Every spring, I see the same old hack about regrowing vegetable scraps. Yes, it works, but it’s not the most productive use of your time. I chatted with Venelin Dimitrov, Senior Product Manager of Burpee, to learn the reasons why you shouldn’t bother growing veggies from scraps and what you should do instead.
Low Yield and Poor Quality
The popular veggies people like to grow from scraps are lettuce, celery, carrot tops and onions. However, once you get it to grow, it will not result in a robust, full-size plant.
Also, it usually isn’t the best specimen for planting. “Often, the vegetable has been sitting in cold storage for too long and has been tampered with too much,” warns Dimitrov. “The root system is no longer established or viable, and it likely will not grow well.”
“Produce from the grocery store comes from commercial farms designed for optimal production,” says Dimitrov. “These operations are built for speed and quantity, and the varieties used for big ag are developed to grow fast and large.”
During the development process, the vegetables lose some of their natural flavor and nutritional value. “If you use veggie scraps from grocery stores, it will not taste as good as the original vegetable, and you will likely not achieve a vegetable the size or quality you may be expecting. It will be weaker, smaller fruit,” says Dimitrov.
Use Starter Plants Instead
If you want to grow your vegetables, but do not want to start seeds, use starter plants instead. Some starter plants, like herbs and greens, are harvestable from day one. They will grow faster and give you a better yield because they haven’t been treated to help them last longer in storage or have been under refrigeration.
The quality is unparalleled. “The produce you grow at home is more flavorful and nutrient-rich,” says Dimitrov. “Plus, the fun of learning by growing and the fulfillment you feel when you see your progress and achievements are unmatched.”
If instant gratification is what you need, there are many vegetables that can yield a fast harvest. Some fast growers include squash, lettuce, herbs and green beans.
Better Uses for Vegetable Scraps
“Composting is a great way to use vegetable scraps in the garden,” suggests Dimitrov. “Nothing does more for a garden than good compost—it’s an ideal way to improve soil and create a perfect home, teeming with life, for the roots of your plants.”
Regrowing scraps is a good science experiment to conduct with kids. It shows the basic growth cycle of plants, and kids find it fascinating.
Another great way to reuse veggie scraps is to save them in a freezer bag or container. Once it’s full, throw them into a stockpot with water and make vegetable stock. That stock can be used to create soups, stews, flavored rice or pasta dishes or to deglaze a pan to make a sauce or gravy.
Growing your own food is a rewarding experience. However, skip the vegetable scraps and use starter plants to guarantee a strong yield and produce better quality and flavor.