Originally posted for Huffington Post on 11/06/2017
You don’t need to be Dr. Frankenstein to bring life back from the dead. You just need the ingredients in a Thai curry or stirfry. A gnarly celery bottom, hairy scallion ends, lifeless-looking dried mung beans, the spiky top of a pineapple and other vegetable and fruit scraps you usually discard will come back to life with a little help from you.
A healthy stem of lemongrass or bunch of scallions joined together at the root end can live again. Pare away tough, outer bits, place in a glass half full of water and set in the sun. Change the water daily and within a week, you’ll see wee roots. Keep it going for another week or two. Plant in moist soil, keep watering until it’s established and never buy scallions or lemongrass again.
Down to celery bottoms? Slice the pale, hard base of celery horizontally and place in a shallow bowl of water in a sunny spot. Within days, sometimes hours, it’ll sprout bright green ruffles of new leaves. Transfer to a pot or directly into your garden, covering the base with dirt but leaving the new growth exposed. Stalks may be scrawny but bushy with leaves and will taste of the very essence of celery. Try the same trick to regrow fennel and bok choy.
Take a ripe pineapple, grab the column of tough leaves at the top, twist and pull. You’ll have a fistfull of leaf spike. Cut away any bits of fruit and peel away the bottom leaves, exposing a few layers of the tough core. Place in a saucer or shallow bowl of water and set in the sunshine, changing the water every day. Within a week, nodes will appear at the bottom exposed and new green leaves will come from the center. Plant, leaving plenty of surrounding free space— pineapple leaves grow up to several feet long and have sharp, serrated edges. Be patient. Another Halloween or two may come and go before you see fruit.
Sprouting beans gives you much quicker payoff. Soak mung beans in enough water to cover for 8 to 12 hours or just leave overnight. In the morning, rinse and drain. Leave them in the strainer and cover with a few layers of cheesecloth. Tuck them out of the way and out of sunlight. Get on with your life. Rinse again in the evening and again in the morning. You should see the beans’ endosperm tails start to emerge. When their tails are longer than the beans themselves— maybe by evening, maybe the next day, you’ve got sprouts that are ready to go and you have witnessed the law of increase. Half a cup of inert-looking dried beans yields about two cups of bean sprouts.
Does turning your kitchen into a mad scientist’s lab of sprouting, rooting and regrowth sound weird? We waste almost half our food — that’s what’s really creepy. Reduce food waste by regenerating produce involves no black magic or rivet-necked monsters and requires little mess or effort. It just rewards you with free food and extra meals. It’s scary easy.