way of reducing, reusing, and recycling! Here's how we have regrown grocery store produce, which not only saves money, but helps reduce your footprint by conserving resources. Please share what ideas you have, as well as what you have regrown from the grocery store!
What types of produce can you regrow?
So many! We’ll explain what makes a good candidate for regrowing, but we’ll be doing so from our own experience, so don’t let our list limit you! We’ve had great success regrowing all of the plants listed below.
Garlic is super fun and easy to grow. It produces beautiful purple flowers, as an added bonus. Simply plant a clove, peel and all, one inch into a pot of potting mix or directly into your garden bed. If you have a head of garlic on hand that has sprouted, plant them all! Give them about 6” of space between each clove, or else give each one a 6” pot. Keep moist until it sprouts, then reduce watering.
The easiest produce to regrow in our experience is the green onion. Hang onto the last 1/2” or so of your green onions (the part with the roots that you always throw away). You can simply plant it with the green end sticking up, or put it in a small glass of water (switch out the water once a day). It will regrow an entire green onion in a matter of weeks.
Citrus seeds are super fun, and super complicated. To keep it simple, all citrus plants are a cross between 3 original species. They also are not true-to-seed, which means you can take a lemon seed, and grow a lemon tree, but it might not produce lemons. It could make a grapefruit for all we know, or it could make inedible thick-rinded fruit. It will most likely have thorns, fruit aside. But it is also super fun, so if you don’t mind an ornamental plant, give it a try! It doesn't need to be organic (more on that later). Soak overnight in warm water to dissolve the outer slimy layer. Then plant 1/2” deep and keep moist!
Unlike citrus, papaya do grow true-to-seed, or at least they almost always do. Each one has a ton of seeds, so you’ll be able to grow plenty anyway. Clean the seeds, making sure they are cleared of the slimy layer. Then place in a moist (not wet) paper towel, and place that into a ziplock bag. Put in a sunny window until they sprout, then transplant into individual pots. Don’t let papaya trees get too cold! Above is a tray of seedlings, below are a couple of more mature papayas.
Easy, true to seed (mostly), great for sunny porches and easily grown in containers. Just plant a few of the seeds the next time you buy a pomegranate and they can grow into a beautiful flowering bush that produces hundreds of pomegranates every year. Drought- and heat-tolerant, to boot!
Another very fun fruit to grow from seed! The photo above shows the growth progression for seedlings. Once they sprout, they will start to grow tiny little cacti! They eventually grow larger and will need to be trained, but you can harvest dragon fruit within the first 1-2 years on average. They are also very drought-tolerant, but not frost-hardy, so bring them inside in the winter.
This one should be organic. Simply break off each individual leftover arm (or the whole thing, it'll make more of a cluster, so this is a good idea if you are growing it in a pot) and place it about an inch below the soil. Keep it moist until it breaks above the surface, and then water it when it dries out slightly. They can take a while to sprout (ours took about 2 months), but eventually they grow very quickly into a beautiful stalk with leaves and white flowers, making your whole home smell like ginger!
Organic VS Non-Organic
There are so many different types of produce that you can regrow from the grocery store. Depending on where you live, your climate will be a big factor in what you will be successful in growing, as will the space you have available to grow the food.
Another big factor in determining whether or not you’ll be able to re-harvest is whether a plant will grow true-to-seed. And there is one more layer- whether or not the produce has been genetically modified. It’s not to say that genetically-modified food is better or worse than any other; but, when you purchase organic produce, part of that certification means that it is non-GMO (not genetically modified). Many of the plants that we eat are genetically modified to NOT sprout before we eat them, and therefor are unlikely to, even if you want them to. Many are even sterile. For this reason, if you are trying to regrow grocery store-bought produce, it is usually best to go with organic. However, this isn’t always the case (green onions, garlic, citrus…).
If you don’t mind a little disappointment sometimes, we say go for it, regardless of whether or not it’s organic. Often, there is very little, if any, difference between organic and non-organic produce, since plenty of plants are naturally pest-resistant, or otherwise have no need to be genetically modified. But we can all agree pesticides are bad, so it might just pay to do a little research before you buy.