How to Grow Fruits & Vegetables from Food Scraps

growing plants from veggie scraps

Don't toss those food scraps! Did you know that you can actually grow new plants from common food scraps that are so often destined for the garbage or compost bin? The stems, butts and seeds from many common fruits and vegetables can be turned into a fresh new crop with soil, water, sunlight and a little know-how. Here are 11 grocery-store staples you can easily grow more of at home from the food scraps you already have. So reduce your food waste and get fresh produce at your fingertips with these, er, scrappy tips.

Related: 5 Ways to Stop Wasting Food & Start Saving Money on Food

1. Celery


Remove roughly 2 inches from the base of a bunch of celery and place in a shallow bowl with water, spraying the top daily to keep it moist. Replace with fresh water every couple of days until a new root system emerges, then transplant into the ground.

Related: Healthy Celery Recipes

2. Herbs


Most herbs will propagate through cuttings—snip at a node (where sections of the plant merge), and place the cut portion in a jar of water on a windowsill. Replace the water every one or two days until roots emerge, then transplant to a container or the ground.

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3. Garlic


Garlic is one of the easiest foods to grow from kitchen scraps—simply take cloves and place them pointy-side up in the ground, 4-6 inches apart. Plant them outside in fall before the first frost, and enjoy fresh garlic the following year. Plant them inside in a container any other time and enjoy garlic greens, but not a full head.

Related: Healthy Garlic Recipes

4. Ginger


If you've ever bought the exact amount of ginger you need for a recipe, you're our hero. If you're like most of us and always have some left over, give it new life by planting it and growing more! Soak the root in warm water overnight, then plant it sideways in a container, cover with soil and place in a sunny spot. Keep the soil consistently moist, and within several months you'll have enough ginger to harvest.

Related: Our Favorite Ginger Recipes

5. Green Onions

Green onions

If you're only using the green part of the onions, retain the white part with a small amount of pale green and place it in water on a sunny windowsill. Refresh the water regularly and use green portions as they grow, or transplant into a pot with soil for more extended use.

Related: Healthy Scallion Onion Recipes

6. Lettuce


If you typically throw out the base of a head of lettuce, cut it away from the leaves and place in a bowl of water. Replace the water every one to two days, and within two weeks you'll have enough fresh new leaves for a sandwich or side salad. Note: This will not regenerate a new full head of lettuce, but it will help extend the life of what would have otherwise become compost or trash.

Fresh & Healthy Lettuce Recipes
How to Grow Salad Greens in a Container

7. Peppers*


Save the seeds from your next bell or hot pepper. Plant them directly into soil, and water them regularly. Once a new plant emerges, transplant it to a larger container or outdoors, where it will thrive best in direct light and warm temperatures.

Related: Healthy Pepper Recipes

8. Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes


Plenty of us have started growing new potatoes by accident—raise your hand if you've ever left a bag in the back of the pantry for too long, only to find them covered in sprouts. Take a more intentional approach by cutting potatoes into 2-inch pieces and letting them sit on the countertop for a couple of days to dry. Sow directly into the ground in early spring, and enjoy buttery homegrown potatoes in early to midsummer.

Related: Healthy Potato Recipes

9. Strawberries*


Carefully cut the outer skin (containing the seeds) off the berry, or extract seeds using tweezers. Place the skin or seeds in a container with soil, cover with soil, place in a sunny spot and water regularly until sprouts emerge. Transplant the sprouts to a strawberry pot or outside garden in springtime.

Related: Sweet & Satisfying Strawberry Recipes

10. Tomatoes*


Simply plant the seeds from your store-bought tomato into a small pot, keep well-watered on a windowsill, and wait for a new plant to emerge. Once the plant reaches several inches tall, transplant it to a larger pot—or outside once the threat of frost has passed.

Related: Summery Tomato Recipes

11. Turmeric


Like ginger, turmeric is a rhizome, meaning you should plant it sideways to allow its root system to spread horizontally. A tropical plant, turmeric will thrive best indoors in most parts of the United States. Put it in the warmest spot in the house—it prefers temperatures well into the 70s and 80s. You may need to place it under a grow light and/or heating lamp, or purchase a germination kit with an incubation lid, heating tray and light. Keep the plant consistently moist, spraying and watering it regularly. Harvest when the plant begins to dry out after several months.


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*Note about regrowing grocery store produce from seed: Many of the fruits and vegetables grown and sold on a large-scale basis are hybrids, meaning they contain genetic components of more than one variety, and are not designed to be replicated through seed. Hybrid seeds from conventional produce may be sterile (will not grow) and if they do grow, will not give you an exact copy of the parent plant, but rather something closer to one of the varieties used to create the hybrid. For more predictable produce from harvested seeds, purchase nonmodified, heirloom varieties.

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Give your kitchen scraps new life with these fruits and vegetables you can grow from leftovers.
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