Reusing food waste for a greener indoor space

Avocado plant at two months and five months.
Photo: Geneva Pattison.

Geneva Pattison

This period of our lives is undeniably hard. With travel limitations, bans on public gatherings and people unable to visit friends and loved ones, it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel right now. However, while we’re all doing our bit to stop the spread of Covid-19 and isolating at home, there are a few family friendly ‘seeds of hope’ we can still sow.
Composting food waste has been on our eco-friendly radar for many years now, but what if some of the fruit and vegetable waste that we throw out could be used for something much more fun? Next time you go to throw out your fruit seeds, consider saving them to grow your very own tree, or try regrowing your very own salad from vegetable scraps. These projects are suitable for most age groups and fun for the entire family.

Growing an Avocado Tree from Seed.
The premise of this simple method works extremely well for avocado pits and when completed correctly, it yields a high germination rate. The best thing about this seed germinating method is, you don’t need any soil whatsoever. The tools you’ll need for this task are a paper towel, a ziplock plastic bag and some water.
Step One: Gather your avocado pit. Using a clean sponge and warm water, clean off any remaining remnants of fruit. You’ll know the seed is fully clean when the outside no longer feels slimy or sticky. Allow the clean seed to air dry. (An optional step you may like to try is removing the thin brown outer skin of the seed to speed up the germination process)
Step Two: Dampen a kitchen paper towel thoroughly, but not so much as to mulch and break apart the paper towel. Wrap the damp paper towel around your seed loosely, to allow room for the roots and top sprout to develop.
Step Three: Place the wrapped seed in your clear, plastic ziplock bag and seal it shut. Don’t squeeze out all of the air from the bag as you seal it up and make sure to keep it in a warm, shaded place indoors. Much like how self-contained terrariums work, the moisture, heat and air create the perfect microclimate within the ziplock bag for germination to occur.
Germination should only take a few weeks during the warmer Summer months. Keep an eye on the moisture levels within the ziplock bag and if you notice your paper towel drying out, moisten it as needed. Eventually, the avocado seed will split and produce a thick white coloured root. Once the root reaches around 2-3 inches long, it’s ready to be potted in soil.
The pictures in this article are from my own experiments growing avocado plants and should give you a good indicator of what to expect during the different stages of growth. To accelerate the growth of the green shoot, reuse the plastic ziplock bag and place it over the nursery pot. This again creates a ‘mini greenhouse’ for your avocado shoot by increasing the humidity and encouraging speedy growth. Bear in mind, it takes any fruit tree grown from seed a number of years to mature and produce fruit, but this is an investment for the future. Look after your avocado tree and eventually, it’ll look after you.

How to Regrow Celery.
It’s refreshing, crisp and helps form the basic stock of any good soup. If you’re thinking about throwing out the base of your bunch of celery, next time save it and re-grow your very own bunch. This is a great project and you only need a few items for the task, including a small bowl or dish, a cutting implement, some water and of course, the celery!
Step One: Take your bunch of celery and, using a knife, cut the end portion off two inches above the base.
Step Two: Fill your dish with an inch of water and place the cut-off celery base inside, making sure the root producing end is completely covered in water.
Step Three: Place your container in a bright place, but out of direct sunlight. Hopefully you’ll start to see a little bit of growth within a week. Every few days, change the water in the container and at the same time, check it daily to make sure the water doesn’t evaporate.
The celery should start to produce new green growth in the centre or, around the sides of the cut-off base within seven to ten days, depending on its environment. Much like the avocado plant, once the celery has developed healthy new roots and fresh leaves after a few weeks, transplant it to a pot with soil.
Ultimately, the leaves and new stems will be much shorter than what you would expect from that of a supermarket celery, but you’ll still be able to make one hell of a salad or stock nonetheless. If celery isn’t to your taste, try using the same method with the cut-off end of a head of lettuce, as the growing premise is exactly the same.
If you’re stuck for something to occupy the kids indoors during this strange time, this little experiment could be a great way to teach them practically about the life cycle of plants and the environment, while encouraging less computer and screen time.
Remember, if your base cutting fails to re-grow don’t look at it as a loss. Redefining food waste can sometimes be a bit of a learning curve. There are some wins and some fails, but you won’t know till you give it a try.

Tips for Sprouting Different Fruit Seeds.
Avocados may not be your thing, so try the cost-effective germination method above with different varieties of fruit and vegetable seeds. Here are a few tips to consider when trying to germinate various seeds indoors.
Growing an indoor citrus plant from seed could be a fun Summer project to try out. To ensure some success, try using varied germination methods and keep in mind, the more seeds you sow the higher your potential for success.
Start a few clean citrus seeds using the wet paper towel and ziplock bag technique. Set aside a few extra seeds and peel the thin layer of pale skin off half of those seeds and start them in a separate bag. If you have access to compost or soil, try starting a few seeds in nursery pots too. As mentioned before, this could be a fun science project for the kids to get involved in.
Using seeds from saved lemons, limes or oranges to grow an indoor citrus tree is great for a couple of reasons. Firstly, buying citrus trees whether they’re ornamental, an edible variety or one of the miniature varieties can be very expensive. Giving the DIY seed germination a try, will save money in the long run. Secondly, if you’re successful in growing a citrus tree, even if it doesn’t produce fruit, it will provide you with delicate, fragrant flowers and beautiful glossy foliage indoors for next to nothing.
If you’re trying to sprout a peach or nectarine seed from a pit you have saved, take into account that the pit itself is not the seed. The pits in peaches, nectarines and apricots are seed pods, which need to be split open to reveal the seeds inside.
To do this, first clean and allow your pit to fully dry out for a day or two. When it’s dried out, find the side of the pit that juts out the most and gently, using a blunt table knife, split the pit from that side. Inside, you should find one or two almond shaped seeds. These can be germinated using the damp paper towel and plastic bag method, but they prefer to germinate in a cool place. In hotter climates, some people even germinate them in the fridge. It should be noted that peach, nectarine and apricot seeds should never be ingested as they contain a poisonous compound, please be aware.
Growing any plant from scratch needs patience, perseverance and a positive attitude.
Likewise, reimagining what we would usually consider the waste products of fruit and veg is also an exercise in positivity. When you think about it, if we can apply those traits to our current trying times of crisis, we can make it through anything and grow a few plants along the way.

Further information about regrowing celery is available from this website.

Get more detailed instructions about growing lemon trees from seed from the website below.