Gardening

5 Vegetables You Can Regrow Indoors With Just Water & Sunlight

Use, grow, repeat.

March 27, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.

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It often seems like some form of magic happens in the kitchen: If you shake heavy cream in a jar, it soon becomes butter; if you roast vegetables or citrus, their flavor becomes so much more robust. One simple ingredient can make an entire dish come together instantly, like a pinch of flaky sea salt sprinkled on chocolate or extra-virgin olive oil drizzled over vanilla ice cream (helpful suggestions from Alice Medrich).

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But the wonders of the kitchen don't stop once you've finished cooking: Even once you've used however many scallions—or carrots or fennel fronds—as you need in a recipe, the others needn't go in the compost. They can last a long time. A really long time. You just need to regrow them and—here's another miraculous part—it only takes one week.

Here are five vegetables that only need one week of water and sunshine to regrow to a point where you can use them. Which is coming especially in handy while we're self-isolating at home. You should change the water when it gets cloudy, but otherwise, this method requires barely any effort. Just chop, regrow, repeat. 


One week later. (Photo by James Ransom,)

1. Romaine Lettuce

Reserve about 3 inches of the butt of the lettuce. Place, bottom down, in a a cozy mug or bowl that will allow the lettuce to lean without falling over, will hold enough water to cover the bottom half of the lettuce, and will allow sunlight to reach the lettuce. Fill with water until the bottom half of the lettuce is submerged. Put the container in a sunny window. You should see growth by the next day, and you may even have enough to cook with in one week. What’s more, bok choy can be regrown in a similar fashion.

2. Scallions

Chop off the green part of the scallion, using it however you'd like, but leave about an inch of the white bottom intact. Put the stubs in a narrow drinking glass or shot glass so the scallions can lean without falling over. Make sure the container you choose is clear, allowing sunlight to hit the scallion roots. Fill the glass with a bit of water, and place the container in a sunny spot. You should see some exciting growth after a couple of days. One blogger said she bought a bunch of four scallions and has been regrowing and reusing them for two yearsLeeks will regrow just as easily as scallions when treated the same way.

3. Fennel


Fennel has such a strong taste that you don’t need more than a few snips of fronds from the bulb to add to salads, dressings, and stocks. Therefore, keeping a bulb on-hand in your kitchen windowsill works perfectly. Place the bulb in a mug or bowl that can hold enough water to cover the bottom half of the bulb while still allowing light to hit it. Fill with an inch or so of water. After one week in a sunny spot, green shoots will sprout from the top.

4. Carrot Greens


You can reserve the tops of carrots and regrow greens from them. Just chop off the tops of the carrots, leaving about a half-inch to an inch of the top. Place in a shallow container, add water, and put in a sunny spot. After a week, you should see some strong carrot greens. And really, all members of the turnip family (beets, turnips, parsnips) can regrow their greens this way, not just carrots.

Not sure what to do with all those carrot greens? You could use them to make a carrot top pesto (drizzle over roasted carrots, mix into pasta, you name it), a green chimichurri for grilled or roasted meats, or a warm chickpea salad.

5. Celery

Don't toss out those celery scraps—you can use 'em to regrow your own stalks in water, and then ultimately plant them in soil. Cut about 11/2 inches to 2 inches above the root base of the celery, and place the root in a shallow bowl filled with water and put it in sunlight. After about a week, you should see little leaves beginning to sprout from the middle.

Other vegetables that can easily be regrown with a bit more time:

  • Garlic: You need just one clove of garlic (seriously!) to start growing garlic scapes at home—their taste is mild and sweet, and they make a great addition to aioli, scrambled eggs, and more.
  • Lemongrass: Cut a few inches above the bottom of stem and submerge them in a glass filled with about an inch of water. Leave 'em in a sunny spot (adding more water as needed), and in roughly two to three weeks it should start growing roots.
  • Basil: If you've got a few basil leaves on hand, then you can rergow yourself a fresh new bunch. Just place a few clippings in a glass filled with water, put it in sunlight, and once the roots grow to about 2 inches, you can plant them in soil.

What vegetables have you regrown in your kitchen? Tell us in the comments below!

This article was updated by the Food52 editors in March 2020. 

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121 Comments

Lena August 7, 2020
Cabbage and butter lettuce.
 
BonnieC. May 13, 2020
I just accidentally another vegetable that will grow on by itself, & you don't even have to put this one in water - Leeks!!!

