You don't need to be Dr. Frankenstein to bring life back from the dead. You just need the ingredients in a Thai curry or stirfry. A gnarly celery bottom, hairy scallion ends, lifeless-looking dried mung beans, the spiky top of a pineapple and other vegetable and fruit scraps you usually discard will come back to life with a little help from you.
A healthy stem of lemongrass or bunch of scallions joined together at the root end can live again. Pare away tough, outer bits, place in a glass half full of water and set in the sun. Change the water daily and within a week, you'll see wee roots. Keep it going for another week or two. Plant in moist soil, keep watering until it's established and never buy scallions or lemongrass again.
Down to celery bottoms? Slice the pale, hard base of celery horizontally and place in a shallow bowl of water in a sunny spot. Within days, sometimes hours, it'll sprout bright green ruffles of new leaves. Transfer to a pot or directly into your garden, covering the base with dirt but leaving the new growth exposed. Stalks may be scrawny but bushy with leaves and will taste of the very essence of celery. Try the same trick to regrow fennel and bok choy.
Take a ripe pineapple, grab the column of tough leaves at the top, twist and pull. You'll have a fistfull of leaf spike. Cut away any bits of fruit and peel away the bottom leaves, exposing a few layers of the tough core. Place in a saucer or shallow bowl of water and set in the sunshine, changing the water every day. Within a week, nodes will appear at the bottom exposed and new green leaves will come from the center. Plant, leaving plenty of surrounding free space-- pineapple leaves grow up to several feet long and have sharp, serrated edges. Be patient. Another Halloween or two may come and go before you see fruit.
Sprouting beans gives you much quicker payoff. Soak mung beans in enough water to cover for 8 to 12 hours or just leave overnight. In the morning, rinse and drain. Leave them in the strainer and cover with a few layers of cheesecloth. Tuck them out of the way and out of sunlight. Get on with your life. Rinse again in the evening and again in the morning. You should see the beans' endosperm tails start to emerge. When their tails are longer than the beans themselves-- maybe by evening, maybe the next day, you've got sprouts that are ready to go and you have witnessed the law of increase. Half a cup of inert-looking dried beans yields about two cups of bean sprouts.
Does turning your kitchen into a mad scientist's lab of sprouting, rooting and regrowth sound weird? We waste almost half our food -- that's what's really creepy. Reduce food waste by regenerating produce involves no black magic or rivet-necked monsters and requires little mess or effort. It just rewards you with free food and extra meals. It's scary easy.
Night of the Living Dead Curry
Make this curry, sprout, root and replant all the vegetable scraps and you, too, can bring life back from the dead. Serve over brown rice.
1 15-ounce can coconut milk (regular, full fat is best -- use lite coconut milk only if you must)
3 tablespoons red curry paste (available in most supermarkets and in Asian markets and specialty stores)
1-inch fresh lemongrass, tough exterior discarded, tender center thinly sliced)*
1 tablepoons soy sauce or tamari
2 teaspoons palm sugar* or brown sugar
3 carrots (about 1-1/2 cups), chopped
3 ribs celery (about 1 cup), chopped
1 cup pineapple, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 14-ounce package firm tofu, drained, pressed to expel water and blotted dry, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lime, zested and juiced
3/4 cup basil leaves, sliced into skinny ribbons
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/4 scallions, thinly sliced
sea salt to taste
1 handful cilantro, coarsely chopped
Bring coconut milk to boil in a large skillet. Stir in red curry paste for a minute, until it dissolves and gives the coconut milk a pinkish tone -- like a bit of a blush. Stir in the lemongrass, soy sauce and palm sugar or brown sugar. Continue stirring for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until coconut milk begins to thicken.
Add the chopped carrots, celery, pineapple and tofu. Stir gently to combine. Reduce heat to medium, cover the skillet and cook for about 8 minutes, allowing the vegetables to become tender and curry-infused.
Stir in the lime zest and juice and thin ribbons of basil. Add the bean sprouts and give a gentle toss to combine. Season with sea salt and garnish with chopped cilantro.
*Available in Asian markets and some specialty markets.
More at soulfulvegan.com.