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Don’t throw it away, grow it today

People waste resources and money without knowing it on occasion. One of those times is when vegetable crowns or bottoms are discarded instead of re-growing them.

Replanting the crown and growing more lettuce leaves from what would have been discarded will save water. It takes three gallons of water to produce one cup of iceberg lettuce. A single medium head of iceberg lettuce can yield up to eight cups and takes 24 gallons of water to produce it. Re-sprouting the crown can produce more lettuce leaves using far less water than if a new plant was started.

A lot of other resources go into growing a single vegetable from seed. Growing a head of lettuce will have used fuel to get the seed to the farm, energy for transportation on the farm, and fuel to get grown lettuce to a distribution center, and then to market. More energy will be used by anyone that drives to the market to purchase the lettuce. The energy expended for purchasing one or two heads per week will have a negative impact on the environment over the long run.


Not all fruit or vegetable food scraps have the possibility of resprouting. New vegetables can be grown from seeds or the crown of an older plant. Seeds are the most obvious candidate for growing a new plant but often end up in the green bin with the other kitchen waste. Although it might be easier to drop $4 on a seed packet, saving seeds from a vegetable instead of discarding them is comparable to finding $4.00 on the sidewalk.

Non-organic fruits and vegetables might have seeds that have been genetically modified to be sterile, so it is better to always grow seeds from organic sources. Different plants’ seeds have different shelf lives as well. Onions have about a 10-month window while a tomato seed has germinated after 22 years. Most tomato seeds are good for seven to 10 years. There is a comprehensive seed viability chart at to help plant successfully.

Many vegetables can be re-grown from their crowns. A plant’s crown is where the stem and the roots come together. It is also the part that is usually disposed of when preparing a vegetable for a meal. Bok choy, celery, leeks, lettuces, lemongrass, carrots, onions, garlic, chives, pineapple, beets, turnips, radishes, and many other root vegetables can regrow from their severed crown. The crowns of some plants such as lemongrass will grow back to their original size. Others such as celery crowns will produce stalks about half their mature size, and some, like beet crowns, will yield smaller vegetables but produce tender edible foliage and/or seeds for planting.

A kitchen scrap will have been cut either below the crown if working with a turnip or above it as in the case of a leek. It is best to start these ‘scraps’ in a shallow dish of water or a small pot of moist sand. Root ends should always be planted down while foliage ends should be planted upright and placed on a bright window sill. The water should be changed every other day. Small leaves or roots will appear within two to three weeks. The plant can then be transplanted into a vegetable bed or container and grown until it is ready to be harvested.

Ginger, turmeric, horseradish, and Jerusalem artichoke are examples of rhizomes that need to be peeled before use. Inevitably the small, hard-to-peel pieces get thrown out. These little portions can be planted in a small pot and after sprouting planted in the garden. They will produce a never-ending supply of root-based spices.

There is an overlooked value in some of the things that get thrown away. Using food scraps to grow more vegetables will save water, energy, and money. Although the savings may be small, the sprouted vegetables will provide a harvest rich in flavor and delight and will have used less water and energy to do so.

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