Do Regrowing Food Scraps Hacks Actually Work?

Sensational, viral hacks have entered into the garden world. But do they actually work? In this article, master gardener Laura Elsner will walk you through some viral gardening hacks and decide if they are worth trying or not.

In a bowl filled with murky brown water, cabbages, and carrots show green shoots emerging from their bases, regrowing from discarded scraps. These resilient vegetables sprout anew, promising future harvests.


We’ve all seen the videos that give us so-called “hacks” in life. They are meant to save us time and money or another surprising benefit. Gardening is a slow endeavor. While it may seem tempting to find a shortcut, many food hacks don’t live up to their viral status. 

Here, I dig deeper into viral hacks and add my thoughts (spoiler alert: I agree with Kevin’s video on most of them). Let’s dive into regrowing food hacks and determine if they are worth the hype.

Hack 1: Planting Pepper Seeds From a Store-Bought Pepper

On a brown table, an orange bell pepper is halved, revealing its vibrant interior and abundant seeds. The pepper, sliced open with precision, exposes its juicy, seed-filled core, a colorful bounty of nature's craftsmanship.
Planting the pepper directly in the soil results in a mushy, non-decomposing pepper.

The Hack: 

This hack shows somebody cutting a pepper in half and loosening some seeds. Then the whole thing is planted into the soil, and voila, pepper seedlings grow.

The Truth:

When planting, leaving the seeds inside the pepper is a strange way to start seeds. While it may work, you are better off drying the seeds first. 

Planting the pepper into the soil makes a gross, mushy pepper. The pepper won’t break down quickly or provide your seedlings an organic boost. You will just end up with a rotten pepper in the soil. 

The Verdict: 

The hack is bad. If you want to attempt it, dry the seeds first, ensure it is a viable variety, and that you’re planting it at the correct time for your area.

What To Do Instead:

A close-up reveals a woman's nurturing hand, delicately placing small, sun-kissed yellow seeds into rich, brown soil. These tiny seeds hold the promise of life, cradled in fertile earth, a hopeful beginning to a journey of growth and abundance.
Timing is crucial when initiating pepper growth unless you own grow lights and a heating mat.

If you do want to start a pepper plant from a store-bought pepper, it is possible. Take the seeds from the pepper and dry them out first. 

It is important to consider timing when starting peppers. You don’t want just to start them at any old time unless you own grow lights and possibly a heating mat to keep the soil at the optimal temperature. It is best to start them 8-10 weeks before your area’s last frost date.

When you are ready to plant your pepper seeds, place them into an evenly moist seed starting mix. Place a dome or bag over the top to create a little greenhouse. Be patient. Peppers can take up to 14 days to germinate. Once they sprout, move them to a sunny window or under grow lights. 

Another consideration before attempting this “hack” is whether these are the peppers you want to grow. If you got them from a local farmer’s market, I’d say go for it. It has likely been grown in your region and should be well-suited to your area’s unique growing conditions. However, some peppers aren’t viable, so you may not have the expected success; this is always true unless you know the variety of pepper and whether it produces seeds that grow true to type!

If you purchased them from a grocery store in the winter, I’d think twice before planting them. They were probably grown far away and might not be suited to your climate. Those varieties are also created for stability and shelf life. 

Hack 2: Planting Corn Fresh From the Cob

In nutrient-rich brown soil, rows of vibrant yellow corn seeds are meticulously planted, ready to sprout into towering stalks. These golden kernels, snugly nestled in the earth, carry the potential to flourish into a bountiful harvest, a testament to nature's abundance.
It is essential to dry the corn kernels before planting.

The Hack: 

Planting corn kernels from a cob of fresh corn.

The Truth: 

As with the peppers, corn kernels should be dried before being planted. Planting fresh kernels of corn will have very low, if any, germination success. Fresh kernels will most likely just rot in the soil.

The Verdict:

The hack is bad. Planting fresh corn kernels will have very low germination rates. 

What To Do Instead:

Basking in the warm sunshine, numerous dried corn cobs hang upside down, their orange grains exposed and their husks gracefully parted. These sun-kissed corns await their transformation into nourishing sustenance, a rustic display of nature's bounty.
Starting corn from collected seeds is feasible, but choosing viable seed corn is important.

If you are keen on starting corn from seeds you collected, it is possible. Make sure you select a reliable seed corn variety, not a hybrid. If possible, select a landrace type that has been grown in your area so it’s already adapted to your climate.

