Growing Fresh Food From Supermarket Scraps

Reader Contribution by Anna Twitto
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Cherry tomatoes grown from seeds which we saved from store-bought tomatoes.

There is no doubt it’s always best to buy high-quality seeds from a reputable source. It’s reliable, you know exactly what you’re getting, and the germination rate is high. Why, then, bother to plant vegetables from supermarket scraps?

Simple: It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s incredibly fun and satisfying to take something that would otherwise end up in the garbage bin (or at best, in the compost pile) and turn it into a source for homegrown food.

Many people mistakenly think that supermarket vegetables are sterile. Not so – if you plant fully developed seeds from ripe vegetables, they will grow and produce with proper care. However, many of those vegetables are hybrids, so you have no way of knowing what you’ll get until you try.

Growing Tomatoes from Store-Bought Produce

I saw a perfect illustration of this when I planted seeds from fancy purple cherry tomatoes my husband picked up at the store. The plants grew very well and flowered quickly, but when the tomatoes began to develop, I noticed two distinct shapes: Roughly half of the plants produced perfectly round fruit, while the other half gave me elongated tomatoes. This was because the mother plant had been a hybrid and, thus, didn’t breed true.

On the other hand, these were still highly edible tomatoes.

Bell Peppers, Melons, Beans, and More

Besides tomatoes, we successfully grew other vegetables this way, in particular bell peppers and melons. Dry beans, too, will many times sprout and grow readily – I use them as green beans. Right now, I have some very nice coriander growing in the garden, from seeds bought at the spice department. I thought I’d try to plant some just for the experiment. Only about 30% grew, but it didn’t matter, as I had so many and got them so cheaply.

Saving seeds is not the only way to use those store-bought leftovers to grow fresh food. A few potatoes I completely forgot about sprouted in the warm kitchen and, since I had nothing to lose, I planted them and they grew vigorously (until they were killed off by a frost, but that’s another story). I planted some sad, tired old onions and got beautiful green onion leaves to use in salads. I planted garlic from cloves, and even got a scrap of celery growing again by placing the bottom in the water until it sprouted roots.

Bottom Line

Leftovers from store-bought veggies can be utilized in ways other than compost or chicken treats. They can actually be given a new life in your garden or in pots on your windowsill. Try it and let the fun begin.

The above was an excerpt from my book,The Practical Homemaker’s Companion (also available ine-book format).

Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to obtain it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. They aim to grow and raise a significant part of their food by maintaining a vegetable garden, keeping a flock of backyard chickens and foraging. Connect with Anna onFacebook, find her as SmallFlocksMom on Earthineer, and read more about her current projects on her blogRead all Anna’s Mother Earth News posts here 

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