The Art of Regrowth

Why should your cans, plastic, and paper have all the fun? If you've got a sunny south-facing window in your home, you can recycle the otherwise discarded parts of many everyday pieces of produce to regrow delicious scallions, potatoes, and even mangoes. Check out the tutorials referenced below for full information on having an indoor garden all year round.

(Editor's note: When regrowing any of the below-listed items, be sure to use only organic plants. Non-organic plants not guaranteed to grow. But consider that if you buy one organic piece of produce, such as an onion, each time you regrow it you're getting your money back!)

  •  Scallions: Did you know scallions will regrow indefinitely in a glass of water on your kitchen counter? Lifehacker recently posted the following:
If you like to cook with scallions (aka green onions or green shallots), did you know you can keep the white root ends from purchased scallions in a glass of water and they will regrow almost indefinitely? Household weblog Homemade Serenity shares how scallion ends can regrow in in a glass of water. Just put the root ends in a glass of water and put that glass in a sunny window. After a few days you should be able to begin harvesting the green ends of the scallions. Make sure you change the water every so often and cut what you need with scissors before cooking.
  • Potatoes Got an old potato that's started sprouting eyes? Click here to learn how to turn that into a whole new plant.
  • Onions  Instead of tossing those onion bottoms into the compost heap, why not grow your own fresh onions out of them? You can theoretically create an endless supply of onions without ever having to buy bulbs or seeds—check out how over at You can also regrow onions in a simple glass of water—click here to learn how.
If you like those, here are a few more ideas for re-growing food right on your kitchen counter (from Cornell's "Trash Goes to School" instructable).

  • White Potato in Soil: Take a white potato that is showing "eyes" and cut a section that includes an eye (about 1 square inch). Place it in a pot of moist soil, about 2" deep. Keep the plant moist but do not "drown" it. Field potatoes are planted this way. 
  • Sweet Potato in Water: In the middle of a sweet potato, stick 3 to 4 toothpicks evenly spaced. Place the potato in a glass of water and put it in a sunny window. Either end can be rooted. Keep the water level high, and after a week or more the potato will usually sprout roots and vine-like stems and leaves. At this point, you need to replant the potato into a pot with soil. 
  • Carrot Top in Water: Cut about 1" - 1 1/2" off the top of 4 to 6 carrots. Fill a shallow bowl 2/3 full of washed pebbles (pebbles help support the tops.) Place the carrot tops over the pebbles. Add water to the level of the pebbles and maintain this level at all times. Soon the tops will sprout pretty foliage. 
  • Pineapple in Water: To separate the top from the fruit, hold the fruit firmly with one hand and twist the leafy head with the other. The top should come right off. Remove the lower leaves until the stump is about 1 1/2" long. Put the top in a glass of water and change the water weekly. When roots are 3" to 4" long, transplant to a pot.
Plants from Seeds:

  • Avocado Pits: Remove the pit from an avocado and allow it to dry for 2-3 days. Peel away as much of the onion-like skin as possible. One-third of the way down, inset four toothpicks at regular intervals. The flat end is the bottom and the pointed end is the top. Put the pit in a glass of water so that 1/2" of water covers the base of the pit. When the roots are 4" long, transplant the pit to a pot and keep it in a bright, warm window. Keep the soil evenly moist at all times. 
  • Mini-Fruit Trees: Citrus plants can be grown from seeds removed from oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and tangerines. Soak the seeds overnight in water. Plant 1/2" in moist potting soil. Cover the pot with a plastic bag or a piece of plastic wrap, and put in a warm spot. When the seeds start to grow (in a few weeks), remove the plastic. Keep the plant in a warm, sunny window. 
  • Beans, Peas, and Lentils: Soak dried beans, peas, or lentils overnight in warm water. Fill a pot 2/3 full with potting soil. Place three seeds on the top of the soil and cover with 1/2" of soil. Cover the pot with plastic wrap. After the seeds start to grow, remove the plastic. Put the plant in a warm, sunny window, and keep the soil evenly moist. It may be necessary to tie the plants to a small stake as they grow. 
  • Herbs: Use anise, caraway, coriander, celery, dill, or fennel seed. Fill a 6" pot 2/3 full with moist potting soil. Place six seeds on top of the soil and cover with 1/2" of soil. Cover the pot with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot. After the seeds begin to grow (3-8 days), remove the plastic and place the plant in a sunny window. After a few weeks, you will have a lovely feathery foliage that can be snipped and used in cooking. 
  • Peanuts: Make sure you use fresh, unroasted peanuts. Fill a large, 4" deep plastic bowl 2/3 full with moist potting soil. Shell four peanuts and place them on top of the soil, covering them with 1" of soil. The plant will sprout quickly. In a couple of months small, yellow, pealike flowers will develop along the lower part of the stem. After the flower fades, the ovary swells and starts to grow toward the ground and pushes into the soil. Peanuts will be ready to harvest in about six months.
Plants from Exotic Fruits:

  • Mango: In the center of the mango, there is a large hairy husk with a pit in it. Scrape off all the excess flesh from the husk and gently pry open with a dull knife. The pit is best started in a sphagnum bag. Fill a Ziploc bag with dampened peat moss or sphagnum. Place the pit in the bag and make sure it is completely surrounded by moss. Check every day to make sure the pit is not dried out or rotted from too much moisture. When the roots are 4" long, transplant to a pot that is at least 1" larger than the pit. 
  • Papaya: Papayas are not easy to grow because the plants have a tendency to dampen off (die) at about 6" tall. When you cut the papaya open, you will find hundreds of black seeds surrounded by a gelatinous aril (seed covering). To remove the aril, spread some seeds on a paper towel and roll them with your fingers until the aril squashes off. Plant the seeds immediately in a container with sterile potting soil. Give them bottom heat and high humidity until they pass the critical stage of 6" high. Papayas are rapid growers, and once they are established, they will not need a lot of water and fertilizer. 
  • Tamarind: Tamarind pods look like brown lima beans. The outer shell is brittle and easily peels back, revealing a sticky, brown, pulp. Within this pulp there are five or six shiny black pits. Nick the pits (with a nail file) and soak them until they swell, usually in a few hours. Plant the pits in a container with potting soil and place in a sunny window. Tamarinds are water-loving plants and should never be allowed to dry out. As they grow, pinch them back to make the plant fuller.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.