When I buy leeks I cut off the dark green foliage & stick it in the freezer to add to soup stock, then I wrap the rest of the leeks in paper towels & stick them in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer. Well I just pulled one out to use & it had around 4" of fresh usable pale green growth on it in addition to what I had stored.
 
Raffaella May 12, 2020
My carrot tops never grow past like 0.5cm... and at some point the carrot just goes bad inside the water, getting mushy and disintegrating (killing, therefore, my greens). I tried planting in soil too but also no luck. Any special tips?
 
BonnieC. May 12, 2020
Yes - don't bother. Unless you're just growing the carrot tops for a child's amusement, they're worthless. Slightly toxic & bitter, there are far better things to spend your time growing than carrot tops.
 
Raffaella May 13, 2020
Toxic? Tell me more. What would you recommend me growing instead? :)
 
BonnieC. May 13, 2020
Sorry - guess I should have clarified that they're not exactly "toxic" per se, but they ARE very bitter & some people can be quite sensitive to them even though they're fine with the body of the carrot.

For other alternatives, I'd read through the other comments on this page for suggestions that folks have been successful with.
 
pamela W. May 6, 2020
I started the celery and it is growing! do i now just plant directly in the soil? anything special i need to do?
 
Miss V. May 9, 2020
I'd like more on this, too.
 
Krispyecca May 27, 2020
I sprouted some celery in water and after a couple of weeks when it had some decent little roots, I put in a pot with soil and stuck it outside. It’s doing great!
 
Smaug April 17, 2020
Another way to free plants- many plants will grow quite readily by simply planting pieces of stem in the ground where you want them to grow. In California, this is usually best done in fall, but early spring is good and preferable in most of the US. All you really need is damp soil and enough rain/fog/cool weather to keep it from drying out. Most of the perennial shrubby herbs such as rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme, sage etc. (all of which are from the same plant family) will grow quite readily this way. It's chancy, but there's precious little to lose if you can get some cuttings from a neighbor or your own plants. Stems should be somewhat woody, and leaves should be stripped where they'll be buried. Rooting compounds such as Rootone may help, and generally contain a fungicide which will give some protection. A lot of ornamentals can be grown this way- the autumn sages, pelargoniums (the shrubby plants generally sold as geraniums are actually pelargoniums), penstemons are all quite easy and any sort of perennial shrub is a candidate. Roses can be rooted this way too, but they're quite variable as to which will grow well on their own roots
 
FS April 17, 2020
Good info, Smaug! Making new plants is always fun. I haven't had luck w rooting roses yet, but that's probably because so many are grafted on root stocks. The grafted rose is often weaker than the root stock, and sometimes the root stock will send up a sucker that differs quite a bit from the grafted rose.
 
Smaug April 17, 2020
Usually the sucker is something called "Ragged Robbin", not a horrible rose, but weedy and disease prone. Most of the hybrid teas, floribundas and other modern roses will root, but some of them won't ever develop root systems strong enough for good growth. Old roses are generally grown on their own roots. From what I've tried, the English roses and Romanticas do well on their own roots, but I never could get Graham Stewart Thomas rooted, for some reason.
 
FS April 18, 2020
Some of my tea roses died back and the root stock took over. The resulting flowers resembled what you describe - ragged is the right word. As for English roses, no David Austin rose ever lived more than 2 seasons in our hot and humid climate ... :(
 
Smaug April 18, 2020
Hm- English roses do quite well in my hot and medium humidity climate. I don't go much for summer roses, though, except the ones in pots; if I water in summer, I mostly draw tree roots and gophers, which roses handle fairly well but surrounding plants don't. Roses mostly seem to get excited by the hot weather and open all their buds on 100+ degree days, when it's too hot to go out and enjoy them and the flowers burn off by noon.
 
FS April 18, 2020
Funny, my tea roses are very prone to disease, even the supposedly disease resistant ones get black spot early in the year.
Mildew, rose slugs etc plague the roses, particularly the wild ones.
They do flower and come back every year, but are a mess to look at. Hybrid teas are like an expensive annual - enjoy them for a year but don't expect them to live long.
Do you live in the South East? I'm in the deep South.
 
