Growing carrots from scraps can be done—but probably not how you think.
If you're looking for a way to make the most of your food and avoid kitchen waste, how about growing the scraps left over from your next bunch of carrots? Though you can't actually grow carrots from scraps, those carrot tops that you usually throw in the compost can have a second life in your garden. There, they'll grow a new shock of bright, fresh greens with a lovely herbaceous flavor. You can use the greens to make a pesto to serve with pasta, grilled meat, or a roasted carrot tart; you can add them to salads; or you can use them as a garnish. If you continue to let the greens grow, they will even produce lovely white flowers.
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How to Grow Carrot Greens from Scraps
Step 1: Prepare Your Carrots
If you want to grow your carrot tops, it's best to start with carrots that still have some of the greens still attached. When you use the carrot, make a nice clean cut at the top, leaving about a quarter inch of flesh below the stems. You can also trim and use the greens that were on the carrots when you bought them, but try to leave about an inch of the stems attached.
Step 2: Start Growing the Carrot Scraps in Water
To get the carrots to start rooting, place them cut-side down in a flat, shallow container filled with just a tiny bit of water. (A flat takeout container works well.) Make sure that the carrot tops aren't covered in water, or they'll begin to rot.
Set the container in a shady but relatively warm spot (indoors or outdoors, but away from any areas that might be home to rodents or scavengers) and add water as necessary to keep the cut sides submerged.
Step 3: Wait for Your Carrots to Put up Shoots and Roots
Once you've set your carrot scraps in water, it should only take a few days for the carrots to start putting out new growth. The green shoots usually appear first and grow fairly quickly. After few days, the carrot piece will also begin to grow tiny, hair-like roots.
Step 4: Transfer the Growing Carrot Scraps to Soil
Once the carrot has started to sprout small roots, it's time to transfer the scraps to soil. You can try planting them directly into a garden bed, but they will grow best if they start in a pot, so that you can acclimatize them to direct sunlight and cold weather. Either way, you'll want to use soil that has plenty of compost and nutrients folded into the top few inches.
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To plant the carrots, make small holes in the soil, insert the fleshy parts of the carrots, and then cover them gently so that only the greens are showing. Water the carrots immediately after planting. Let them grown indoors (if it's cold) or outdoors in an area of full shade (if it's warm) for a few days.
Step 5: "Harden Off" Your Baby Carrot Greens
Once the plants have been growing in a pot for a few days, you can acclimate them to direct sun and cold. This process is known as "hardening off." Start by putting the pot outside, in direct sunlight, for just three to four hours a day, then bringing it back inside. (If the weather is quite warm, you can do this entire process outside but move the pot back into the shade.) Gradually let the carrot sprouts get more direct sun (and more exposure to the cold), adding an hour or two every day for four to five days.
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Step 5: Trim and Use the Greens, then Re-grow Them Again
Once the carrot greens have acclimated to their new spot and are growing well, you can pinch off small pieces of leaves for garnishes, let them grow tall and then cut them for carrot green pesto, or let them flower. Just make sure to leave some of the stems attached to the carrot scraps when you trim them and they'll keep growing new shoots, giving you an endless supply of tasty greens.