For a lot of newcomers to growing it’s pretty exciting to discover that plants will grow from the seeds inside a grocery store apple, lemon, tomato, and other fresh foods. This kind of indoor growing is getting really popular, along with growing new food from the outer waste of produce. Recycling is great. Free stuff is even better. So, why waste money buying seeds when you can grow food from your garbage?

Heads up! Not every blogger or YouTube video maker knows what they’re doing. You don’t want to do this with everything you buy.

LEMONS & CITRUS

Getting a seed from any kind of citrus fruit to sprout isn’t that difficult. The problem is that it is highly likely that your plant won’t bear fruit at all, or it will be some horrible thorny monster bush instead of the tree you were expecting. If you do get fruit, it won’t be the same as the fruit you got the seed from. Additionally, oranges are not grown on their own roots. If you get orange seeds to sprout your tree will be highly susceptible to root diseases. Orange grove trees have sour orange root stock because of this constant issue with sweet orange trees. It is a severe enough disease that it wiped out the majority of orange trees in the past.

The reason you won’t get a Meyer Lemon tree or Moro Blood Orange tree from the seeds you got from store bought fruit is all because of hybridizing. The only way to get a true to form fruit bearing tree is through tissue culture and stem grafting.

GINGER

Yes, you can grow new ginger roots from sections of a root purchased from the grocery store, but unless it is organic ginger from farms like Biker Dude Ginger – it most likely carries a soil pathogen. Biker Dude Ginger isn’t grown in soil, or allowed to come in contact with the ground. The reason for this is that ginger is highly susceptible to a number of soil-borne diseases. Their ginger is always disease-free.

Traditional ginger farms sterilize their soil with methyl bromide. The crops are treated with whatever chemicals will help get the ginger to market. The disease isn’t harmful to humans. The chemicals aren’t the best thing for you to eat, but its all approved for food. The big problem here is that these diseases are pathogens, which spread like an infection. So, if you plant store bought standard grade ginger root in your garden, you have installed disease pathogens that will be very hard to get rid of. They could affect your other garden plants.

APPLES

Just like the citrus seeds, unless it is an heirloom apple variety, a tree grown from food waste isn’t likely to give you the very same type of apples. You will eventually get apples, just don’t count on them being what you bought at the store. It’s doubtful they will be anything delicious. They were chosen for a certain trait the breeder wanted for his awesome new apple. There could be a dozen different types of apples crossed to create the one you loved so much you started a tree from it’s seeds. The tree you grow will be any one of the parents.

The same is true of just about any other type of fruit or vegetable. Unless it is an open-pollinated heirloom variety, you won’t get the plant you wanted from the seeds.

OTHER FOODS GROWN FROM GARBAGE

There are some types of produce that you can grow new tops from the sprouting eyes or segments, such as potatoes and garlic, that are going to give you what you planted. Why? They are clones of the plant it was harvested from. No seed is involved. You get what you expected by making new plants from the tissue of the hybrid. Unfortunately, doing this with most plants is super tricky. It is known as tissue culture, which requires special tools and skills.

Tammy Clayton

Tammy Clayton

Content crafter and Senior Editor at Garden Culture Magazine
Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home. (Some feel she's got a perennial obsession, others say the problem is tomato plants.)

If you don't find her at the desk - check the gardens. When not writing and weeding, she enjoys a good book, painting junk furniture, and blending the harvest of heirloom tomatoes and chiles into salsas.
Tammy Clayton

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