Take a fully matured cob of corn that has dried on the plant and hang it up to continue drying. Place it in a breezy area, or point a fan at it so the corn doesn’t develop mold. Once it’s fully dry, you can harvest the kernels from the cob. Either store these in a cool, dry location until the next season, or if you have enough warm weather left for more corn to reach maturity, go ahead and plant another crop!

You can also purchase corn seeds and plant them in your garden according to package directions, which is easier and may yield better results.

Hack 3: Planting Garlic in Water

On a brown table, a transparent container holds water, and within it, garlic bulbs with roots dangle. Toothpicks pierce the bulbs, supporting their suspended growth. These garlic bulbs, poised for cultivation, symbolize the promise of flavorful harvests.
Despite what the internet suggests, growing garlic in water isn’t a viable option.

The Hack: 

Place the root end of a garlic bulb into a container of water, and your garlic will sprout and can be planted.

The Truth: 

I don’t understand how this is a hack. Pre-sprouting your garlic is unnecessary as you’re putting the greenery at risk of frost or freeze damage. Also, planting the whole bulb and having it sprout means taking apart a tangled mess of cloves. Every clove can be grown into garlic once planted. More important, though, is that garlic submerged in nothing but water is more likely to rot than to grow!

It’s also important to note that grocery-store garlic might not suit your climate. Many types of garlic need a period of cold weather to push up growth and to develop bulbs, particularly hardneck varieties. While softneck varieties of garlic don’t need the cold to grow, they do need good drainage to reduce the risk of rot – and a jar of water is anything but well-drained!

The Verdict: 

This hack is terrible. Growing garlic is an already easy process that doesn’t require pre-sprouting.

What To Do Instead:

In a brown basket, freshly harvested garlic bulbs with earthy remnants cling to their roots. They rest in the basket, bearing witness to the toil of the gardener, their robust, soil-clad forms promising culinary delights.
As the foliage dies back, you can proceed to harvest your garlic crop.

To grow garlic, purchase seed garlic from a garden center. Alternatively, you might purchase garlic from a local farmers market. Then, take the cloves and plant them in the fall. In spring, they will sprout.

If they’re hardneck varieties, scapes will form (which are delicious) – so cut the scapes off and use them! Once the foliage starts to die back, you can harvest your garlic. For softneck varieties, your plants will not produce scapes, but you still must wait to harvest until the foliage starts to yellow and die back.

Hack 4: Grow Dragon Fruit From a Fruit

Arranged on a brown table, slices of dragon fruit showcase their glistening seeds. In the center lies a vibrant pink dragon fruit, while the flanking sides reveal snowy white flesh. These exotic fruits present a tantalizing blend of colors and textures.
To grow a new dragon fruit from seeds, gather dragonfruit seeds from the fruit – but it’ll be slow.

The Hack: 

You collect the seeds from a dragon fruit to grow a new dragon fruit.

The Truth: 

This works. You can grow dragon fruit from the seeds within them. But it is a long process to go from seed to fruit.

The Verdict: 

This is an okay hack. It will work. You can germinate and sprout dragon fruit from the seeds. However, dragon fruits are slow-growing. Getting a good-sized dragon fruit cactus could take 5-8 years. To me, a hack shouldn’t take years.

What To Do Instead:

A man, adorned in gardening gloves, expertly wields pruning scissors to sever a fresh dragon fruit from its leafy perch. The succulent fruit, surrounded by lush leaves and branches, awaits its transformation into a delectable treat.
Acquiring a cutting or a mature dragon fruit plant greatly speeds up the ability to get fruit from your dragon fruit cactus.

Get a cutting or a plant if you want to grow dragon fruit. Check around in local plant groups or specialty garden centers to find one. It is a much faster way to grow dragon fruits.

Hack 5: Grow a Walnut Tree From a Walnut

Within a bowl, walnuts are nestled, awaiting their fate. A hand grasps a nutcracker tool, poised to crack open these tough shells. The walnuts, encased in protective armor, hide the treasure of rich, nutritious kernels within.
Most walnuts are too dried out to germinate.

The Hack: 

Crack a hole into the top of a walnut and then wrap it in a damp paper towel until it sprouts. After it sprouts, plant it in the soil, water it, and place it in a sunny spot to grow.

The Truth: 

Walnuts require cold stratification to germinate. You need to provide cold conditions for 3-4 months before they will germinate. Then, if you do get the walnut to germinate, it takes 10+ years to start producing walnuts. A decade-long “hack” is hardly a hack.

The Verdict: 

This hack is terrible. The way it is presented wouldn’t even work because the walnut was not cold-stratified. In addition, most walnuts that are ready to eat are dried out and are likely not viable to plant anyway.

