Abundance during Covid-19: Learn to grow food from scraps

Growing food from scraps

 

Abundance during the lockdown: A guide to growing food from scraps

BY DIONY LALIEU

No matter where in the world you are right now, there is no doubt that by now the onset of lockdown thanks to Covid-19 has impacted the way you see the world (especially with dwindling food shelves) and the questions are you are asking yourself. Whether with anticipation, excitement or even dread, many of us are gearing our minds back towards basics: food, health, security and shelter, and rightfully so.

In the humdrum of (past) society with our pre-occupied and cooperate roles, we have become used to outsourcing almost everything: from child-care, to waste removal to even the peeling and chopping of our veg. We have been living such detached lives – buying (possibly too much?), using and throwing away – that not only have we generated mountains of waste, but in the process, we have lost some trust in our ability to nurture or feed ourselves and how intrinsically we are actually cared for by Mother Nature.

This blog is dedicated to reminding us of nature’s capacity to ensure abundance. It focuses on simple techniques to grow food from the scraps that we would otherwise throw away. Not only does growing our own veg help us save costs (let’s face it, who doesn’t like things for free?), but it gives us the self-sufficient peace of mind that we can tap into an organic food supply, keeping ourselves and our families healthy and nourished in times of crisis.

No space for a vegetable garden? No worries! Most of the options can be grown within confines of a smaller space and most of the tutorials we have selected demonstrate propagating in containers.

Remember, you don’t need to fear ‘going without’ during lockdown if learn to trust in the abundance of nature’s way. Planting a veggie garden is the alchemy that nature intended. It is a fun and free way for us to physically reconnect with nature and become ‘woke’ to the (re)cyclical abundance that she provides.

 

1. Lettuce, Bok Choy can be grown from its base

Time: 6 weeks – 2 months

Garden required: No. Can easily be propagated in 10-inch pots

Nutrition:

There is nothing like picking chemical-free, healthy lettuce fresh from your own garden. Lettuce contains plenty of immune-boosting benefits and antioxidants which help fight against cancer. It contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and several vitamins including vitamins A, B, C and folate.

Being slightly darker, Bok Choy has an even greater concentration of such nutrients. But added to that is the only plant that contains the powerful antioxidant, selenium. Along with boosting immunity, selenium also minimizes the risk of cancer, tumour growth, mental decline and thyroid function.

How to:

Place leftover lettuce stump into a small amount of water and in full sunlight. After a 3-4 days, roots will begin to appear from the base, and after time new leaves begin to regrow. Make sure to mist these every few days. Once the new leaves have regrown for a few days you can transfer the stumps to the soil. The best thing about lettuce is how fast it grows. Once you see about 4-5 leaves, you can start to harvest for your fresh garden salad. After about two months, you can cut off the head of the lettuce leaving the base to continue to grow.

Lettuce and Bok bhoy from water to soil

Tutorial on how to plant lettuce:

useful tip: People who do have lettuce growing in their gardens often complain that it all matures at the same time, decreasing the lifespan of the garden. The following tutorial by Seaspring Seeds shows how you can stagger the growth of your lettuce garden while ensuring that each plant regrows into another stunning crop:

 

 

2. Tomatoes can be sprouted from slices

Time: 20-30 days

Garden required: No. Can be propagated in 10-inch pots

Nutrition:

Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants and vitamins (C and K), potassium and folate. They are great for skin and hair and are known to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Tomatoes even assist in repairing damage caused by smoking!

How to:

Use 2cm thick slices from any overripe or discarded tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes are particularly fast to grow. Plant these at the top of your pot, under a fine layer of soil which is kept moist and in sunlight. Space the slices out to about 3 or 4 slices per pot. Seeds should germinate within 7-14 days. Please note – some tomatoes are sterile. Even though you get plants, they might never grow into fruit. You will need to experiment. The seeds from organic tomatoes are more likely to grow fruit. Tutorial from Urban Gardening.

 

Grow from tomato scraps

 

Watch a tutorial on how to plant tomatoes into a pot:

 

 

3. Potatoes grow abundantly in various containers

Time: 3 months

Garden required: No, deep containers will also do

Nutrition:

Potatoes are often an underrated source of nutrition. Moreover, they are economical, grow abundantly, and are the yummiest roasted treat. Containing a variety of vitamins and minerals, potatoes are great for immunity, metabolism, bone and heart health, and even guards against halitosis!

