Imagine for a moment that you've bought some carrots at the supermarket to make pot pies. Most of the carrot, of course, gets diced up, cooked, and eaten. If you're a gardener then the peelings should already be headed to you compost pile to be broken down into good stuff for your plants. But if you really want to squeeze a little more usefulness out of that carrot, perhaps you can save the top and grow a whole new carrot!
This is a prime example of why I am, perhaps more than any other adjective, a frugal gardener. Anything that I can acquire, repurpose, or make for free I will.
I remember first coming across this notion in an old children's book of projects*. It suggested using both carrot tops in a tray of water and a sweet potato suspended in a glass to grow an indoor jungle. I must have tried the carrot-in-a-tray idea a dozen times growing up but it never worked for me. Usually the carrot dried out and the cat was blamed for drinking all the water.
The carrots seem to be preforming best. As seen in the photo, both carrots have lots of leaves and roots filling their cups. It is important to note that the carrots in a manner very different to the other samples. They produced roots fairly quickly (a week or two, I believe) but didn't put out any leaves for at least a month.
One of the two radishes is doing well. It produced new leaves quickly, followed by root growth. The other radish reportedly turned to goo within a week and was thrown out.
The beets needed to be watched closely. For the first month they tended to leech red pigment into their water and grow a slime where they contacted the water. This was regularly rinsed off. The beet shown sent out leaves within a week followed by roots soon after. The other beet grew leaves just as fast but didn't produce any roots until two months later.
While these results demonstrate that the discarded tops of root vegetables can grow new leaves and roots, they do not yet show that they are capable of regrowing the tap root that we would like to harvest (aside from the possibility of eating the turnip and beet greens). Will these carrots ever produce a new carrot? I don't know yet.
Other questions remain also. Will the vegetable tops root in soil in addition to water? What other vegetables can grow this way? I have read that onions can be grown in a similar way from their discarded bottom ends. I also remember reading somewhere that lettuce can grow again from their root ends. Pineapples can supposedly be grown from their discarded tops, though I've never had any luck with this. Avocados pits can, famously, be sprouted in a glass of water. What other grocery store produce can yield good seed?
*On a side note, if anyone can remember the title of that book, I would love to know. I remember it being illustrated in a style similar to P.D. Eastman, if that helps.