WHY I STARTED REGROWING MY ONION SCRAPS
Perhaps it is completely natural that this is my very favorite way to upcycle food scraps. You see, I LOVE onions. My mom loves onions, my four-year-old loves onions (something I was very excited to find out about a couple years back). He also loves salad, but that’s a topic for another post.
So, with eight mouths to feed in our household, I go through a LOT of onions. Nearly every savory dish I cook starts with cooking down onions (that’s my Cajun/Creole roots showing). But I could literally eat sauteed onions every day. Throw some mushrooms in, and I’m even happier. But getting back on topic…
I buy organic sweet onions by the sack, and often. As the cost of groceries has continued to go up, this has become a bit more painful each time. With that in mind, a while back I set out to see if I could stretch my onion investment and have a little fun while doing it. I am writing this post because of that decision.
“YOU CAN’T REALLY GROW ONIONS FROM CLIPPINGS”
Really? If anyone tries to tell you that you cannot regrow onions from the root tips of the bulb, they are wrong. I read several places that said you cannot successfully regrow, or that it is difficult. But I am here to tell you that you can. And I have. It’s NOT difficult, it’s really quite simple. All it takes a little intentionality, getting into a routine, and then some time and patience (as with all growing). I will tell you exactly how to do it and you’ll be cutting down waste, growing food, multiplying your onion dollars in no time!
REGROWING ONIONS FROM THE ROOT TIPS IS AS SIMPLE AS:
- Cut the root end leaving some of the onion bulb
- Remove the paper skin
- Place the root end in water
- Rinse and freshen water as needed
- Watch for the rings to begin growing into green shoots and the roots to grow in length
- Trim around the healthy growth without cutting the shoots or the roots
- Plant in soil and let grow
- Separate separate onion shoots to grow even more bulbs (if desired)
WHAT I HAVE DONE
First of all, I have changed the way I cut the ends of my onions. Rather than trying to cut off the smallest amount of the root end as possible, I now intentionally cut the root end off leaving some of the onion.
This allows for enough of the plant to stimulate growth. Ideally, after cutting this end off, I should peel off the paper skin. However, I do not always do this. Sometimes I skip this step, I guess just out of busyness while cooking, or because of the routine nature with which I use and regrow onions. Nonetheless, peeling the paper off is the best idea. I then soak the root side in water in a nice little bowl or ramekin, or if I have a lot of onions at one time I sometimes use a saucer. I have found that giving each onion its own tiny bowl makes the onion happiest (I love those little stainless or glass ramekins for this), and the more onions in a saucer, the messier it can get over time. But since I use so many onions, I often have a full saucer or two on my kitchen counter. Sometimes I have two saucers and SEVERAL ramekins. (See, I told you I’ve made a routine).
After several days the tiny inner ring(s) start to rise from the surface and turn green.
As a matter of observation, the more of the onion that is left on the roots, the more quickly this seems to happen. I am not certain this is a fact, it just seems to be what I’ve noticed, for what it’s worth. If there is too little onion left, it may never grow. This has been rare for me, as I usually leave at least a little bit behind.
Once my green shoots are growing nicely (I say at least an inch or two tall, and sometimes several inches), I plant them outside in soil. Before planting them, however, I usually carefully trim the excess outer onion rings (now shriveled and yucky) with sheers, making sure to leave the roots healthy and intact.
Once the trimmed baby plants are planted in soil, they need to be watered well and to continue being allowed to grow, just as any other crop of onions.
Keep in mind that onions want firm, fertile soil, fertilized with a phosphorous-rich fertilizer such as 10-20-10 or 0-20-0, depending on the makeup of your soil prior. (More on testing soil here.)
Here’s where a cool part comes in. But first, if you’d like, go back and check out the first picture of the beautiful purple onions at the beginning of this post. Do you notice how some of them seem to have two or three inner rings of purple or yellow? If your onions had several different circular areas (they will be yellow or white with other onions) that grew into shoots, you can actually separate them into just as many plants to grow separate onion bulbs. To do this, however, you should wait until the onions are more established and appear as distinct bulbs and shoots.
Once this is observed, you will want to gently uproot and carefully break them apart, holding the base parts firmly and pulling apart, outward and downward, watching to be sure that each keeps its root system. I have had great success doing this and have always had my separated onion bulbs continue to grow healthfully, so long as they were a bit established before attempting it.
Just to drive home the coolness of this, your root tip from ONE onion, upcycled, can actually become two, four, or I’ve even seen SEVEN separate onion sets. I think that is pretty awesome.
Have you grown onions from your kitchen cuttings? Would you like to? Do you have any comments or questions? Please leave them below!