Growin’ Your Own Food: Quarantine Edition

Lettuce, onions, fennel, celery, and bread — we can make it all from the safety of our homes

(Kyler Emerson)

Even before the spread of COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, people were buying their groceries in bulk. As countries around the world began announcing social restrictions and business closures, it became clear that going to the grocery store for fresh produce was becoming a higher risk without a guaranteed reward.

While there is no way to grow our own toilet paper, we can grow some of our own veggies and make our own bread to cut back on our trips to the store.

Green Onions

Green onions are the easiest vegetable to regrow. Save about an inch or two of the roots and place them in a cup of water, filled halfway up the white stem. Make sure the roots are facing downwards and change the water every few days so they don’t get slimy. I’ve kept mine in the window sill so they get a lot of sunlight and immediately saw some fresh onions growing the next day. It’s been a week now, and I can use them.

You can continue this and have green onions readily available in the kitchen or, if you’re able to, you can plant them in soil and let nature do the work. Leaving them in the cup with water works just as well though.

Lettuce

Lettuce usually doesn’t last more than a couple days in the fridge once you bring it home from the store. However, when it’s time for that salad or hamburger BBQ, save the heart (the center, yellowish leaves of the lettuce) to regrow it. Place the lettuce heart in a jar or cup filled halfway up with water by the window sill and replace the water every couple of days. By the end of the week you’ll have some new leaves sprouting up. Use your best judgement for when to harvest!

Fennel

Fennel is an odd looking plant — like a mix of dill leaves with a celery base. Fennel tastes similar to licorice, but it’s healthy for you, containing vitamins A and C, potassium, and calcium. Not to mention, every part of it is edible. My favourite way to eat it is chopping up the fronds and the base into thin slices for a salad with red onions and orange slices.

There are two ways I’ve been regrowing fennel. One way is to cut an inch or two above the bottom of the bulb. Take the bottom piece of the fennel, put toothpicks in which support it on the rim of a cup or bowl of water, sitting just so the very bottom touches the water. After a few days, I’ve noticed some sprouts.

The other way, which seems to be faster, is to take the top part of the fennel with the fronds off of the bulb and sit it in a cup of water. After a few days new ones are slowly growing.

Either way, make sure that the fennel is sitting in sunlight and the water is changed every couple of days.

Celery

Celery is the last vegetable I’ve been growing and is just as easy to tend to as green onion. It makes for a perfect snack or ingredient for stir fry. Save the base of your next stalk of celery, rinse it off, and put it in a cup of water that fills halfway up the base. Keep it sitting in the sunlight, change the water every few days, and in a few days you should start seeing some leaves sprouting.

Sourdough Starter

A couple months ago, there was no flour or yeast on the shelves in the grocery stores. My mom has shown me the traditional way to make bread, and I suggest it to you. All you need is one bag of flour.

Sourdough refers to both the bread and the starter that makes it. When flour is mixed with water, bacteria called lactobacilli and wild yeast in the flour and air work together to make the bread rise and gain flavour. You can use regular flour, whole wheat flour, pumpernickel, or certified gluten-free flour.

To start, put one cup of your choice of flour and a half cup of water into a large glass container. For the first week you will need to half the amount and feed the starter one cup of the same flour and a half cup of water. The first week is trickier, as you will need to eyeball the bubbles and yeast forming in your starter. After you have a decent growth going, you can refrigerate your starter and only feed it once a week. If you want to use it, you will need to take it out of the fridge the day before use.

Frankly, making bread at home turns out much better than the packaged bread from the store and I always know what’s in it. Plus, people like my gluten-sensitive mom can eat their homemade gluten-free bread without worrying about cross-contamination.

There are positive tips and tricks we can learn by going through this pandemic together. Growing our own veggies so they are always fresh and baking homemade bread are two great habits to carry with you even after the crisis is over.

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