GROW YOUR OWN VEG FROM WHAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR KITCHEN

Don’t toss out those kitchen scraps just yet -you can turn offcuts and leftovers into a thriving veggie patch Here’s how to grow your own celery, spring onion, lettuce and sprouts.

One of the most popular activities of The Great Autumn Lockdown of 2020 has been getting into the garden – playing B in the soil, trimming the trees and B transplanting cuttings.

In this sometimes 1 desperate time, sowing and growing can B jsr feel like you’re planting hope: as they say, gardening is cheaper than therapy — and you get tomatoes’. You also save money, become more self-sufficient, need fewer trips to the shops, have less food waste, fresher veggies, a stronger immune system, huge satisfaction and a healing connection with nature (Butterflies, birds and chameleons are bound to visit).

AH the things needed to fight a vile virus. If you can find a sunny patch in your garden or yard (or even a pot on your balcony), a watering can and a bit of dedication, you’ll be amazed at o. hat you can grow from kitchen scraps. Cut i lie leaves, uneaten bits or seeds, add water, good soil, and hey pesto (if you’re planting basil!) — they’ll regrow.

Sure, it works with only certain varieties and it takes a bit of time, but read on — we’ve selected a few of the easiest you can harvest without a trip to the nursery. Before you pick up your cutting shears, know this: your plants will need a little attention (but you’ll start to enjoy going out each day and checking on their progress); watering is essential (during the dry months); chatting to your plants is encouraged (especially if you’re in total isolation); and pulling out a few weeds is recommended.

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And after a few weeks you get the pudding — harvesting your homegrown produce to eat and share. You might even have leftovers for your neighbours, or plant on your verge for passers-by. First off, take note of the gardener’s mantra: ‘feed the soil, not the plant’. It’s essential to have well-prepared, rich soil — just like a healthy gut is key for your wellness. So use lots of good compost and natural-based fertilisers. And do some research on mulching to retain moisture and control pests. Choose healthy stock to start (yes, like good genes) by selecting the perkiest, brightest and strongest-looking bits of the plant, and buy a good, preferably organic, mother plant to begin with.

Celery

Celery is one ofthe easiest vegetables to growfrom leftover scraps.

How: Cut off the bottom/ base of the celery (don’t buy an already trimmed bunch) and put it upright in a shallow container of warm water, with just the top section sticking out.

Then: Keep the bowl in sunlight on your windowsill for about a week, changing the water every other day, until you see new leaves sprouting.

Where to plant: Transplant your celery into the soil in an area that gets morning sun, with the sprouting leaves out. Keep moist but not wet, and in a couple of months it will grow into another full-sized plant. When to plant: Celery will grow all-year round, but doesn’t like midsummer heat.

And another thing: Celery was used as a ‘bouquet of flowers’, to reward athletes in ancient Greece. It’s a superfood, and started out as a medicinal plant due to its healing properties (vitamins C, K and A; beta carotene and bountiful antioxidants). Plus it’s good for reducing inflammation. And don’t throw the wholesome leaves out – use them in your soups, stews, stir-fries and juices.

Spring onions

Spring onions are rewarding to regrow from the base ofthe bulb. How: Simply cut a small section off the base of the stem, leaving the roots attached, and stand (root end down) in a small jar of water – an egg cup will do. Add fresh water every few days.

Then: Shoots will soon emerge and when they are about 10cm long, plant them in some good potting soil. Where to plant: They like plenty of sunlight, and are happy in welldrained pots or the ground. Keep well watered and harvest after about eight weeks.

When to plant: All-year round, except for the hottest and coldest months. Best harvested in spring – hence their name. And another thing: They have antiviral properties (big bonus), lower blood sugar levels and aid digestion.

Sprouts

No outside area? Sprouts can be grown all year on your kitchen counter. How to prepare: Thoroughly wash the seeds before the process and again once they’ve sprouted. Soak two handfuls of brown lentils in a large jar of water overnight. (You can also try mung beans, alfalfa and chickpeas, but start with lentils if you’re a beginner.)

Then: Rinse and drain in the morning, and repeat this twice a day for the next four days or so until you have more than a few handfuls to toss over your salad or stir-fry for a crunchy, nutty and healthy snack. Refrigerate and use within three days. An easy way to drain them if you don’t have a sprouter is to cover thejar with netting or cheesecloth (Woolies garlic is sold in a mesh bag if you don’t want to cut up your net curtains!).

Hold this tight over the opening with an elastic band, or use a Consol preservejar without the inner lid. Place thejar upside down on a cup to catch the drips and keep in a warm spot out of the sun. And another thing: The vitamin and mineral content of these powerhouses is phenomenal. If you have allergies, start sprouting – they act as a natural antihistamine. Sprouts provide enzymes that make carbohydrates and proteins more digestible, maximising the absorption of nutrients found in food and aiding weight loss.

Lettuce

Quick growing and abundant, so ifyou grow a surplus you can make lettuce soup, add to smoothies, use as wraps and in salads.

How: Cut lettuce about 5cm from the bottom and place the stem in a shallow dish in about 1cm of water in the sunlight. Change the water every two days and mist the leaves every second day.

Then: After about five days you will notice roots beginning to appear and new leaves growing, and then it’s ready to transplant into rich soil. Where to plant: A warm, sheltered and sunny spot in winter, but in summer they prefer warm shade. You’ll be able to munch on them after a month or two.

And another thing: You’ve heard of iceberg and cos, but there are actually 16 varieties of lettuce. For longer life, wrap lettuce in paper towel in your container in the fridge. Lettuce helps synthesise collagen, protects against wrinkling and sagging of skin, and can improve dark circles under the eyes. Let us, oh let us, eat lettuce!

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