By Meredith Towbin of Adventures in Buttercream
When the pandemic first hit, I briefly went out of my Vulcan mind. While other people were hoarding toilet paper and bleach, my jam was panicking over the impending collapse of the world’s food distribution chain. I had convinced myself, at 3:30 am on a Wednesday in March, that my family’s starvation was imminent. The question was, what was I going to do about it?
That’s when I jumped on the kitchen scraps gardening bandwagon. I’d seen videos circulating on Facebook of how you could take leftover scraps of vegetables and regrow them into brand new vegetables. So what if year after year I killed everything I ever tried to grow? Basil was a bitch to keep alive, but kitchen scraps gardening? How could anyone screw that up? All you do is take the root end of a used head of romaine lettuce, for example, and plant it in dirt, and the thing regrows all by itself! If there was ever a more perfect solution to keeping my husband and two kids alive, I had yet to come across it.
By the end of that week, I had set out five pots full of dirt, water and rotting vegetables on my kitchen countertop. There was parsley, lettuce, green onions and peppers (not the pepper itself, but the seeds). I even took an avocado pit, stuck it full of toothpicks, and balanced it half-submerged in a glass of water. For the first time since the pandemic had hit, I felt in control. I was going to feed my family no matter what was happening at the Kroger down the street. Let those suckers fight over a dozen rotten apples. Mother Earth was my Kroger.
However, Mother Earth decided she hated me and things started to go south over the next few weeks. Even though the lettuce did start to regrow, my overly enthusiastic watering schedule killed it. To my utter delight, the green onion bulbs regrew as well, but I harvested the entire crop for stir-fry one night. And then the leftover bulbs died. I was a serial killer, and my victims were undead zombie vegetables. All that was left by the end of my murdering spree were the pepper seeds (which sprouted! Yay!) and the avocado pit.
After eight weeks, the avocado pit looked exactly the same as when I had “planted” it. Nothing was sprouting or growing or even rotting. I Googled what was supposed to happen and found out that it takes an avocado pit ten to fifteen years to grow large enough to bear fruit. What the actual fuck? Ain’t nobody got time for that. I threw it in the trash right quick.
I was feeling quite dejected. It also dawned on me that even if my kitchen scraps gardening had succeeded, each regrown vegetable would have only been enough for like a quarter of a salad for one person. I had utterly failed to feed my family with vegetables I’d grown with my own two hands.
On the upside, the world’s food distribution chain had not collapsed. I guess that was good. My weekly Kroger runs kept us fed, regardless of the fact that every time I reached for a head of romaine lettuce in the produce section, my cheeks burned with shame.
It’s been five months, and there is only one thing I have to show from my kitchen scraps gardening days: pepper plants. Those seeds eventually sprouted and grew into giant stalks. Somehow I didn’t kill them. It’s actually beyond my comprehension how I managed to pull it off.
Just the other day, as I was admiring those pepper plants sitting out on my deck, it occurred to me: Where the fuck are my peppers? Shouldn’t the flowers, which grow into peppers, have started to sprout by now? I once again consulted Google, which knows all things, and discovered that seeds planted from grocery store peppers are, for lack of a better term, meh. Most of the time they don’t sprout into plants, and if they do, they most likely won’t produce the type of pepper they came from. Maybe my seeds just grow plants and not other peppers at all? I feel like the pepper plants are doing it to spite me. I’ll never know for sure.
What I do know is that I’ve spent five months of my life trying to become a kitchen scraps gardener and I do not like it. I am also very bad at it. All those kitchen scraps gardening YouTube videos can kiss my ass. They’ve brought me nothing but ruin. And anyway, I’ve found something else to obsess over during the pandemic. Three words: Instant Pot cheesecake, motherfuckers. I guess that’s four words.
About the Author
Meredith Towbin has been writing fiction and creative nonfiction for the past decade. When she’s not writing, she’s baking, knitting, and raising her two boys. Follow her on Twitter (@MtProse), Instagram (@towbinma), and at her blog, Adventures in Buttercream (https://adventuresinbuttercream.com/).