Smaug April 18, 2020
I'm in California, about 15 miles inland from San Francisco, but the climate is a world apart. In the summer, often we get some maritime influence and it's pretty nice, but there's a line of low hills, and several times each summer a temperature inversion will sit on top of them and block any sea breezes; temperatures in the 95-100 range are common with occasional forays up into Death Valley- Riyadh territory. The usual rust/mildew/black spot are a problem in spring, mostly but relatively easy to control. I used to live in Berkeley, other side of the hills, where it rarely ventures above 85 and the humidity is higher, and fungus diseases were more persistent. Roses are pretty much permanent here; I have a few hybrid teas a that my grandfather started from cuttings long ago (Queen Elizabeth- actually a grandiflora- was Princess Elizabeth at the time). They're showing their age, though- I used to dig them out and replant every few years, which revived them, but I'm getting too old for that sort of thing- most of my garden is in pots now, and repotting them all, mostly large pots, keeps me pretty busy in early spring.
 
FS April 18, 2020
I didn't know replanting roses revives them, that's interesting. But then your roses are very long lived! I've been at our home 20 years and very few roses we planted early on are still living, disease killed most of them. These days my roses are in containers in fenced areas to keep raccoons from digging them up, I lost quite a few plants before.
Are you familiar with Annie's Annuals and Perennials? They have very interesting plants, some quite rare. Sometimes they offer old
non hybrid roses. I'd love to visit that nursery!!
 
Smaug April 19, 2020
Replanting was especially necessary for those roses because they had relatively weak root systems and were under invasion from tree roots, but annual root pruning is pretty much necessary for potted roses (and a lot of other potted plants). Heartier roses in the ground develop strong deep root systems and are better left in place, especially where gophers are a problem. Most of them can get by with little or no summer water. I remember reading a book about "rose rustlers", people who travel through the south with buckets of willow water seeking out forgotten old rose varieties surviving in cemeteries, churchyards etc. Some of the specimens survive centuries with little or no care, but these are very tough old varieties.
Forget about Disneyland, Annie's is the happiest place on earth. And their mail order service is incredible- plants arrive in perfect condition every time. They also provide specialty plants for most of the good retail nurseries in the area.
 
Dinna April 17, 2020
I put scallions that were on their way down into a glass of water and I was amazed that it came back and even restored the dried ends almost all the way to the top (I never cut it or used it when I brought it home from the grocery). There were new stalks growing from the middle really fast. I do change the water almost everyday, I like it to be clear and clean the stems when they are slimy. I started celery and will now buy bok choy if I can do the same. Next up potatoes, ginger and tumeric.
 
Frank April 17, 2020
Not for me, unfortunately. My thumb is anything BUT green. Hell even when I buy the basil at the store that comes with a root ball in a bag ......it's dead within the week. There goes another $6 bucks. Truly sad. My bread still comes out like bricks too. Really sad.
 
BonnieC. April 17, 2020
I've never had luck with any of those pricey "root-ball" herbs from the supermarket either. I think the main problem with those is that they come straight from a greenhouse situation to the stressed environment of the supermarket. They're weak to begin with, as you can see from their pale, extremely-thin leaves; not remotely like garden-grown basil. What I HAVE had luck with is - when available - buying a bunch of basil & treating it like a bouquet of flowers: I cut off a half inch from the bottom of the stems & plunk them into a glass of water on the windowsill. I've kept basil going this way for over a month, & during that time they sprout lots of roots. I've never tried to plant these, but imagine I could.
 
FS April 17, 2020
I never tried to root basil, it's so easy to raise from seed. But I may give the rooting method a try this year - just for fun!
 
Doris D. April 16, 2020
I had a large potato bought from a farmer’s market last fall that was now sprouting. I used some of the potato to eat and cut off a chunk with the sprouts and stuck it in a fairly large pot of earth and watered it. It’s coming up very nicely and since it’s getting close to warm enough to plant a garden, I am planning to put it in my garden and see what happens. I’m sure I’ll get a few little potatoes from it. Very pleased with my little indoor experiment.
 
BonnieC. April 16, 2020
You'd be surprised how many potatoes you can get from a very small investment. I'm a hardcore container gardener, & last year I bought 1# of seed potatoes (about 6-8 very small sprouting taters). I put them in an old plastic muck tub that my husband drilled holes into for me. Covered them with 6" of soil & dutifully added more as they sprouted & grew. At the end of the season (late October), I dumped the contents of the tub into our wheelbarrow & was shocked to find 15#-20# of beautiful potatoes of all sizes - from marbles to a few nice-size bakers. Can't wait to see if I get a repeat performance this year!
 
