Ahoy! The past 2 weeks have been all about getting things ready to go outside in a couple months. There’s been a lot of planting going on with a whole range of veggies and other edible plants in order to give them a head start on the growing season.
I’m particularly interested in growing enough leaf vegetables to stop needing to buy salad from the shops. Hopefully it will end up saving me money, but I’m also hoping to reduce my garbage output. Growing my own salad will hopefully dramatically reduce the amount of packaging I go through once everything gets going. I’ve purchased a whole bunch of lettuce seeds, but again I am on a budget of trying to spend as little as I can on all this. So I’ve been looking for other ways to grow veg.
Fortunately a way presented itself in the form of additional waste reduction. I always chop off the very tops of radishes, beets, and carrots before using them in salads or cooking. For years I just tossed these away, but now I can put them to better use and use them to create some fast salad leaves. All it takes is to put a layer of gravel in a tray, and then fill it with water just to the top of the gravel, then sit the tops on top. Keep the tray topped up with water and after a few days new leaves will start to grow.
Now that they’ve started to grow some new leaves, I’ve potted them up in a window box to see if I can get them to properly root and continue producing leaves. Updates on the status of this experiment in coming weeks.
Beets, radishes, and carrot are all swollen tap roots. These are the initial leading root put out by a seed down into the ground. From this initial root smaller ones grow out sideways. In many plants these stringy/fibrous roots turn into the main root system, but in carrots, beets, and other similar plants the tap root continues to grow and swell. Unfortunately, once you cut the carrot or beet, the taproot won’t re-grow. So planting these tops won’t get you a new carrot, but they should put out new feeder roots and grow new leaves from their crowns.
The reason this works well for these plants is that the tap root acts a nutrient warehouse, storing chemical energy made by photosynthesis in the form of sugars and starches. This is why root vegetables are often sweet (beets and carrots) or starchy (salsify). Normally the plants use the stored nutrients to send up new leaves in the spring. Breaking down starches into sugars, and then metabolizing the sugars. They can also use this store to send up new leaves when they are removed. This is why dandelions (another potential salad crop) can be so difficult to get rid of. Any bit of tap root will send up new shoots to replace the one you’ve pulled out.
Potential root veg to get salad leaves from are: carrot, radish, beet, salsify, turnips, and swede (rutabaga).
Don’t try this with parsnips as their leaves contain chemicals which can burn your skin.