How to:

When left alone, potatoes cannot help but start growing. All you need to do is to provide them with a nourishing environment to keep doing so. Leave some potatoes in a dark cupboard until they grow some ‘eyes’. Replant a potato containing at least 2-3 eyes, near the bottom of the pot/container with the eyes facing upwards, covering it with about 4cm into good quality soil in a good light.

Within a few weeks, you will see the potato plant beginning to grow through the soil. Cover it with yet another 4cm layer of soil. Keep doing this as the plant grows (keeping it consistently but not overwatered) until you have filled the container to the top with soil.

Usually, it is time to harvest after the plant has flowered and died away. Dig your fingers not the soil to test their size, before gently pulling them out of the ground. Apparently, you can replant potatoes using only some peels (with at least 2/3 eyes per peel facing upward). However, using only the peels does take a whole lot longer.

 

Sprouted potatoes ready to plant

Here is a Garden Answer tutorial for planting into beds of soil:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ianApRDflh0

The cool thing is that potatoes can be grown in so many different ways. You definitely don’t need a garden.

 

4. Sweet Potatoes do require a garden

Time: 2 months for spouting, then a further 2-3 months to nurture in the soil

Garden required: Yes. This needs ground!

Nutrition:

Although being touted as healthier than regular potatoes, the truth is that both sweet and regular potatoes provide similar health benefits: Highly nutritious, promotes gut health, contains antioxidants, supports healthy vision and brain functioning.

How to:

Growing sweet potatoes are slightly different to potatoes in that you need to sprout them first. Planting a whole sweet potato directly into the ground will give you nothing other than green shoots. To begin, start by cutting the sweet potato in half. Then using toothpicks, place half the sweet potato in a container of water with the blunt side facing down. Within a few days, roots should appear along with sprouts along the top. When the sprouts about are at least 4 inches long twist them off and place them along with their roots into the ground. Alternatively, once the roots are about 4 inches you can transplant the potato into the soil allowing about 12 inches between them. It takes about 4-6 months to grow.

Sweet potato tooted in water before planting

Watch Jag Singh’s demonstration on how to plant sweet potatoes:

 

 

5. Onions grow easily from small cuttings

Time: 20-30 days

Garden required: No. And can be grown indoors or outdoors

Nutrition:

Onions are packed with nutrients and antioxidants which promote health in numerous ways. They are praised for their strong antibacterial properties which makes them great for earache, sore throats, and even cleaning metal surfaces. Onions also help to absorb bad odours and even promote hair growth. Their uses are endless!

How to:

Onions are the easiest thing in the world to plant. Cut the bottom of the onion including at least ½ an inch of the bulb and its root end. Place the root of the onion is a shallow bowl of water (or directly into some potting soil) and within a few days, you will see the roots lengthen and possibly even green shoots starting to grow. Plant root-down into the soil with the top exposed. Cover lightly with potting soil and place in a sunny area. Any type of pot or garden will do. Keep the soil moist. If you keep cutting the sprouts off the onion as they grow the bulbs will thicken. If you do this every time you use an onion you will never need to purchase onions again!

Onions root easily and don’t need deep pots

Watch this great tutorial by World Click for propagating onions. We love the repurposed irrigator too!

6. Ginger sections can regrow an entire root

Time: 8-10 months

Garden required: No. And can be grown indoors or outdoors

Nutrition:

In Ayurvedic texts, ginger is known as the ‘Universal Great Medicine’. Ginger is an antioxidant high in anti-inflammatory properties. It boosts immunity, reduces nausea, and helps to stabilize blood pressure.

How to:

Place a spare yet plump piece of ginger on your counter and wait until a green eye or bud appears. Then plant into potting soil (in a pot or in the ground) ensuring that the bud/eye is facing upwards, no deeper than an inch but also not exposed as then it will dry out. Plant in a shady area. It can grow for years in a pot, producing striking blooms. New shoots and new roots will appear in around a week, but it takes around 10 months to mature. At this point, you can gently pull out one of the roots and replant the rest to use again. The leaves of a ginger plant are also great to use in the same flavourful way that you would use chives or onions.