Doris D. April 16, 2020
Thanks Bonnie that’s really inspiring. Maybe I’ll get some seed potatoes and see what kind of large containers I can round up. It’s so nice eating fresh stuff from a garden. I already have a small garden in my yard but plan to expand it with containers this year. I’ll be able to keep them well watered since I’m going nowhere this summer with this COVID business.
 
Smaug April 16, 2020
You were fortunate in your choice of potato- commercial potatoes are generally treated with sprouting inhibitors, and even if they have started to sprout it can be really difficult for them to actually develop roots and grow. But with this early a start you should get a lot of potatoes out of it, and you'll have untreated seed potatoes for next year. Fifteen gallon nursery containers are good for potatoes; if you can find someone planting trees you may be able to pick them up for free. Buying large containers can get really expensive really fast.
 
BonnieC. April 16, 2020
What was particularly nice about my first container venture into potatoes was that the seed potatoes I used - 1# of "All Red", a pink-fleshed variety - cost me a whopping $.67 at our local farmers' co-op!! This year I'm doing "All Red" again, but am also trying "All Blue" as well. If they do well & I buy some white potatoes I'll be able to make my "Red, White, & Blue Potato Salad" using 3/4 of my own taters - lol!
 
BonnieC. April 16, 2020
Look for large plastic "muck tubs". They're larger than 15 gallons, have plastic rope handles for easy maneuvering, & aren't as expensive as tubs sold specifically for container gardening.
 
Doris D. April 16, 2020
It was from a farm stand type of place where I’m pretty sure they plant regular seed potatoes and then don’t treat their crop before selling. They don’t claim to be organic but I trust they are fairly careful about what they put on their crops. We’ll see what comes of it. During this isolation period it’s worth trying things.
 
BonnieC. April 16, 2020
Definitely! You go girl, & don't let anyone dampen your enthusiasm.
 
hevandriel April 15, 2020
I'm regrowing red-leaf lettuce and so far, so good :)
 
Doris D. April 16, 2020
Encouraging to hear. I have some green leaf lettuce here and will try doing that with it to see if I can grow it. A few fresh leaves would be nice!

 
Jan E. April 14, 2020
It is certainly a good idea to keep romaine/celery/green onions in water on the kitchen window sill… the onions seem to take a lot of care every day (removing slimy leaves) but the ones I bought didn’t have roots which may make a difference. There’s some growth with the romaine lettuces/celery but I have to say I am really partial to the hearts and would rather eat them and buy new ones! … All look pretty on the kitchen windowsill though and it saves space in the fridge!
 
Gwen F. April 11, 2020
My romaine and my green onions all have growth. Do we plant them in a pot at some point?
 
Nancy V. April 11, 2020
How do you start the garlic? It never said how to get it started. All advice welcomed. Thank you in advance for your help.
Always, Nancy V
 
Smaug April 11, 2020
Garlic, or any of the alliums, can simply be planted in soil, in the pot or the garden, slightly buried. In a pot is fine, or in reasonably loose garden soil. If you want any serious production you should look up care and feeding, but it will grow a plant with little effort. Serious plant people almost never start a plant in water; for a bulb like garlic it would be completely inappropriate.
 
BonnieC. April 11, 2020
With garlic, some cloves will just rot rather than sprout (especially if you're using supermarket garlic & not garlic purchased for planting from a seed company), so it's best to wait until you see a little green sprout coming from a clove before planting it in either a pot or the open ground.
 
Smaug April 11, 2020
There is a virus that is present in garlic sold as food that makes it very undependable for starting a crop and can severely limit production if it does grow- if you're at all serious you should buy seed garlic from a dependable source. In this case, all of this stuff is more by way of goofing around than a serious effort to produce food- I'd put it in the "what's there to lose" category.
 
BonnieC. April 11, 2020
In this case all one is looking to use is the scape, not to grow a crop of garlic bulbs.
 
Smaug April 11, 2020
And throw out the bulbs that you just went to the trouble of rooting? Seems a bit extravagant, but anything for science, I suppose.
 
BonnieC. April 11, 2020
I think you're missing the entire point of the article. They're not talking about whole garlic "bulbs" or growing an entire crop of anything - just that it's interesting (& can be fun) to regrow some vegetables in a small way from something you would be throwing out anyway - like a sprouting garlic clove. And sticking one or two cloves of sprouting garlic into a pot of soil really isn't all that much trouble.
 