What To Do Instead:

A close-up of a small pile of walnut sprouts each housed in black seedling bag in spring. The sprouts are about 6 inches tall, and they have several small green leaves. In the background, the pile is seen to be surrounded by other plants, such as weeds and grasses.
Buy a live walnut tree from a nursery to guarantee it grows well and produces sooner.

If you want a walnut tree, purchase one at a nursery.  This way, you can ensure the exact variety you want, and reaching maturity will take less time. If you are going to invest a decade or more into growing a tree, it’s worth ensuring it will grow and produce!

Hack 6: Grow Chamomile From Tea Bags

A brown pot sits on the cemented table, filled with rich, brown soil that cradles the chamomile tea bag flower heads. Their dried petals and seeds peek through the soil, promising a tranquil infusion of soothing chamomile.
Tea bags are unlikely to contain seeds at all.

The Hack: 

Open up chamomile tea bags and plant the flower heads in soil.

The Truth: 

This one makes me laugh. It could work. But I just don’t understand why. I mean, if it was the end of civilization and it was the only way to find chamomile seeds, it’s worth a shot. However, the germination rates on the tea bag ones would be extremely low at best and completely unlikely in most cases, as the flowers would be harvested before they had matured enough to produce viable seeds. You’d have to open a lot of tea bags before you’d be lucky enough to find a seed, and in most cases, it would be an immature one!

In addition, most bagged chamomile does not actually have whole flowers. Generally, most teabags are made from cut flowers or leaves rather than whole ones; very few companies produce chamomile tea with whole flowers unless they’re selling it as a loose-leaf herbal blend. Even if a few mature flowers slipped through into a loose-leaf blend, they wouldn’t make it into your teabags, so cutting open teabags isn’t going to help you get seeds.

The Verdict: 

This hack is bad. Hacks are meant to make our lives easier. Opening up tea bags is an unreliable method, particularly as it’s very unlikely that there are seeds in there at all.

What To Do Instead:

Upon the brown table, a bowl overflows with crushed chamomile flowers and leaves. Amongst them, white chamomile blossoms with cheerful yellow centers offer a visual symphony of nature's beauty.
Purchase seeds from a reliable seed supplier to plant them.

Chamomile is a fairly easy plant to grow. Buy chamomile seeds from a reputable seed seller. Alternatively, harvest mature chamomile flowers that have already produced viable seeds and dry and plant those seeds. Allowing a chamomile plant to let a few flowers go fully to seed can also enable the plant to self-sow in your garden.

Hack 7: Grow a Watermelon From a Watermelon

A close-up of a woman's fingers deftly plucking watermelon seeds from her palm, each seed exhibiting a distinct oval shape and earthy hue. The fertile brown soil awaits these seeds, promising future growth and abundance.
Timing is crucial since watermelons don’t tolerate transplanting or frost well.

The Hack: 

Pick seeds out of a watermelon, germinate them on a paper towel, and then plant them in your garden.

The Truth: 

This works. It’s a fun little project to do with kids. I’d only say to ensure you are doing this at the right time of year and would encourage you to direct-sow into the garden. Watermelons do not transplant well and can’t take any frost; this is a summertime project!

Remember that some hybrids will not produce true-to-type seeds, and seedless melons never produce viable seeds. This hack is most reliable with heirloom watermelon types.

The Verdict: 

This hack is okay. Just watch the timing when you do this.

What To Do Instead:

The dried watermelon seeds bear the marks of desiccation. Their surfaces are textured and brown, with a unique, natural pattern etched on each seed, ready to be sown and nurtured.
Plant these seeds 1-2 weeks after the final frost date in your area.

Your best bet would be to dry the seeds and plant them 1-2 weeks after the final frost date in your area, or at the latest, in the late spring. Watermelon takes quite a while to mature and form its fruit, so if you’re in a warm region, you can start a bit later, but for those in short-season areas, you’ll need to start early. However, earlier is not better; even a slight risk of frost can be too much of a risk for warm-season vines like watermelons.

I live in an area with a short growing season and would never get a store-bought watermelon to produce fruit for my garden. Instead, I choose early varieties that produce in less time.

You can germinate watermelon seeds on the paper towel and then plant them into evenly moist potting soil or direct-sow them in the garden. However, purchasing viable watermelon seeds ensures you don’t have to pre-germinate them on a towel, as you don’t need to confirm they’re viable. If you want to skip that pre-germination step, buy watermelon seeds instead of harvesting from a store-bought melon!

If starting indoors, use a compostable cup or an Epic 4-cell tray so that as the plant grows, it can be transplanted into your garden without disturbing the roots. However, it’s best if you directly sow into the garden.

