Growing Garbage

When I was a kid, I had a book with Fisher-Price level "experiments" meant to stimulate an interest in science-y things. I don't remember anything from the book except for one thing, the "how to grow carrot tops" experiment. 

The line drawings in the book were perfect for a very young mind - simple, clear, and vaguely cartoonish - and the instructions were easy to follow. I was obsessed with the idea that I could take the cut tops of the carrots and grow frilly green bits from them. Somehow, I knew that I wasn't going to get actual carrots from the growth, just a cool garden of green.

The instructions said to place a layer of small stones (like the kind you put in the bottom of a fish tank) in a container and cover the stones with water. Then you take the cut carrot tops, preferably with some healthy green shoot left on it, and place on top of the stones. Place in a sunny window and, voila!, you get fresh growth. Endlessly fascinating. 

Sadly, I have no memory of my mother actually helping me do this experiment...

Perhaps that's why, lo these decades later, I still want to grow stuff from old kitchen scraps. Which would explain why THIS book is now in my house:

LOOK! Even the drawings are similar to the ones from my childhood book!! It was fate.

Basically, Don't Throw It, Grow It by Deborah Peterson is an expansion on the carrot top idea - grow decorative (not fruiting/vegging) stuff from the plant scraps you would normally toss out. Vegetables, fruits & nuts, and herbs & spices each have a chapter. Then, just for fun, there's a chapter on plants from Latin America and plants from Asia. I guess they assume that some of us have mercados and Asian markets at our disposal. The best part is that they kick off the book with a great chapter on the basics of growing plants, boldly proclaiming that there's no such thing as a black thumb. :)  While it's written for adults, I think that a precocious 8 year old could probably get a lot out of this book and maybe remember it 40 some odd years later. I'm just sayin'.

In retrospect, I wonder if my early exposure to that book on growing carrot tops was what started my love of gardening or if my obsession was an indicator of things to come. Either way, it's January and it's cold... and I'm thinking about planting. :)

Happy gardening, friends.

- Alex

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