Want to regrow scallions? Yeah, you do. It’s super easy and incredibly rewarding—so here’s what you need to know to regrow green onions.
Placing bets on which quarantine habit most survives post-quarantine, my money is on the regrowing of scallions. (Sorry sourdough, but the only other thing I can commit to feeding daily besides myself is my cat.) I’d even take it a step further and file this under “things I should have been doing all along,” or more emphatically, “HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS?”
For those not yet in the know, you basically never have to buy scallions again. Armed with nothing more than a small glass or jar, and access to a water supply and a sunny spot, a lifetime supply of scallions—the world’s most versatile garnish—can also be yours.
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Once you get started, you're going to need more than one.
The process is a simple one: First, cut the scallion or green onion on a slight bias just above the white part, leaving a little bit of green. Next, submerge the bulb in a glass of cold water, with just enough water to clear the roots. Finally, wait not much more than a few days, and witness the BOUNTY. Easy, am I right? Why haven’t we all been doing this all along?
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It’s not rocket science, but it is plant science, and so to understand how this phenomenon works, best practices for regrowing scallions, and other vegetables to which you may apply this miraculous (read: scientific) process, I spoke with a plant scientist.
“Gardening is the most inexpensive and forgiving place to practice trial and error and patience,” says Becca Amos, Certified Horticultural Therapist and a Senior GreenHouse Instructor with the Horticultural Society of New York’s GreenHouse Program on Rikers Island. For those whose thumbs have proven the opposite of green, the scallion jar is the perfect first step toward the possibility of growing your own food.
What Makes It Possible for Scallions to Be Regrown in This Way?
“Scallions are geophytes, a.k.a. underground storage organs,” explains Amos. “They’re full of stored energy which remains present when their greens are removed. Their roots grow from the basal plate, (which is) all that’s needed to regrow.” (Basal plate = plant spinal cord, basically.) Other vegetables that are also geophytes include onions, potatoes, turmeric, and ginger.
“By hanging onto those roots and providing the whole situation with enough sunlight,” she continues, “the plant is able to photosynthesize and keep coming back. Plants WANT to grow!” (Evidenced by my own scallion jar, which not only has grown in near defiance of my personal track record with greenery, but is downright lush.)
Can You Keep Your Scallions Growing in Water Indefinitely, or Should They Be Transferred to Soil at Some Point?
“There are varying opinions about this,” Amos explains. “Some folks have had luck keeping scallions in water for up to a year and others advise transplanting into soil or a well-draining medium like river rocks or a sandy mix for longevity.” You can even use potting soil and replant in the same jar as you were keeping them in water.
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For taking the next step from regenerating scallions to eternal scallions.
“The crucial key to scallion regrowing success is keeping up with changing the water every couple of days,” says Amos. “Slimy, murky water will stunt growth or rot the roots.”
What Are Other Vegetables That Can Be Regrown in This Way?
“If you want to experiment with (other) food scraps,” she encourages, “I highly recommend putting a potato on your window sill for the simple fun of watching an eye do its thing, and observing how much stored energy is in a potato! Just wow.”
“And for the ultimate patience game,” she continues, “once you master changing water regularly with your scallions, go for avocado pit propagation.” Avocado pits can be anchored with a tripod of toothpicks, making sure to keep the top side up for sprouting, in the same orientation in which it’s found inside the avocado. An avocado pit should be submerged about halfway in water.
“Just when you’re ready to give up, you’ll see progress,” says Amos.
Related Reading: How to Grow an Herb Garden, Indoors or Out
Is This the Same Process as “Rooting?”
“[Rooting is] the action of a plant producing roots,” says Amos. “Roots are for anchoring, absorbing nutrients and water, and/or storing energy, depending on [what kind of plant] you are. Propagation often involves trying to coax new roots from existing plant material in order to create another plant—depending on the kitchen scrap you’re trying to grow, you might be rooting or, in the case of scallions, you’re just keeping them happy.”
And speaking of keeping something happy, an abundance of scallions means an abundance of scallion recipes. Try Yaso Tangbao’s Scallion Pancake with Egg and Pork Floss recipe. Then read up on the differences between scallions, green onions, and chives.
Header image courtesy of Elva Etienne/Getty Images.