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Growing your own veggies from cuttings: an expert gardener tells us how

Carrot stems (Mainichi)

Depending on the type, some vegetables can regrow leaves or stems from clippings when they are put in water. Gardening advisor Michiko Okai spoke with the Mainichi Shimbun about what to keep in mind when creating your own herb and veggie garden.

    First of all, at least some of the plant's roots need to be still attached to the cutting, as the stem and leaves will need the nutrients left in the roots to grow. Vegetables sold at supermarkets often have the roots cut off, so the first thing you need to do is find produce that still has its roots.

    At right is a carrot stem grown in ample sunlight, and at left is one grown without, seen at Protoleaf Garden Island's Tamagawa shop in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo. The one exposed to sunlight is a deeper green and has thicker leaves. (Mainichi)

    Okai recommends relatively fast-growing and easy-to-raise vegetables like spring onion, Japanese hornwort and Japanese parsley. Root vegetables like carrots can also sprout leaves if the top is cut off and placed in water.

    "Spring onion and Japanese hornwort are useful because you can clip just what you need when you want a little seasoning for miso soup or chilled tofu. Carrot leaves are refreshing and can be used in salads," Okai says.

    You can cut the top centimeter off several carrots, keeping the stems, and then line them up on a plate or other container filled with water stem-up. Carrots lined up like this on a simple plate can even be decorative plants after their leaves have grown in.

    Spring onions (Mainichi)

    For spring onions, tie a rubber band around the bunch near the roots to keep them together, cut them 5-6 centimeters above the roots, and put them in a cup of water. It's better to do all this right after you buy them, while they are at their freshest, says Okai. You can slice off the part of the onions you plan to use soon, chop them up and put them in the freezer. After about a week to 10 days, the onions in the water should have grown out enough for eating. Using a clear cup will allow you to easily check if the water is clean.

    For people wanting to grow the onions longer-term, Okai recommends planting them in a thin plastic cup filled with soil. Four to five holes should be opened in the bottom of the cup to allow water to drain. When the roots spread and the cup breaks, the onions should be transplanted to a larger cup. Okai says that when selecting Japanese hornwort at the store, ones that do not have sponge attached to the bottom are easier to grow.

    Although not suited for growing food, avocado pits can be used to grow decorative plants. Suspend the pit with toothpicks over the mouth of a water-filled vessel so that the pit is partly in the water. After about a month, roots and sprouts should emerge. If the pit is transplanted to soil, it will grow into a large plant, says Okai. Sprouts are not guaranteed, however.

    Spring onions are cut five to six centimeters from the roots, at Protoleaf Garden Island's Tamagawa shop in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward. (Mainichi)

    According to Okai, an important part of growing plants from vegetable clippings is giving them enough sunlight. Without enough sunlight, the stem will be frail and the plant will be pale and have little taste. The water should be changed about once a day.

    Okai says, "A good place for putting the plants is a windowsill, which is easy to access and allows changing their water without it becoming a burden. It's important to be able to raise the plants without too much fuss."

    Mid-summer, when the water temperature will rise, and mid-winter, when it is cold even indoors, are not suited to growing vegetable plants, Okai says. Fertilizer is unnecessary.

    Okai points out that these little vegetable projects can be grown in matching containers, becoming a kind of edible interior decoration. Okai says, "You can also try out different vegetable varieties yourself and see which ones are easy to grow. I would like people to enjoy growing them in breaks between housework."

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