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“Re-growing food gives people the ability to have healthy food time and time again without having to leave their homes - which is important during a pandemic,” says Kaitlyn McLay, a third-year student majoring in community development with environmental and sustainability studies at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S.
McLay feels so strongly about the subject she recently wrote a blog for the United Nations Joint Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Fund about the importance of connecting to nature and how growing your own food can help solidify that connection.
Just as important is buying local produce from farmers’ markets and farm markets, she adds.
“I think it is so important to support local producers and it’s often not nearly as expensive as many people think it is,” she says.
But there’s something quite special about re-growing your vegetables, she says, and there are plenty of benefits. It enhances our connection to the Earth, which benefits our mental health and motivates people to care about the planet. She also likes not having to rely on the current global food system.
Another benefit? It’s much less expensive than buying vegetables or seeds. Re-growing her food also helps her avoid purchasing unnecessary packaging and driving to the store.
“When I do re-grow my own food, I feel as if I am honouring that plant and its desire to expand its telos, or purpose. I really connect to plants and I listen to their wants and needs,” says McLay.
Re-growing your food involves using a portion of the vegetable you already have to re-root it, which creates another plant and continues the cycle.
And best of all, it’s not difficult to do. If you’re just getting started, McLay suggests beginning with green onions, as they are the easiest vegetable to regrow.
Gail Steele of Martinvale, P.E.I., says she always has celery and green onion in bottles on her counter for re-growing.
“I just put a little water in a jar and place my veggies in the jar. I have them sitting in my sink,” says Steele.
When adding the water to the jar for the green onions, she says to put in just a hair or two over the roots. As for celery, add enough water to fill just above the white stump. Keep the water fresh and the plant near a window. When enough root grows, they can eventually be transplanted into soil.
“We eat the green onions before they even make it to a pot, though,” says Steele.
A single clove of garlic will grow into a full bulb with up to eight cloves if given the chance, says McLay. Wait until you see a green shoot growing out of the top of the clove, then place the bottom of the bulb in a glass with a few centimetres of water and wait for the green shoot to grow taller. At that stage, transplant it to a container with good soil.
You can also just plant garlic in a container with good soil and wait for it to grow. You can reuse the same bulb over and over again, she adds.
Potatoes are really easy to re-grow, says McLay. All you have to do is plant them in the ground and regularly water them. Each white hair or stalk on a potato creates a new one. You just need a lot of soil to help potatoes grow.
Fruit or vegetable with seeds
Save a few seeds, rinse them off, allow them to dry for a few days (or longer) and plant them indoors in a container with good soil in a sunny spot. Then, just water them regularly and watch them to grow, says McLay. They can be planted outdoors when there is no chance of frost and have had a few weeks to form in the containers.
Barbara Joslin, a member of the P.E.I. Gardening Facebook Group, is growing peppers from the seeds she collected from inside of another.
“I put them in a sandwich bag in wet paper towel and let them sprout before planting,” she explains.
Mike Rabinowitz, co-owner of the Organic Farm in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, N.L., says you can root some herbs and regrow them as clones by taking a clipping a stem from a mature plant and putting the cutting in water and then waiting for it to grow new roots before planting.
Rosemary and mint are great herbs to try, he says.
McLay says there are countless other options to try, and the internet is full of great ideas.
Some of it may be trial and error. Try putting half a tomato in soil and see what grows from it, she says, or add soil to the inside of a gourd to see if the seeds will sprout.
McLay plans to plant a frozen blueberry in soil and see what happens, then scrape seeds from the outside of strawberries and plant them.
It’s important to remember, says McLay, that when putting plants in the ground, it is often best to wait until after frost, which in Atlantic Canada, it could be early June.
Rabinowitz cautions though, that when re-growing vegetables, there is always a chance of spreading disease from plant-to-plant.
“Be brave, try new ideas,” adds McLay. “What’s the worst that could happen? Re-growing vegetables is a great way to use what we have to produce healthy food to eat time and time again.”