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How to beat waste by growing food from kitchen scraps

If you’re anything like us, you’re probably already doing your bit to try to help reduce waste and save the planet. But did you know that many of the vegetable scraps, stems and peelings which find their way into your bin can actually be used to grow new plants? Not only will this cut down the amount of waste you’re sending to landfill, but it will also help reduce your weekly shopping bill.

Here at BOL, we’re all about fighting food waste — especially if it means we get to eat lots of delicious veggies in the process. Today, we’re sharing four tasty vegetables that can be grown from scraps, so you can enjoy them all over again.

Before you begin

Man doing peace sign

Growing your own fresh produce from scraps is surprisingly easy, but you’ll still need some basic equipment and info before you can don your gardening gloves and get stuck in.

  • Work out when to plant: Most veggies are seasonal. That means that some plants will grow better than others at different times of the year. To learn more, take a look at this growing calendar from the RHS, which tells you exactly when to sow, plant out, and harvest your homegrown crops.
  • Find good soil: If you’re creating a new bed or planting your veggies in pots, you’ll need good compost. Look for organic varieties that are formulated especially for growing vegetable crops, as these will provide your young veggies with all the nutrition they need. If you’re planting straight into an existing bed, you’ll need to prepare the earth by raking in some soil improver to make sure it’s got all the nutrients your crops need to thrive.
  • Gather a few containers: Many of these scraps need to be soaked in water before they can be planted, so you’ll need several containers. Why not try upcycling your used BOL bowls?
  • Pruning shears: Many of these veggies need trimming as they grow, so invest in a good pair of pruning shears. These will also make it easier to harvest your crops.


Potatoes in soil

Fried, roasted, baked into a pie or tossed in salad: there are countless ways to enjoy the humble spud. But this kitchen staple isn’t just versatile — it’s also surprisingly easy to grow. Potatoes can be grown in a bag or sack full of soil, which means they’re ideal for paved gardens and balconies.

How to grow it: You’ll need to start with a few potatoes which have sprouted eyes: these are the knobby roots which appear on the skin after a couple of weeks in a cool, dark place. Remove at least two inches of peel, including the eyes, and leave the peelings to dry overnight, as this will help to stop them from rotting. You can then bury them in a prepared bed or an upright bag filled with soil, placing them around 4 inches below the surface, with the eyes facing upwards.

After 3–4 months, your potatoes will be ready to eat, but you can leave them for another 2–3 months if you’d prefer to eat them when fully matured. You can also use this method to grow sweet potatoes.


Celery growing

Crunchy, fresh, and super healthy, celery makes a great addition to salads, and tastes great served as a crudité with some hummus. If you’re feeling cheeky, you can also add a freshly cut stalk to a Bloody Mary for a decadent brunch.

How to grow it: Cut two inches off the base of a celery bunch and place it in half an inch of lukewarm water, with the cut side facing upright. Leave the container to stand in sunny spot on your windowsill for at least a week. Change the water and use a spray bottle to mist the plant every other day.

After a week, the small yellow shoots at the base of the plant should have turned dark green. You can then plant your sprouting celery in a pot or bed: cover it with soil, leaving the tips of the new leaves uncovered. Keep the soil moist, and your celery should soon start to sprout roots. It’s ready to harvest once the stalks are at least 10 inches tall, which will usually take around 3–4 months.


Onions growing in soil

Onions are used in countless sauces, soups, salsas, and more. We recommend using yours to rustle up a plant-based risotto or make a French onion soup. They can be grown indoors and outdoors, so they’re a great year-round crop.

How to grow it: Next time you cook with onions, cut the root end off each bulb and keep them to one side. Leave the root bottom to dry out for a few hours, and then place it in the soil with roots pointing down and the cut side facing upwards. The onion will send new roots out within a few weeks, and once these have formed, you can remove the old onion top. Continue to water your onions whenever the soil dries out. After around 100–175 days, the foliage will start to turn yellow and droop to one side, and your crop will be ready to harvest.


Crispy Kale

High in iron and packed with all sorts of health-boosting antioxidants, kale is a superfood champion that works well raw in salads or cooked as a side. Try roasting it lightly in the oven with some sea salt and pepper to create your own healthy crisps.

How to grow it: Lacinato kale — sometimes called ‘Italian kale’ or ‘tuscan kale’ — is the best type to grow from scraps. Cut three inches of the top bud from the centre of the plant and dip the stem in some organic honey (this will help to encourage growth). Then, plant the stem straight into some potting compost or a prepared bed, and trim the leaves to help stimulate new root growth.

Keep the plant moist and, after a few weeks, it should develop a new root system and start putting out new leaves. After around 45 days, it should have dark purplish green leaves and be ready to harvest. Kale is a very hardy plant, so it will thrive in almost any conditions once established.

There’s nothing quite like fresh homegrown produce from your own personal vegetable patch. Simply follow these tips and, with a little luck, you’ll soon have a flourishing garden and a ready supply of tasty veggies.