Amanda Stone: Faster than planting, regrowing veggie scraps rewarding

astone@joplinglobe.com or mail her, The Joplin Globe, Mo.
·5 min read

Apr. 13—When growing food sounds rewarding but the reality of caring for seedlings is just too much, regrowing food scraps is the way to go.

Unlike seeds hiding under dirt for days before there's any evidence they are alive, most food scraps show growth the day after putting them in water. If you need nearly instant gratification to validate your inner farmer, start with the food instead of the seed.

Because growth is obvious so quickly, it's especially great for kids to help — and impatient adults.

There are lots of veggies that will regrow from a scrap destined for the compost pile, the trash or the dog's mouth. These are the ones I've tried, listed in order of ease and speed of growth: green onions, romaine lettuce, Napa cabbage, leeks, celery, ginger and pineapple.

Yes, one of those things is not like the others, but if you are very committed and very patient and have very much space, you too can grow an adorable novelty pineapple.

Start by slicing off the top of a pineapple and planting it in a big pot. Water and wait for a very long time, until the spiky leaves become too big and pokey to be fun anymore. Around this time, you may notice a teeny pineapple growing right in the middle, and that will make the prior months and many sharp leaf pokes worth it.

With most of these veggies, you chop off the part you're going to eat and then put the remaining stump in a bowl with a bit of water. By the next day, the outer leaves will have shrunken back a bit, and the middle will have grown just a smidge. It's enough to notice and to make you want to pat yourself on the back.

Keep water in the bowls because roots are forming. After a couple of weeks, you'll have a tiny garden that can be planted outside in soil with the big-kid veggies, or you can continue to cut off new growth and let your stumps keep regrowing. They get a little slimy after some time, so peel off those outer slimy bits or start fresh with a new stump.

Ginger is a little trickier than the stump veggies. It's best to start with an organic ginger root; leave a piece in a sunny spot for a couple of days or until green growth appears. Lay the root in a pot on top of some wet sphagnum moss, keeping it moist. After a few days, roots will grow, and it can be planted in soil.

The plant makes a pretty house plant, which is good because the ginger root won't be ready to harvest from for about a year. It's a commitment but a fun one.

Regrow some veggies, and try these recipes.

Vietnamese spicy chicken and cabbage salad

2 large chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 large head Napa cabbage, cored and shredded

1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced

4 carrots, peeled and shredded

2-4 Thai chilies, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1 cup fresh Vietnamese cilantro (also called rau ram or rau rahm), finely chopped (if unable to find, omit and increase the cilantro and mint to 1 cup each)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped, roasted peanuts

Place the chicken in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a plate to cool. When cool enough to handle, use forks or your fingers to shred the chicken breasts.

In a very large bowl combine the cooled, shredded chicken, cabbage, onion and carrots. Reserve.

In a small bowl, combine the chilies, garlic and sugar. Use a wooden spoon to mash together until the chilies and garlic have broken down and tinted the sugar an orange-red color. Stir in the lime juice, rice vinegar and fish sauce.

Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss well. Add the cilantro leaves, mint and Vietnamese cilantro and toss again. Let sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and for the cabbage to wilt slightly. Transfer to a serving platter or individual plates and top with chopped peanuts.

Fennel-celery salad with blue cheese and walnuts

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 medium shallot, halved lengthwise, divided

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, divided

1/3 cup olive oil

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

6 dried Turkish figs, very coarsely chopped

1 fennel bulb, core removed, very thinly sliced

6-8 celery stalks, very thinly sliced

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes; let cool.

Finely chop 1 shallot half, then thinly slice the other half crosswise; set sliced shallot aside. Combine chopped shallot, mustard, sugar and 1/4 cup vinegar in a resealable jar.

Add oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover and shake to emulsify; set vinaigrette aside.

Toss figs, reserved sliced shallot, and remaining 1/4 cup vinegar in a small bowl; let sit until figs and shallots are softened, at least 30 minutes.

Just before serving, toss fennel, celery, blue cheese and toasted walnuts in a large bowl. Drain figs and shallot and add to bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to coat; season with salt and pepper.

Amanda Stone is a food and gardening columnist for The Joplin Globe. Email questions to astone@joplinglobe.com or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.