What do you see here? A bunch of rubbish or food waste, if you like to be precise. Regardless of the used term, it is just trash right!? I was thinking the same until I came across a fascinating idea during my search for simple ecological practices that can reduce our waste generation. These practices include using recycled materials, reusing materials and the one that I am going to talk about in this post re-growing food waste. The more I read about plants and food growing, the more I realize how plants are incredible living organisms! To get started, you need to understand a bit of biology and then cut the right part, which has a growing tip, which varies from plant to plant. I will talk here only about a few examples, but hopefully, they will arouse your curiosity and drive you to discover this subject.
We all know this bag of potatoes that are left for a long time in our cupboard. In the end, the potatoes become softer and the eye buds start to sprout as seen in the right picture. These potatoes are telling you “I am ready, and you can grow me”. Depending on which part of the world you are in, you can plant your potatoes at different times of the year. But keep in mind, Potatoes need cool, but a frost-free growing season. If you are living in cool northern regions, you can grow your potatoes during summer. If you are in southern and warmer regions, you can grow your potatoes all throughout the year (winter, fall and spring), except summer. Regardless of your geographical location, you simply have to put the potatoes, if they are small to medium size, directly into the soil, making sure that the eye buds are facing upwards as seen in the picture below. If you have a large potato, it is recommended to use a sharp clean knife to cut it into small pieces and make sure that each piece has one or two eye buds. In this case, leave the cuts for one to two days before putting them directly into the soil. This is how you will give the potato time to “heal” and form a protective layer over the cut.
After a while, small tiny leaves will start to appear and every week the potato plant will get bigger and bigger. The bigger it gets the more care and love you should offer. Whether your potato plants are growing in a garden, a barrel or a bucket you need to cover it periodically with loose soil. Because if potatoes are grown too close to the surface and receiving too much sunlight, they will be bitter and most probably will form toxic chemicals, then your potatoes will look green!
To get tasty potatoes you should make sure that the potatoes tubers are grown in the dark. Potatoes are like a treasure grown deeply into the soil. However, you do not need to dig so deeply to figure out if it is the time to harvest your treasure or not! Nature gives us always signs and we just need to read them. Your potato plant will start to flower. If you want a small-thin skinned potato (50-55 days from planting) for your summer cooking, your first sign will be the appearance of the flowers. At this point feel free to dig and harvest your treasure. If you want storage potatoes you have to wait until the end of the growing season when the foliage becomes yellow and starts to dry. After that, you have to leave your treasure for one to two weeks more in the soil. This allows the skin to thicken up.
I learned an important rule in kitchen waste gardening: You do not always get the same plant. The aim of kitchen waste gardening is to take advantage of all the plant’s life cycle, not necessarily to grow a finished plant. For example, if you plant carrots tops, preferably ones with the blackish or brownish spots on top, you will not get a full carrot. Instead, you will only get the leaves. These leaves can be used in salads and soups. There are a lot of things that you can grow from your kitchen waste. There are endless of motives (economic, nutritional, environmental etc.) to encourage you to do so. Whatever your motivation is, it will bring you closer to your food and you will start sensing hidden lives that are surrounding us as humans. We could also learn a lesson from these plants that, regardless of how hard and “trashy” the situation is, there is always something that we can re-grow and use for ourselves.
References: Elzer-Peters, K.(2018). No-Waste Kitchen Gardening: Regrow Your Leftover Greens, Stalks, Seeds, and More. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Cool Springs Press
© Cover Image: independent.co.uk/
© Other images: Own photos