Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gardening From Your Kitchen Scraps And Saving Seeds

Do you throw away the seeds from vegetables that you buy from the store?  Did you know that you can actually grow new vegetable plants from them?  You can!  And it's super fun and easy!
Check out these tops that I saved from bell peppers.  I usually throw them away, but I figured I might as well run an experiment and dry them on the windowsill.  Once they were good and crispy dry, the seeds fell off easily.
Here are my nice, dried seeds.
I planted them into soil, watered well, and...
Holy moly!  A whole bunch of little sprouts popped out today!  I am now eagerly waiting to see how these new bell pepper plants will turn out in my garden this year.  Maybe I'll grow my very own bell peppers, maybe I'll just have cool plants.  Anyhow, it's pretty neat!
I have also been saving other seeds from plants.  Last year, I planted a bunch of kale and brussel sprouts.  They survived over the winter and have now gone to seed.  
The dried seed pods pop open very easily and drop two rows of small seeds.  
These are dark kale seeds. 
These are brussel sprout seeds.  The greener looking seeds are the ones that are not dried well yet.  Once they are all dried and brown, I plan to drop them onto the soil to grow new plants.  If you do this yearly, you'll never have to buy brussel sprout and kale seeds again!
These are various kinds of pea and bean plants.  They are all grown from seeds that I have saved from last year's crop.  See?  No need to buy new seeds.  You just have to make sure that you save a lot of beans and peas each year so that you always have lots of seeds to plant for the next year.  My mom ties colourful twist ties onto beans/peas throughout the growing season to mark those as seeds so that we don't accidentally pick them to eat.  
All beans/peas that have accidentally over-ripened are also kept for seeds.  Seed pods should be allowed to completely swell and dry up before you pick them for seed stock.  If it looks like it might go moldy, pick them sooner once the pod is overly swollen and plump (big fat seeds).

Other vegetables that I have tried to grow from seed successfully:

Tomatoes - harvest the seeds from your ripe tomatoes with all the goop and juice.  Put them in a cup with a little water and let them sit for about 2-3 days so that they can ferment.  Rinse the seeds clean in a sieve.  Let dry well on a windowsill for a week or more, well spread out.  Once well dry, you can plant them or store them for later use.  There's a pretty good tutorial on this here.
The best tomatoes are those overly ripe, rotting ones so make sure you try this out on those tomatoes you forgot in the fridge instead of throwing them out.  I suspect that an overly ripe, rotting tomato on your soil will also eventually yield usable tomato seeds that will grow where they fall.  
It's worth a try if you plan to throw out the tomato anyways  :)
Potatoes - If your potatoes grow roots and sprouts, just pop them into the soil and let them keep growing.  In late Fall, you can harvest the small new potatoes that grow from the one you put in the soil.  You can save any potatoes that are too small in Fall to plant again the next year as your potato seed stock.
Green onions - save the last 1-2 inch with roots from your green onions and plant them into the soil.  New green onions will grow from this base.
Shallots/Garlic - if your shallots or garlic bulbs sprout, plant them and eat the green onions that grow from them.
Squash/Zucchini/Cucumber/Pumpkin/Etc - Save the seeds from ripe squashes and dry them on a windowsill.  When very dry, plant them in the soil and grow new squash plants.
Persimmon - Save the seeds from persimmons, rinse them, dry them well on a windowsill, plant and they will grow small persimmon trees.  They will probably not grow persimmon fruit unless you live in a hotter climate, but the trees are short with shiny pale green leaves and look very nice.
Raspberries/Blackberries - My raspberry bushes at home drop raspberries each year onto the soil because I can't always find all the ripe fruit and eat it in time.  This means that lots of tiny new plants emerge each year all over the bottom of the original bush.  In the same way, you can basically let a raspberry dry up and then break it up to plant the seeds.  You can also smush a fresh raspberry up through a strainer (being careful not to destroy the seeds), rinse off all the fruit material, and then let the seeds dry on a windowsill.  Once the seeds are good and dry, plant them to grow new raspberry bushes.  You might want to just discard a rotten raspberry on the soil and see what happens.

Other random fun:

  • Plant the tops/bases of everything you discard from your kitchen such as carrot and beet tops, the base of different cabbages/celery/etc.  Some of them will grow roots and some of them will just rot away (and become compost).  It's fun to see what will grow and what won't.  In some cases it won't grow you a new vegetable to eat, but it will amuse you for a while.
  • Dry and plant any seeds you collect from your produce.  It's fun to see what will grow.  You might be pleasantly surprised.
  • Plant any fresh herb stems that you don't plan to use, such as rosemary and basil.  Sometimes they will actually grow roots and become a new plant.
There are actually whole books on this fun process of growing foods/plants from kitchen scraps.  Have you ever grown food from your kitchen scraps?  Let me know how it went!
Good luck and happy gardening!


b.p. said...

Great post, thanks! When we don't finish our green onions in time (and don't have a dirt pot around), we just put them in some water on the windowsill and they just re-sprout a few cycles before we need to try a new batch =P

Oxana said...

Lovely post!
I decided not to plant garden this year because it is very hard to start a garden from scratch not having a car. So, next year :) I'm sure your lovely seeds will survive till then :)

PatchworkPottery said...

Love this post! I dabble in gardening too. This year I had lots of success with cocktail (campari) tomato seeds that I saved from a store-bought tomato that went bad. I also grew black oil sunflowers for the birds from the bird seed... The only problem was that they are now more than 30 feet tall! I love my new garden boxes!