I’m sitting at a camping desk I’ve erected in my bedroom, tapping away at my laptop in an attempt to occupy myself as COVID-19 wreaks havoc across the world. Only seven days ago I was one month into a 3-month trip across Central and South America, sitting with three of my friends in a hostel in Cartagena, Colombia and planning where we would be going next. Less than 48 hours after making the decision to fly back, I was home, a wee bit jet lagged, and the reality was starting to sink in. Now, I fill my time with an unexpected new hobby of astounding ease, utility, and gratifying to boot: gardening in quarantine.

vertical greenhouse in a garden

The situation in South America is getting worse. In the latest news, Peru and Colombia have closed their borders, effectively trapping any tourists inside. Within hours of making the call to come home, we had booked a flight via New York for the very next day. This virus is moving so rapidly and the news is changing on an hourly basis, so we had to act quickly to bag a flight home before they were either cancelled or too expensive to afford! We have some friends now quarantined in hostels in both of these countries, where written permission is required to leave the grounds.

I’m grateful to have narrowly avoided a situation like this, and it all still feels very surreal to listen to news that sounds straight from a disaster movie. But the reality is I am living at home with my family, attempting to keep our contact with others at a minimum and, like many, feeling a little lost, confused, and at a very loose end. Table tennis championships are being played, garden football tournaments conducted and volleyball games fiercely battled. Attempts are underway to learn French, Spanish, salsa, recipes and musical instruments, while books wait to be read and movies to be watched. We’re not short for things to do, just wondering what might come next.

Our original plan was to travel Central and South America for 3 months, spending roughly two weeks in Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Argentina. One month in we had visited the cloud forests of Monteverde, snorkelled coral reefs in Drake Bay, made the most of beach paradise in Uvita, surfed in Tamarindo, explored the jungle that is Panama City, sailed to Colombia via the San Blas Islands and begun immersing ourselves in Cartagena, our first stop in South America, before the COVID-19 news broke and we had to scamper home. However, we’ve promised each other we will go back and complete our journey, maybe even sneaking in a couple more countries that we would’ve missed the first-time round. Until then, life is about looking for the silver linings, and I think I may have found one.

mushrooms growing on a treeWith the majority of the world currently on lockdown, many of us are finding ourselves isolated at home with an unexpected wealth of time on our hands. If this is the situation you are currently in, I think I may have found a way of spending just a little of that time in a bid to brighten your day. Call it a new hobby if you like, and one I want to share with you.

A video my sister showed me of her friend growing potatoes (potatoes!) in her back garden got me thinking about what else you might be able to grow just from the scraps in your kitchen. After a little internet research, it seemed that the majority of vegetables you use day-to-day in your cooking can be cultivated and re-grown just from the scraps you would normally throw in the food waste! So, without wasting any time, that night I kept four ends of the scallions (spring onions) I was putting in my pasta and plopped them into a glass of water. It’s now a couple of days later and already new shoots are appearing and roots developing. 

Further research informed me that my new scallions should be ready to eat in just a matter of weeks, — all I had to do was sit back and watch them grow!

It’s safe to say I am now hooked, scouring the kitchen for the scraps of vegetables or fruit seeds lying about and dreaming of how I can turn them into fresh new produce. So, if you’ve ever thought about growing your own vegetables in your garden but doubt has got the better of you, now is your time! Perhaps you’ve been meaning to turn a corner of your yard into a vegetable patch but just haven’t quite found the moment, or perhaps you’ve always dreamt of owning an allotment but never quite pulled it off. 

scallions growing in colorful planterWell, whether you’re a dab hand at gardening or if this is your first time, next time you cook with spring onions, throw the ends into a glass of water and let the scallions do the rest. Today, I’ve planted some onions and potatoes into the ground. Perhaps by the time they’ve fully developed, the wave of Coronavirus will have receded and the world will seem a little more normal once more.

During Earth Week, Passion Passport invites you to imagine a fairer future after this pandemic, one with more compassion for our planet and for each other. As how and where we get our food comes under scrutiny, let’s increase awareness around sustainable food futures that also guarantee more food autonomy for more people.

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Ben Leslie
Ben is a London based travel-writer and photographer. Inspired by road trips around New Zealand and Norway and backpacking trips across South East Asia and Central America, Ben decided to start a travel blog, highlighting his favourite spots around the world. When he isn't planning his next adventure he can be found growing vegetables in his garden.