Regrow These Vegetables in Your Kitchen

By Catherine Winter

Chances are you’ve noticed that food is getting more expensive, especially during the winter months. Here in rural Quebec, a head of broccoli or cauliflower can run $7 in January or February, and don’t even get me started on how much lettuce or avocados can cost. I was spoiled while living in Toronto, having access to all manner of cheap vegetables year-round, but when you’re eking out an existence in a cabin in the woods, and there’s only one grocery store within 30km to fall back on, a bit of frugal ingenuity is in order.

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, but it’s also incentive to do some research about which vegetables can be re-grown on a countertop. It’s really quite startling to see just how much can be grown from leftover scraps: all you need is water, and a sunny spot to place the plants, and within a week or two you’ll have a fresh batch of edibles to enjoy.

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Root Vegetable Greens

Do you like fresh greens? If you do, you’ll be happy to know that it’s incredibly easy to re-grow all manner of root vegetable greens from scraps.
When you’re trimming turnips, rutabagas, radishes, or even kohlrabi for roasting (or however other way you’ll be using them), make sure you leave about half an inch of flesh beneath the upper knob where the greens used to be.

You’ll then place these in a shallow container, add a little bit of water, and place in a sunny spot. Within a week, you’ll see noticeable green growth! Just make sure to refresh the water often so it doesn’t get slimy and manky.

Cabbage

Cabbage, Lettuce, and Fennel

You can use the same technique as that used above, but you’ll be placing a good couple of inches’ worth of rootstock into a glass or small cup of water. Pour an inch or so of water into the container (again, change it out daily), and make sure to put it in a spot where it’ll get direct sunlight.

Green Onions

Spring Onions (Scallions) and Leeks

Their roots are really cute, aren’t they? Like mini Cthulu tendrils.
When you use these onions, chop off the green parts but leave at least an inch of white bulb above the frilly roots. Place these in a clear drinking glass and add water (change it often, yes) and watch it grow.

These—and leeks—can re-grow several times over, as long as you’re diligent about keeping the water refreshed. Also, the reason why you’ll put them in a clear glass is so light can get right to the roots.

In addition to helping your grocery budget, re-growing these vegetables can go a fair way towards satiating your need to garden while there’s still snow on the ground outside. Most of us champ at the bit to get out there and GROW STUFF and find it difficult to wait for the big thaw to happen, so this can keep us occupied in the interim.
Growing cucumbers and sweet potatoes in your bathroom also helps.
…I’ll write about that next week.


Catherine

carrots, root vegetables, roots, rehydrate, rehydrate roots, rehydrate root vegetables

Rehydrate Your Roots!

By Catherine Winter

If you’ve ever bought a large bunch of root vegetables like carrots or beets (or grown them yourself and kept them in the fridge), you’ve undoubtedly seen how they can shrivel up and shrink a bit over time. Most people toss them into the compost heap at that point, but you don’t have to! They’re not bad: they’re just dehydrated. You can revive them very easily by immersing them in water in the fridge for a few days.

root vegetables, carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, onions, potatoes, lemons

Look for signs of rot or discolouration, and toss any that have black or moldy spots on them. Place the roots in a container and cover completely with water. Keep that in the fridge for 3-5 days, checking on the vegetable’s texture and density daily. Their skins are very porous, and by soaking them like this, you give them the opportunity to plump back up again. Remember that fruits and veggies are really just water and fibre, so if they dry out while in storage, they just need a good, long drink and they’ll be just fine.

Related post: Rainbow Carrot Salad Recipe from the Farm the World Kitchen

Once they’ve rehydrated, you can cook with them or eat them raw, as per your usual preparation. You can also use this technique for citrus fruits, celery, green beans, onions, and potatoes, though you have to peel your potatoes before placing them in water.

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Work With Your Land, Not Against It

By Catherine Winter

Those of us who have always dreamt of abundant food gardens have likely had pretty grandiose ideas about what we’d like to cultivate. When I moved to this house, I looked at the land around my home and imagined it brimming with all manner of fruit trees and berry bushes, and lush gardens practically spilling over with cucumbers, tomatoes, and pumpkins. Damn, was I wrong.

