Salad from Garbage

January 9, 2019
Salad from Garbage

Don’t throw away your lettuce stems. Grow more salad on a sunny windowsill.

Doreen G. Howard

Rate this Post: 

Average: 3.5 (31 votes)

Get a Free Garden Planner Trial!

Try out our Garden Planner with a free 7-day trial—ample time to plan your dream garden!

Try the Garden Planner

I couldn’t believe what I saw on Facebook a couple weeks ago—lettuce growing in a glass of water.  I had to try it. 

The instructions specified that one should cut off all lettuce leaves from a fresh head, leaving an inch-or-two stem, and put it in an inch of fresh water in a bright sunny window.  This works only with lettuces that form a round head or cone at maturity, not leaf lettuces.

There were three heads in my refrigerator, romaine, red leaf and Bibb.  I cut them all in the manner described and refrigerated the leaves in a sealed bag for salads.  Then I put an inch of water in various containers and put the stems into them.  All were placed under the LED Mini Garden I received to trial in early February from Tucker’s Pride.  I set the seven-inch-long garden’s timer for 12 hours of light daily.

I used a LED Mini Garden in my kitchen as the light source under which to grow lettuce stems.

I usually throw stem sections of head lettuce in the compost bin, so I figured even a handful of fresh leaves would be a plus.  I got those and much more!

Within three days, there was dramatic growth of fresh, dark green leaves from all stems.  The romaine was the tallest, red-leaf almost as vigorous and the Bibb immediately put its growth into curving leaves, forming a lose head.  Two days later (which was five days after sitting the stems in water) I cut my first salad!  Leaves were crisp, tasty and fresh.

Three days after placing romaine, red leaf and Bibb lettuce stems in water, there was vigorous growth.

The stems started growing more leaves after the first shearing.  I used kitchen scissors to harvest, because the cuts were clean, with little damage.  I’m anxious to see how many harvests can be made until the stems finally stop putting out new leaves.

Two later, I harvested my first garbage salad!

The water in which stems grow should be changed every day.  I use reverse-osmosis water, which is extensively filtered to remove any pesticides, minerals and chlorine from the water supply.  My water source is a well, sunk into a limestone glacier.  Distilled or bottled water is a good choice, too.

More Garbage

Other salad vegetables that can be grown from their root stems include green onions and celery.  They, too, sprout new growth from stem centers rapidlyClick here to see the growth progress one gardener had with celery.

Don’t throw away your lettuce stems; grow more!  Let us know about your experiences with various lettuce types.

About This Blog

A lifelong gardener shares the endless lessons she’s learned from her garden over the years, in hopes of making your own gardening just that much easier! Read along for advice, photos, and more.

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment


It would be helpful if the article stated how often I should change the water or not. Wouldn't the water get yucky if not changed regularly? I know it does with cut flowers and the water stinks like a swamp.

Hi Adele,

The Editors's picture

Hi Adele,

The water should be changed regularly, about twice a week.


I tried it out and it seems to be working. I'm wondering if the lettuce will have any nutrients because it is not being grown in soil.

There is a contradiction in

There is a contradiction in this article. You first state that this won't work with "leaf lettuces," and then you proceed to describe how well your "red leaf lettuce" grew. It works with any lettuce, or any vegetable, for that matter, when any part of the root can be used.


How many harvests did you get out of one stem?

I planted several romaine

I planted several romaine stems and immediately got growth. Planted in dirt and now I have very tall small yellow flowers and few leaves. Does anyone know why? Did I leave them too long?

The same thing happens with

The Editors's picture

The same thing happens with lettuce planted outside when the weather get too warm. Perhaps yours were planted in a hot sunny location and decided it was time to flower and set seed for next year.

Doreen, I'm excited to see

Doreen, I'm excited to see new leaves on our romaine. Our question is, can we plant it in soil? And will it root?
Thank you

Have lettuce growing in small

Have lettuce growing in small dish presently. Have grown celery with good results. Am going to try a radish (root system)and try seed planting for a lemon tree and cinnamon tree. By the way, you can sterilize soil in the microwave.

Can I use a large "daylight

Can I use a large "daylight lamp" instead of an LED light? If so, can I grow the vegetables in the basement using the "daylight lamp" for it's source of light. I have just 2 very small windows in my basement.

Marilyn, you probably need

Marilyn, you probably need more light that what an incandescent bulb can provide.  Do you have an east or west facing window in your home?  If so, put plants there and add the large daylight lamp.  Good luck!

I just started green onion

I just started green onion and romaine so excited to try something new! Thanks!

Good luck, Kelly!  I got six

Good luck, Kelly!  I got six salads from one romaine stub.  Hope you do the same.

Was that only from the water?

Was that only from the water? Do you know how many salads if I plant rooted base in soil? I wonder if there's some way to grow a new base? Has anyone tried cutting in half and then rooting?

Great idea - Next time I'm at

Great idea - Next time I'm at the store I'm going to give it a try, too! But I'm going to take things a step further - applying electro-horticulure to it! By applying electricity to either the water or the stem itself, I expect the stem to grow much faster, larger and greener.

What about adding some kind

What about adding some kind of fertilizer to the water? Wouldn't the nutritive value be less if they are not being fed by any nutrients from soil? If so, what would be the best way to enrich the water?

No fertilizer needed! New

No fertilizer needed! New lettuce leaves are nourished by stem. It may form roots in the water, BTW. If the stem roots, plant it in a pot for bigger plant.

This is awesome! I am sharing

This is awesome!
I am sharing with my friends and trying this for myself today. Thanks!

I cut off the bottom of some

I cut off the bottom of some asparagus spears, placed them in a glass of water to keep them fresh, and one spear actually grew to near double it's size.

I began using this method for

I began using this method for celery and cabbage. I also found that the root base produces new roots. After about three weeks, I had enough root system to plant in pots of sterilized soil. Made it sterile by putting soil in pressure cooker at 15 lbs pressure 30 min. Also too, allowing these to grow in a cool place in house or garage is best, esp. with celery as it has the tendency to rot. So, you end up with not only more food, but it is organic and has more nutritive value than if grown in just plain water that has no nutrients at all.

What is the purpose of

What is the purpose of sterilizing the dirt? Are you taking soil from your yard and don't want bugs? I'm used to using potting soil for indoor plants. I have some organic potting soil that should not contain any synthetic fertilizers or other chemicals. Can't I just use that if the lettuce roots?

Will try this,,It works with

Will try this,,It works with celery, have 3 plants growing and have been able to cut stalks for my salad or cooking. I planted the base of the stalk in potting soil and put outside...growing great...

Do you HAVE to have an LED

Do you HAVE to have an LED light? I have southern facing windows in my kitchen. Thx!

KMJ ~ you have nothing to

KMJ ~ you have nothing to lose (except a lettuce stem!)by trying this in your windows...and perhaps can save the cost of a grow light. Go for it! Experiment...and share your results!!

A south-facing window will

A south-facing window will work, too. I don't have windows with bright exposures in my kitchen, and the two I have in other rooms with south and west exposures are filled with tropical plants. The LED Lite Garden worked well for me.

You can use a south facing

You can use a south facing window. Just be aware that celery and romaine are more in tune with cooler weather and a south facing window might make them too hot and they would rot within a week. A cool place in the house with florescent lights or a eats window might be better.

I happen to have romaine in

I happen to have romaine in the fridge right now. I'm going to go cut it off and try this. Thanks


BONUS: You’ll also receive our Almanac Companion newsletter!

The Almanac Webcam

Chosen for You from The Old Farmer's Store