As we all get used to our life under quarantine, there’s a certain appeal to the thought of growing our own food. But for those of us without outdoor space (or the will to use it), there is actually a lot that can be done right from your windowsill. And in many cases, you don’t even need dirt — you just need a few kitchen scraps to get started.
Yes, you can regrow everything from avocados and potatoes to full-scale apple trees from scraps, but, to be a bit more optimistic of the time frame of this quarantine, we're only including items that take days and weeks to sprout back up — rather than months. This is the guide for those with little patience and absolutely no green thumb.
But before you get started, one thing to consider: If you can, try to stick to organic or farmers market items since those have a lower chance of being treated with pesticides that might hinder growth (often sprays to stop items from sprouting in a long grocery store wait). Beyond that, just have a bit of patience and you can soon start celebrating small victories with growing your own food.
Scallions are the MVP of regrowing produce. They grow significantly in as little as a week and require nothing more than a cup and some water. Place the bottoms of your scallions (the white part with the small roots) in a cup of water near some sunlight, ensuring that a little bit of the stem is poking out of the water. Change the water when it starts going down — but that’s it. You’re a gardener already.
Leeks are alliums just like scallions, so it’s the same process but with a slightly longer lead-time. On the other hand, you’ll get a heartier vegetable in exchange for your patience. Place the leeks' roots in a glass container and set it on a windowsill with sunlight. Change the water as needed and, within about two weeks, you’ll start to have leeks that are ready to use.
Most people think when their garlic starts showing green stems, it’s time to throw it out. But if you let that garlic keep going, you’ll get garlic sprouts, which you can use anywhere you might use chives or herbs. To grow them, simply place the garlic into a shot glass with some water. Within five days, you should have some sprouts to start using.
If you need some extra greens in your life, look no further than romaine. Leave an inch or two off the end when you cut your original batch and then place that romaine heart in a bowl of shallow water situated in sunlight. Change the water daily, and within two weeks, you’ll have enough to top a sandwich. Within three or four weeks, you’ll have a whole head.
You can regrow cabbage with almost the same methodology you use for lettuce: Place the base of the cabbage in a shallow bowl with a little water. Set near direct sunlight and, after three days, you’ll start to see a few new leaves. The only difference is you’ll want to mist a bit of water on the leaves. Within two weeks, you’ll have enough leaves to get started on some kimchi, perhaps?
If you aren’t using the leaves at the top of your carrots, you're missing out on one of the best greens around. They are perfect in salads and pestos to add a little bit of herbaceous heft. And the extra good news is that they are also among the easiest greens to grow at home. Put the tops of your carrots in a small dish with some water and set them by sunlight. Within a few days, you’ll start to have greens you can use.
With celery, we’ve gone past the point where a bowl of water suffices. Regrowing your celery is among the easiest projects for a planter, but you will still need some soil to really get your celery to grow. You start out with a shallow bowl of warm water in a sunny area. Change the water every other day, mist the leaves and, within a week, you will start to see leaves grow. At this point, move to a planter (or any cup with holes at the bottom for drainage) and plant it in the soil, making sure the little leaves are still out. Keep watering and, within a month or two, you’ll start to have useable stalks.
Herbs are another easy plant to grow indoors, but to get the most out of them, you'll need to plant them, too. Putting herbs in water is great either way, because it keeps them fresh for much longer than they would be just waiting in your fridge. But after a week or two, you’ll start to see roots coming along, and at that point, you can plant them. You want to make sure your herbs are getting sunlight and are watered most days. When the leaves start to come out, make sure you leave enough of the plant behind to keep it growing indefinitely.
Cilantro might be polarizing in its flavor — but certainly not in its ability to regrow. Just use the same methodology as with basil and, within a few weeks, you should have enough cilantro to use — but only for those who don't think it tastes like soap.