Smaug April 11, 2020
I believe that I've pointed out several times, from the time the article was first published, that all of these things are by way of fun projects and not a practical way to produce food. However, if you've gone the trouble of starting a plant it seems natural to try to grow it, if only as a learning experience. It might be entertaining to try to force a garlic clove to produce a scape solely from the bulb, a la hyacinths etc., but I don't think anyone is proposing that.
 
Emily K. April 9, 2020
I have been trying this with green onion and romaine for ~3 days now - the romaine has not changed, and the green onion has wilted and does not seem to have grown either!

What did I do wrong?!
 
FS April 9, 2020
Hard to say without a picture or description. Did you keep the root end of the green onions? They shouldn't be clean cut off. Same with the romaine. Don't immerse the vegetable completely, just cover the bottom end. Change the water daily and give the plants a little light. Hope this helps!
 
Emily K. April 9, 2020
I kept the entire green onion 😂 I didn’t even cut off the green part because I didn’t need it yet (making chili tomorrow!)

The romaine is cut to about 3.5 inches from the root.

I could be better about replacing the water :) thanks for the tips!
 
FS April 9, 2020
You are welcome! :) The green onion was probably too long to properly take up water. The root end is sufficient for regrowth. Of course some cut off ends just don't root, it happens.
I've heard of people sprouting the root ends of yellow onions, even planting fresh potato peels. Good luck with your efforts!
 
LuciG April 13, 2020
I'm absolutely not a pro at this, but I cut a little bit off the bottom, like we do with fresh flowers. It seems to have great growth spurts when I do that.
 
Emily K. April 15, 2020
Update! Romaine and green onion are both growing, slowly but surely.

Cutting the green onion down to ~2” was vital. And now changing water everyday. A few sunny days might have helped too ☺️
 
Margaret L. April 9, 2020
I am growing ginger in a pot. Take a knob of ginger root (at least thumb-sized with joints) or, as I have done, take some that was already sprouting anyway, and soak in water for a day. Plant in a pot about half an inch deep. The plant is an attractive sort of palm/fern, and it will grown new ginger roots.
 
Wynn N. May 11, 2020
Hi Margaret! I have a question for you. If you buy a ginger root at the store, can you just leave it around until it starts to sprout? I would love to grow ginger at home.
 
Margaret L. May 11, 2020
Hi, Wynn. That's basically what I've done. I use organic ginger (conventionally grown and processed plants are often treated to inhibit sprouting, so they tend not to work as well). I've never used any ginger that was very dried out and wrinkled, a compost candidate, but I might try that as an experiment to see whether it does better or worse. I will say, as a tropical plant, ginger likes heat and wet, so don't let the soil dry out. And it takes its sweet time to emerge, so don't give up on it. This year I planted two pieces in each of two pots in early March. In one pot they emerged 7 weeks later and are now a whopping two inches tall, but then they grow pretty quickly once they do finally come up. The other pot has one shoot up and the other is so far still MIA.
 
Pema S. April 6, 2020
Red cabbage. I’d heard about doing this and when a cabbage got old in my vegetable bin it had roots. So I first put it in water then transferred it to the garden.
 
Wildyam April 3, 2020
I Winter-over Rosemary by putting a branch in water in a clear glass vase. It’s not even in a sunny window..... it’s in a window that faces northeast. Start to see roots within days. Once the roots are several inches long, you can plant in potting soil and place it in a sunny window..... to be transplanted in the Spring.
 
Gracy April 3, 2020
Mint grows wild and creates bushes from one planted root. Avocado pits, peel flat end without hurting small root shows. Spear top with three toothpicks around top pointed part of pit and sit into a small glass filled with water to cover bottom half of pit. Do not let water evaporate lower so that root on bottom stays covered. Roots will grow, once roots are long enough, plant in soil cover with soil and keep soil watered, with time and care you will be able to grow a beautiful avocado tree. Most root veggies can be rooted in water and planted to grow veggies quicker, cheaper and stronger than seeds.
 
b L. April 3, 2020
@jaimerockway Won’t the scallions/leeks lose flavor the more times they regrow? Is there anything to add to the water to add nourishment - can’t imagine there’s too much in plain water? Thx.
 
FS April 3, 2020
A little fertilizer in the water will keep the plant healthy. Light is also important to develop flavor.
 
Helen April 2, 2020
I have grown ginger in a flower pot
With the knots put them in a good soil and water put in the sun and watch it grow.
 
[email protected] April 2, 2020
Coconuts