Friday, May 9, 2014

Growing Kitchen Scraps: Onions

Hello Fellow Gardeners!

Did you know there are several plants you can grow from your kitchen scraps? You can grow green onions indefinitely if you leave the roots in and just cut the green tops off. They'll regrow! About anything from the onion family will work that way. You can regrow several things that still have a root system intact. I'll show you what I mean by that later on. Pineapples, onions, cabbage, and celery can all be re-grown! Potatoes may be the best widely known. Organic potatoes are going to work much better because most non-organics are sprayed with an inhibitor to keep them from sprouting. If they sprout quickly, chances are you can grow them. I currently have a sweet potato under way and will keep regular updates on it. I also have a pineapple plant that my neighbor started and gave to me. It takes 2 years to get a pineapple!

There are a few different ways to regrow onions, but I am going to show you what you can do when you open your cabinet to find this. A red onion gone amok!

Halfway rotted, roots already starting to form, yuck! Great, just plant it and water, right? You can, but you will eventually have to peel off all that dead rotting stuff so the rest of it doesn't die too. So...

May as well get that part done now. I kept peeling until I got to the middle and look what was hiding there... another onion start!

As long as it has root buds, it will form new roots when nurtured.

If you look just on the inside of the white ring, you can see some little dots. These are the root buds. When you cut off the old roots (pictured above) you want to be sure not to cut too much off because you need these little root buds in order to grow roots. I would dare to say that anything you can find root buds on can be re-grown. They can be hard to find, though. Pineapple root buds are at the bottom of the spiny leaves on top of the fruit.

I keep peeling until all the dead or dying parts are gone and maybe a layer or two after that. Stop peeling when the next layer would be taking off a long green stem.

Then place the ends with the root buds into some water. Leave them there until they sprout some good healthy roots. I had 2 sprouted onions and, as you can see here, I got a total of 4 onion starts! Not too bad for something that would have been trash otherwise.

You can see how much they've grown in a week and a half.

The roots have started to form.

When the roots have gotten a bit of length to them, it's time to put them in soil so they can get some nutrients. I find it interesting that they started out white and darkened to a deep purple over a week and a half. On a side note: I did try to find out why they are called "red" onions when they largely look purple, but found no good explanation. When they get larger and papery on the outside, some of them do have a dark red color to them, so, perhaps that's good enough. Some people do call them purple onions. I looked to see if there was indeed two different types of onion, one red and one purple, but to no avail. Feel free to post in the comments if you have knowledge of this. I had always thought there was a red onion and a separate purple onion where one kind was sweet and the other hot. I have certainly had some that bit me back and others that were sugary sweet. Perhaps that's just variable like the heat of jalapenos...some are very mild, but others will hurt you.

Anyway, back to the task at hand... Here they are, the perfect number for a spot in my square foot garden. I will keep you updated on their growth.

That's all there is to it! I can't count the number of onions I've thrown away before learning of this method.

You can do the same thing with the root ends that you cut off in cooking. I leave the layers on at first and try to leave a 1/2 to 1 inch of onion above the roots. Then shave off the old roots until you get down to the root buds or close to them. Put the root end in a shallow dish of water at first. The layers will start to rot away while you are sprouting new roots so be sure to remove them as they do. It takes a bit longer to grow an onion this way, but just imagine if the next bag of onions you buy would be your last!

Let me know how your scrap growing adventures go!

Happy Gardening!

Jen Hen

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