You see, this house is right on the mountainside, which means that there are only a couple of inches of (poor) soil before I hit solid rock, and the tall trees around the property stop sunlight from reaching all but a few choice areas. I put some raised beds in those spots, but the tender plants I tried to grow ended up being obliterated by inclement weather. Needless to say, after four growing seasons, I have a pretty solid idea about what will and will not grow on this property, in my frustrating, cold, downright infuriating 4b agricultural growing zone.

dead lettuce, wilted lettuce, dead garden, wilted garden, failed lettuce, failed garden

Rather than being discouraged by the fact that I will never be able to grow a decent tomato or melon here, I’ve learned the invaluable lesson that working with the land I have is far easier on both my wallet and my heart than fighting with it. I could have spared myself a lot of heartache if I had followed the number one rule of permaculture and observed my land for a full year before planting anything, but sometimes eagerness and enthusiasm drown out common sense. Live and learn, right?

Raised beds are a great option in our area, but the wet summers and long, cold, snowy winters wreak havoc on wooden beds, requiring them to be rebuilt every other year. I have a gorgeous, large hugelkultur bed for my medicinal herbs, but that took a few  years to build up with classic lasagna gardening techniques, and I need something quicker and easier for this year’s garden. The solution? Straw bales.

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Straw Bale Gardening

These are great because you can just plop some bales in an area that get a fair amount of sunlight over the course of the day, and get gardening. You don’t need to put any effort into building raised beds (although it’s not a bad idea to brace the bale sides in some way, since they can fall apart over the season as they decompose and get squidgy), and the very process of their decomposition creates nutrients for whatever you grow inside them. The decomp process also creates heat, so you can plant seeds earlier than you could in a standard earth bed.

The key is to ensure that you source your bales from an organic farm, otherwise you’ll just end up contaminating your land, your food, and your own body with the pesticides and other poisons that have been sucked up into the straw. Once they’ve been placed in position, they just need to be soaked daily for a couple of weeks prior to planting to condition them. Some people just use water, but the consensus seems to be to add a fair bit of fertiliser when soaking so there are tons of nutrients available to your growing plants. This is especially important for heavy feeders like squashes, brassicas, and melons.

root vegetables, roots, beets, turnips, parsnips, radishes, celeriac, rutabagas, zone 4b, zone 4

Grow for Your Zone!

As mentioned earlier, I’ve learned what will and won’t grow well on my property, in this frigid little zone with a crazy-short growing season, so I’m focusing on plants that I know will thrive. Leafy greens such as lettuces, spinach, and chard grow well, and as long as I keep cloth or mesh over them so the cabbage moth caterpillars don’t obliterate them, brassicas such as broccoli, kale, tatsoi, and collards can thrive here too. We’ll often get colder snaps right into June (even had hail last July!) so I need to make sure I only grow hardy plants that won’t fall apart with inclement weather.

I’ve learned my lesson about attempting to grow tomatoes or eggplants, so I’m aiming to try to grow some pumpkins, zucchini, onions, and root vegetables like carrots, turnips, rutabagas, and beets instead. Sturdy, stubborn plants that won’t shriek and wilt at the first sign of imminent danger. Interestingly, peas and beans also thrive here, so I’m going to cover my gazebo in climbing varieties and let them go nuts.

I’ll be planting hardy sunflowers, amaranth, and popcorn around the garden’s periphery, as well as the usual pollinators and repellents such as borage, calendula, and milkweed. I’ve been scattering native wildflower seeds all around my property for a few years now, so there’s a startling amount of asters, ox-eye daisies, bachelor’s buttons, echinacea, lupines, and vetches around, and I’m happy to say that I have never seen so many bees in one place as I have seen in my garden over the last two summers. It’ll be interesting to document this year’s garden to see what thrives and what falls apart, so hopefully I can share gems of information with the rest of you so you can learn from my successes as well as my failures.

xo

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