Hack 8: Grow Strawberries From a Strawberry Plant

A close-up of a tiny red strawberry fruit laying on a moist, brown soil. The fruit gleams with a glossy exterior, contrasting beautifully with the verdant green foliage, while the earthy brown soil completes the backdrop.
Planting a small piece of strawberry in the soil can lead to the growth of new strawberry plants.

The Hack: 

Take a small slice of a strawberry and plant it into the soil to grow new strawberries.

The Truth: 

This can work, and you may be able to grow strawberry plants from the seeds on the outside of the fruit. However, many store-bought varieties may not grow well in your climate. Spending a bunch of time tending to strawberry seedlings that won’t grow in your area or won’t produce fruit when you thought it would doesn’t make for a time-saving hack.

The Verdict: 

This hack is okay. It can be done, but you won’t know what kind of strawberry it is.

What To Do Instead:

In the raised bed, the dark, nutrient-rich soil hosts bare strawberry roots. Young leaves sprout with vibrant green hues, signaling the readiness of these plants for their new home.
There are several ways to obtain strawberry plants of your chosen variety.

If you are going to put time and energy into growing strawberries, you want to know what you’re going to get. As Kevin says in his video response, with strawberries, variety does matter. 

Purchase strawberry plants already grown from nurseries, or buy bare-root strawberries from seed catalogs. If you truly want to start from seed, purchase seeds from a reputable seed seller so you know what variety you will be growing. Another great way to get strawberries is to divide one from a neighbor. Strawberry plants make lots of runners and are easy to divide and share.

Hack 9: Grow Carrots From Carrot Stems

On a pink plate, a cut carrot top showcases fresh sprouts of leaves emerging from the orange carrot's crown. The juxtaposition of vibrant green growth against the carrot's rich hue creates a visual delight.
Carrot propagation requires two seasons to produce seeds and create new carrots.

The Hack:

Place the end of a carrot cut side down into a shallow dish of water. Greens will shoot up, and then you can transplant it into soil to grow a new carrot.

The Truth: 

No, no, no, no! I hate this one! That is not how carrots work! I wish this hack would fizzle out. 

If you place a carrot into water, the carrot tops will grow. But most people don’t even eat the ferny green tops of carrots, even though they’re edible. If you plant that carrot into the soil, it will not grow another carrot root, which is the part we commonly eat.

Carrots are biennial. To propagate carrots, it takes two seasons to go to seed and make new carrots. You may be able to coax flowers out of an old carrot top if you’re lucky, but you’ll never get a new taproot.

The Verdict: 

This hack is the worst. Don’t try it unless you love carrot tops.

What To Do Instead:

A hand cradles a collection of carrot seeds, each one a tiny, earthy gem, poised for planting in the rich, dark soil below. The anticipation of their growth and transformation is palpable at this moment.
Purchase carrot seeds and plant them in your soil after the frost risk diminishes.

There’s no real hack for carrots unless you just want to grow the green tops (which most people don’t). Just buy the seeds and plant them into your soil once the danger of frost has passed. 

An interesting thing to note: while you won’t get new taproots from a carrot top, you might be able to coax that carrot top to produce flowers along with the leafy greens. If you can get it to flower, once the flowers fade, slide a paper bag over the flower head and cut it off into the bag. Let the head dry out fully, then shake it to make the seeds release. You may be able to plant carrots from those seeds.

Hack 10: Grow Tomatoes From a Tomato

Three vibrant, ripe, homegrown red tomatoes glisten under the sunlight, arranged neatly by a skilled farmer's gentle hand amidst the nutrient-rich, dark soil. These plump tomatoes showcase their luscious, glossy skin, promising a burst of juicy flavor when harvested.
You can save seeds for the upcoming season to grow more tomatoes.

The Hack: 

Take a slice of tomato and plant it into the soil. Water it, give it sun, and you will grow a new tomato plant.

The Truth:

This will work. But it’s better to dry and save your tomato seeds and grow them the next season. 

When you have tomatoes to harvest, it is time to eat them. It is not time to plant more. If you want to plant more, save those seeds to grow next season. 

When it is time to start tomatoes from seed, the tomatoes from the grocery store are not the ones to start. They are bred for storage, not flavor. Purchase seeds of delicious varieties. Homegrown tomatoes are out of this world. They don’t even compare to average supermarket tomatoes.

The Verdict: 

This hack is okay. You will grow tomatoes. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  You’ll likely start your tomato plants at the wrong time or grow less flavorful tomatoes.

