At the beginning of the pandemic, the panic-buying highlighted issues in our food supply chain. In response, there were so many posts online about self-sufficieny.
Whilst I’m sure most of these were well-intentioned, I think it’s unrealistic to expect that people who’ve never attempted gardening before could support themselves completely. That said, there are lots of awesome things you can do to supplement your food shopping with delicious home-grown vegetables, even if you just have a windowsill.
Before I start, I just want to say – I’m not a gardener. This is the first year we’ve tried harvesting more than some herbs, perennial fruit, and what we can forage. We built the raised beds last November – prior to the pandemic – and have tried to fill them as best we can this season, using what we had on hand (as seeds and seedlings were hard to come by).
So, without further ado, here are the things we grew from the store cupboard.
By putting a bulb of garlic in the fridge for a few weeks, and then planting the individual segments, we managed to start 2 rows of healthy garlic plants. When the plants start to wilt a little, I’ll cut the leaves, chop them and freeze them for a milder garlic taste that I can add to stir-fry etc. Then I’ll let the bulbs dry and store them somewhere dark, and cool, and dry.
I have a large stash of herbs and spices, and basically anything called ‘seeds’ are exactly that (which took me far too long to realise!). I’ve been growing corriander seeds on the window ledge in the kitchen for months now and they’re doing really well.
The peas that I grow are from a packet of dried store-cupboard peas, gifted to us in the early 2010s by Husband’s Norwegian colleauge when she moved back to Norway. I couldn’t think of a way to use dried peas that anyone would actually eat, and my eldest was going through a phase of planting things so I let nature take its course with that one…. and got the most wonderful, prolific pea plants I’ve ever come across. I’ve been growing from them ever since, and even though they’re now (at least) ten years old, they still reliably germinate. In short, don’t overlook dried legumes – they’re a wonderful way to plant from your kitchen.
This one was actually a little mind-blowing (to me, because I’m a numbers nerd)…
A pack of beansprouts at Tesco (correct at the time of writing) costs 70p for 300g, or £2.34 per kilo.
You can buy a bag of dried beans for £2.25 a kilo (already slightly cheaper than the sprouted counterpart).
To sprout beans yourself, all you need is a jar, some cloth, an elastic band, and some water (and some beans, obviously). To be honest, the cloth and the band aren’t 100% necessary either.
Cover the bottom of your jar in beans. What you can see above is around 25-50g, or between 7-11p worth of beans.
Soak them in water for around an hour…
Fix the cloth onto the top of the jar with the elastic band, use it as a seive to remove the excess water and place on the window ledge.
After 24 hours, I could see the start of germination. I added a little more water…
After 48 hours, they looked like this.
After a week, they looked like the picture above! It’s amazing how they can go from just covering the bottom of the jar to filling it.
At this point, just as the first leaves are forming, I normally put the jar in the fridge. This slows growth and make them keep for longer.
The finished sprouts weigh around 200g, which means that per kilo – if my maths is correct – they cost around 35-55p. That’s a lower price per kilo than for 300g of pre-sprouted beans.
If you can buy the beans from a refillery – which I’m lucky to be able to – this results in zero waste sprouts. I use them as a base for winter salads, as texture in summer salads, in stir-frys, and on sandwiches. If you’re meal-planning anyway, it’s very little extra effort to put some ‘beans on to sprout’, and potentially save yourself a few pennies and a plastic carrier.
Even if you can’t buy the dried beans free from plastic, you’re still saving a lot of packaging from landfill. Let’s say – for the sake of easy numbers – that you sprout 50g of beans a time. This means that the 1kg back of beans will give you 20 sproutings. Each sprouting will give you around 250g (I’m saying 250g for easy maths, plus I’ve used the large example of 50g so the resulting sprouts will be slightly heavier). So that’s 20×250=5000g, or 5kg. The equivalent 300g packs of pre-sprouted beans would come in 16.6 plastic bags.
That’s effectively 15-16 plastic bags that you’ve saved from landfill, depending on whether you bought the dried beans loose or packaged.
Hhmmm… I got excited about beans there…
Brocolli & spring onions
Something to bear in mind while storing brocolli and spring onions:
Putting the stem of brocolli in water whilst in the fridge will keep it fresh for far longer. It is the flower of the plant, and needs treating as you would any cut flower.
Spring onions, meanwhile, usually have their roots which means they can effectively be used as ‘cut-and-come-again’ vegetables. All you need to do is pop them in a glass with water on your window ledge, then when you need some, cut down to the leaves, stopping as the colour begins to change to white.
I’ve heard you can do the same thing with leeks, but I’ve never tried it. They don’t last that long in my house. I’m a big lover of leeks…
Finally, I thought I would touch on those videos that seem to be everywhere just now, implying that you can regrow all sorts of things from food scraps. I’ve heard that lots of the ideas don’t work, so I thought I’d test them by putting a lettuce nub in the ground… I’ll let you know how that pans out…
Don’t be discouraged, though. In the past, I’ve had great success as a result of Plants from Pips – specifically with avocado stones.
And that’s all, really.
Have you tried growing anything from kitchen scraps and seeds? I’d love to hear about any successes, either here or on Twitter.