Stop right there! Don't compost or throw away the white root ends of those spring onions, after you've diced the shoots for your fried rice or stir-fry.
You can regrow a new crop of spring onions from those bulbous root ends in less than a month, with just soil and water! This is because hidden deep in each bulb are the meristem or growing point from which new leaves develop, emerge, and lengthen.
This method also works for leeks and chives, as long as they still have their bulbous stem base from which roots can grow out.
For a quick lunch and to use up all that discarded sourdough starter building up in your fridge, trim the shoots and whip up a batch of savory spring onion sourdough pancakes!
Let’s spring into action!
Spring onions can grow so fast you can see their stems lengthen from the cut tops the very next day after cutting them! After about 3 weeks to a month, the new shoots should be long and large enough to harvest.
In the first 24 hours after you’ve cut and planted the spring onions, their leaves can grow especially fast!
Leaf growth slows as the plants start to produce roots and become established.
New side shoots start to grow out from the base.
Plants are ready for harvest!
Cut up your spring onions, leaving about 5-7 cm long stalks with the bulb ends to plant. Use the green tops in your favorite recipe or try the one below!
If there are grey or brown dead roots, trim those off too, but don't cut into the white end of the bulb or you may damage the growing shoot.
Moisten the soil prior to planting by watering the top of the soil. Plant each stalk into a 2cm deep hole or trough, 2-3cm apart from each other.
Fill in the holes with soil and press lightly but firmly around each stalk so they are securely upright.
Water the top of the soil till it is fully moistened.
Put the pot in a place with bright, indirect light and good airflow for 3-4 days after planting to allow the plants time to recover. Watch as the leaves quickly lengthen out of the cut ends!
After 3-4 days of indirect light, move the pot into partial sun for another 3-4 days, then into full sun, if you have a good spot. If not, give them as much light as possible.
Water gently from the soil surface or pot base, keeping the shoots from getting wet. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not waterlogged to avoid rot and mold.
Wait till the shoots reach at least 15-20cm tall before harvesting.
Cut off the shoots 5cm from the soil surface. If you don't need the whole pot, harvest shoots from the centre of the pot to create space for more airflow.
Continue watering and fertilizing the spring onions and they should continue to grow for you for at least 1-2 more harvests before the plants are spent.
Keep plants healthy by trimming off brown leaf tips and gently removing dried leaf sheaths and any spent bulbs to discourage mold and rot.
As you buy more spring onions, you can plant those bulb ends too. Perhaps after planting 4-5 pots of spring onions, you will have enough to be self-sufficient and will only need to buy spring onions occasionally to replace your old plants!
Celebrate your crop and clean your fridge at the same time! These savory pancakes are a fun alternative to fried rice and a great way to use up that old sourdough discard starter and any protein or vegetable leftovers you might have lying around. Add or replace any of the vegetables with finely chopped proteins or other vegetables, but if you like cheese, don’t forget to add some!
Serves 2 people
Written by: Janelle Jung, Senior Researcher (Research and Horticulture)
A transplanted pake (Hawai'i-born Chinese), she's finding her own Singaporean roots. Every plant has a story, and Janelle helps discover and share these with colleagues and guests, hoping to spark a mutual plant passion! Ask her what plant she named her cat after!