What To Do Instead:

Inside a Rossada box filled with nutrient-rich soil, tiny tomato seeds rest, each spaced precisely from the others. The farmer employs a small green plate, carefully placing the seeds and a miniature plastic shovel for precise planting.
Purchase tomato seeds or plants to get more flavorful varieties than supermarket types.

You are better off if you dry and save your tomato seeds and then plant them at the correct time for your area. This is usually indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost date in your area.

A better choice would be to buy seeds or tomato plants from local garden centers and nurseries. This allows you to choose the variety you want to grow, thus getting the size or shape of tomato you want and the flavor you want. Most plants and seeds available to consumers are for more flavorful varieties that have a shorter storage time but have far superior flavor to the bland red blobs at the supermarket!

Hack 11: Grow Carnations From Bouquets

A close-up reveals Carnations adorned with elegant, pink-fringed petals. These delicate flowers exude an aura of grace, their velvety petals gently unfurling to reveal intricate patterns of color. Each bloom boasts a unique blend of deep pink hues, offering a visual symphony.
It’s possible to grow carnations from cuttings.

The Hack: 

Cut the flower from your carnation and plant it in the soil. You will regrow carnations.

The Truth:

This works, but the video for it is misleading. You may get a new plant, but it won’t grow back into a single carnation flower. It’s better to take a cutting from the plant and propagate that instead. In addition, older carnation flowers may not have the vigor required to produce roots and regrow; this is best done with a newly cut flower, not an old one from a bouquet!

The Verdict:

This hack is okay. You will grow a new perennial for your garden by starting with a cutting. However, it won’t immediately grow a flower; you’ll need to grow the plant first and keep it going until its next flowering period.

What To Do Instead:

A close-up of freshly cut pink flowers, their soft petals exuding a delicate charm. Surrounding them, vibrant green leaves and slender stems lend elegance to the bouquet. In the background, a woman's deft hands wield scissors, precisely trimming the plants on a rustic brown table, adding beauty to the home.
To propagate new carnation plants, start by taking cuttings from bouquets.

You can take carnation cuttings from bouquets to create new carnation plants. Take a cutting at a leaf node (the spot where a leaf would sprout from). Place the cut end into an evenly moist seed starting mix. Place a plastic bag or done over it to keep in the moisture, and check it regularly to ensure the soil does not dry out fully.

Remove the dome or plastic once the cutting feels sturdy in the soil and starts producing new growth. Place it in a sunny window and plant it outdoors if desired when the weather is good, but not during the coldest months of the year, as it needs time to become established before cold weather.

Note that due to the age of flowers in bouquets, this may not always be reliable. Taking a cutting from an existing plant that’s still growing will always be more reliable, especially when dealing with a flower that might have been cut 2-3 days before you received it.

Hack 12: Regrow Green Onions

On a smooth table against a cement wall, a transparent container houses thriving green onions. Their vibrant leaves are fresh, while their slender stems stand tall in minimal water.
Planting the root end of a green onion in water is a successful method for regrowing the greens.

The Hack: 

Take the root end of a green onion and place it into a glass of water, and you will regrow the greens.

The Truth:

This works. It’s an easy way to grow extra green onions. However, you will need more than just the root; you’ll need at least one inch of the white bulb end of the onion as well, and it’s often better to save the entire white portion of the onion.

The Verdict: 

This hack is definitely viable, and if done correctly, you’ll have a neverending supply!

What To Do Instead:

A blue-gloved hand holds the base of a green onion planted with many others in a garden bed.
Consider transplanting your green onions into the soil to provide nutrients.

Here, you can start with water to get the roots starting to grow. But if you want to make them healthier, transplant them into the soil when their roots are about an inch long so they can absorb more nutrients.

Note that green onions are not bulbing onions. You won’t get a big onion bulb from most green onion varieties as they’re bred to produce the green shoots and not the bulbous roots.

Final Thoughts

In a world with unlimited videos, knowing that not everything we see is true is important. 

Gardening takes time, planning, and knowledge, three things these snappy hack videos lack. You need to consider how long it takes something to grow so you don’t expect quick results. Timing matters, too. Planting in the wrong season is unlikely to yield good results.

Before planting, study up on how each type grows. You’ll be less likely to be duped by unreliable hacks. Consulting articles and books from reputable sources or getting advice from real gardeners are better ways to learn how to grow plants. If you’d like additional ideas on growing veggies from kitchen scraps, check out this video for a deep dive on some reliable options!

A bountiful tomato garden overflows with plump, vibrant fruits, some tinged with vivid red while others hold onto their youthful green. A plastic watering can hovers above the tomato vines, releasing a gentle, life-giving cascade of water droplets.


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