When trimming fresh produce like heads of lettuce, celery, and green onions, you can use the leftover pieces to sprout fresh leaves. They'll be ready to harvest in just a few weeks.

By Nicole Bradley
Updated April 06, 2020

Growing food from scraps can help you cut down on kitchen waste, and it's a simple way to start growing your own vegetables, fruits, and herbs. These foods can regrow from the parts you might usually throw out, and some even grow in water alone, making them super easy to take care of, even for beginners. By regrowing your favorite produce, you'll spend a little less time in the produce aisle and a little more time in your kitchen and garden. As a bonus, you'll also save some cash in the long run. Once you get your produce started, you’ll have your own edible garden to harvest from in no time.

Person cutting lettuce end
Credit: Jacob Fox

1. Grow New Lettuce Leaves From Roots

Grow lettuce straight from the fridge! Go ahead and eat your batch of lettuce, but leave the central part of the vegetable untouched; this section holds all of the power in producing new growth. Cut the leaves about an inch from the bottom of the lettuce bunch.

Person placing lettuce root in water
Credit: Jacob Fox

Place the lettuce stem in a shallow dish. Change the water every couple of days; after 10-12 days, you'll have bits of lettuce perfect for making small salads or topping deli sandwiches.

Person cutting celery end
Credit: Jacob Fox

2. Regrow Celery Stalks

If you've got celery scraps, no need to stock up on any more. Like lettuce, cut the celery base from its stalk, leaving about 1-2 inches of celery. The central part of the celery holds the nutrients for producing new stalks.

Celery root in glass bowl with water
Credit: Jacob Fox

Place the cut celery base into a bowl of water. Change the water every other day to keep the roots fresh. Transplant the roots into soil after eight days in water. Now you can enjoy quick-and-easy ants on a log whenever you please!

Person placing basil in jar with water
Credit: Jacob Fox

3. Root Fresh Basil in Water

There's nothing better than a batch of homegrown basil (did someone say pesto?). The fact that you can regrow basil in your kitchen makes it even better. Cut the plant a few inches below its highest set of leaves. You'll want a few inches of bare stem to reach the water.

Place the trimmings in a jar or vase and fill with water. Keep the plant near natural light but not directly in the sun to be sure that your herb doesn't burn. Transfer to a pot once hairlike roots have sprouted, which will typically be around the 15-day mark.

Person cutting green onion ends
Credit: Jacob Fox

4. Sprout Green Onions in Water

Grow green onions right on your windowsill, even while there's snow on the ground outside. To start, cut store-bought green onions near the white root, being sure to leave some of the pale green portion next to the cut root (cutting right at the white part will mean a longer regrowing time).

Person placing green onion roots in glass with water
Credit: Jacob Fox

Place onions, roots down, in a small water-filled glass and set in a sunny spot. Replace the water every 2-3 days; transfer to a pot if you'd like the onions to last longer. New growth should be ready to harvest after 7 days.

Person placing onion roots in soil
Credit: Jacob Fox

5. Grow Onion Bulbs from Scraps

Plant this veggie right in your garden! Regrowing onions is simple. Slice the bulb so you end up with about an inch of the root end. Allow that piece to dry for a day or two until the edges start to curl, then place it in the soil, cut side up. Cover the onion piece with about an inch of soil and water well. Green shoots will start to appear, which you can harvest like spring onions. Or, you can allow these to continue growing into new onion bulbs, which will be ready to harvest in 90 to 120 days.

6. Sprout New Greens from Root Vegetables

Give a few root vegetables from the store light, moisture, and warmth, and they’ll sprout leafy tops you can eat. The action happens fast: Most sprouts begin to appear within a week. There are two methods for sprouting, depending on your willingness to sacrifice a whole vegetable. Either way, because root vegetables have nutrients that help them survive winter underground, they will keep growing leaves as you pick them, almost until it’s time to get back into your garden again.

Beets, carrots, celery root (celeriac), parsnips, parsley root, rutabagas, turnips, and winter radishes all sprout readily. (Don’t use potatoes; their sprouts are toxic.) Expect to be able to harvest greens for about a month.

How to Sprout Using Whole Vegetables

Bury the root vegetable in a pot of peat-base potting mix, leaving the top exposed. Water regularly to keep the soil moist. Discard the entire vegetable when it stops sprouting new leaves.

How to Grow Greens Using Root Vegetable Pieces

With this method, the foliage won’t be as lush, but at least you'll be able to regrow a few leaves after you've used the rest of the vegetable in your recipe. Slice an inch or so off the top and set that top piece in an inch of water in a saucer, refilling as needed.

Comments (6)

May 2, 2020
You say to cut the lettuce 1" from the bottom, but it looks like more than 1" in the photo.
May 2, 2020
You say to cut the lettuce 1" from the bottom, but it looks like more than 1" in the photo.
October 18, 2018
I tried this with cabbage both red & regular green, but does this work with radicchio both long or head type? Ms Keiko
July 12, 2018
I am also wondering how to remove the onion without disturbing the roots.
April 24, 2018
I was wondering the same thing.......
April 19, 2018
I have a question regarding planting onions. Once you plant the bottom of the onion and it starts to grow, how can you remove the original onion bottom without disturbing the roots?