Ginger easily grows sprouts and can be grown indoors and out

 

Watch Jag Singh’s tips on how to grow ginger:

 

7. Garlic can be grown whole from single cloves

Time: 8-9 months

Garden required: No. And can be grown indoors or outdoors

Nutrition:

Due to its natural immune-boosting properties, garlic is the perfect superfood in times of Covid-19. It is high in antioxidants and packed with vitamins such as manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium, calcium, and potassium.

How to:

Pull off one clove of garlic and plant it, no deeper than an inch, with the root facing down into the potting soil. It doesn’t need too much water so only water when the soil feels dry. It can be planted partly in shade. Once you notice that new shoots appear, you can use some of the shoots for flavouring but not all. Remove any flowers to ensure that the energy goes into growing the bulb. The growth of about 5 to 6 leaves indicates that garlic is ready to ‘harvest’. Stop watering about two weeks before harvesting.

 

Garlic from cloves

David Epstein from Garden Wisdom give a demonstration:

 

8. Spring onion, leeks, lemongrass easily grow from cuttings

Time: 10 days to 2 weeks can put you on course for a lifetime supply

Garden required: No. Easily grown in containers

How to:

Instead of discarding leeks/spring-onion cut-offs, you can regrow a life-time’s supply with very little effort. Cut the bottom white bit of the leek/spring onion with the roots attached, so that there is about an inch of white stem. Using toothpicks, submerge the roots in a glass of shallow water and place on your windowsill. It only takes a few days to start noticing the growth of new green shoots and more roots developing. At this stage you can plant the roots end into soil, cutting the leaves as and when you need them and leaving the roots to grow indefinitely. Or else you can leave them on your windowsill, ensuring a fresh supply of water, to cut and regrow. However, in this way, the plant does diminish over time.

Placing the base in some water, sprouts are soon to grow

Watch @wastelesswed regrow spring onions in a cool garden made from repurposed drinks cans!

And one for leeks:

 

9. Peppers and chillis just require the seeds from overripe fruit

Time: 60 days/ 2 and a half months 

Garden required: No. Easily grown in containers

Nutrition:

Chillis are punched-loaded with vitamins and minerals

  • Vitamin C. Chili peppers are very high in this powerful antioxidant, which is important for wound healing and immune function.
  • Vitamin B6. A family of B vitamins, B6 plays a role in energy metabolism.
  • Vitamin K1. Vitamin K1 is essential for blood clotting and healthy bones and kidneys.
  • Potassium. An essential dietary mineral that serves a variety of functions, potassium may reduce your risk of heart disease when consumed in adequate amounts.
  • Copper. Often lacking in the Western diet, copper is an essential trace element, important for strong bones and healthy neurons.
  • Vitamin A. Red chilli peppers are high in beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A.

How to:

Keep the seeds from any chillies or peppers you have. Plant the seeds in potting soil and keep in direct sunlight. Grow relatively fast and doesn’t need too much TLC. Remember to save the seedlings from the new crop to grow again.

Both chillis and peppers can be grown from seed

10. Herbs are grown from cuttings

How to

Make sure you have about 2-3 inches of the plant’s stem including its leaves. Firstly, place the stem in a glass of room temperature water.  within about 4 weeks you should notice the appearance of roots.  Once the roots begin to flourish and are quite established you can transplant into potting soil. The woodier stems e.g. thyme may take a bit longer to grow roots.

Herbs placed in some water will root after about 10 days

Watch Jag Singh take us through 6 herbs we can regrow:

TIPS:

Your best regrow results will be obtained from organic produce. Urban Farmer delivers organic produce in Cape Town (0829557360)

Use good quality composting soil with an organic fertiliser where possible

If you have no pots available, you can use discarded PET cold drink bottles to make cool self-watering planters:

 

If you like this page, be sure read up on Waste-free Sprouting: The quickest way to fresh nutritious food during the lockdown

MORE ABOUT DIONY LALIEU

Diony Lalieu is a Research Psychologist, writer and founder of Ocean Pledge. Being a mother of two young girls that are set to inherit our planet, she is passionate about imparting a positive and trusting outlook for a better future. Having lost her position as a consultant due to the onset of Covid-19, Diony was motivated to look at new ways of being during lockdown in South Africa and through a bit of experimentation was inspired by the abundant and giving ways of Mother Nature. She wishes to share her new insights in a way that is relevant and empowering to fellow South Africans.

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