Dumpster Herb Score

Mrs. Homegrown here:

Scored big at Trader Joes yesterday. Love a good dumpster find, almost as much as finding good feral fruit.  It looks like they were clearing out their plants and flowers for Valentines Day, because out by the cardboard piles we found a grocery cart heaped full of wilted flowers and random potted mums. (Joes really needs to start a composting program, don’t you think?)

We sorted through the cart and found four potted herbs, only slightly distressed. One was a lemon balm, which I’ve wanted for some time. The others, I admit, I don’t really need (because I already have them), and don’t have any space for–but I’ll squeeze them in somehow. In this way, I’m like a crazy cat woman.

ETA: This morning two complimentary bits of information came in regarding TJ’s and composting. The first came in an email from our friend Anne, a Master Gardener. She tells us that: “Master gardeners encourages gardeners to arrange pick up times with TJ’s for plants. They will tell you when they are putting out the plants so you can get them. Lots of mg’s do this and bring them to various garden projects all around LA county.”

So that’s cool. And then in the comments there’s an anon comment from a TJs employee explaining the issues around composting for the stores, and giving some dumpster diving tips!

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  1. Melissa: I’ve never had anyone yell at me for dumpster diving, and I’m not particularly stealthy. I don’t make a mess or anything, which would piss them off.

  2. That is such an awesome score! How disappointing though that Trader Joe’s just throws it away. they need to compost for sure, or at the very least, give it away! I just bought lemon balm seeds, I can’t wait to grow it.

  3. Excellent! I have never found herbs in a nursery dumpster. And I had to climb the side of the dumpster and just reach in and grab plants by the top, hoping the containers came with the plant. At a reach-in dumpster, I did find about a dozen tiny poinsettias, my Christmas flowers that year. You give me hope that I can find herbs.

  4. What a find. Lemonbalm is such a lovely herb to have growing, the waft of it just makes me feel well. Shame the herbs were thrown away, but must be Thankful to you for giving them a home, they will reward you.

  5. A word of warning to those of you who have not grown lemon balm before: It self-seeds readily and can become an invasive weed. I haven’t grown it in 15 years and I’m still weeding out the occasional seedling in my upstate NY garden.

  6. The Trader Joes here in South Seattle sends everything to the local food bank. Coming from Pasadena, I was surprised, since the Pasadena stores are always, always, ripe for diving. I’m happy the food bank gets it here, though; ultimately that means less food waste, which is my impetus for diving in the first place.

  7. It’s hard to co-ordinate donations — let alone any kind of composting program — with a store as large and busy as Trader Joe’s. I’m sure if the right community organization approached your store, though, they’d consider saving compostables for daily pickup. We can’t spare the manpower, space and time required to do it ourselves, but we don’t enjoy throwing perfectly good food (and other stuff) away.

    (Also, in terms of composting, TJ’s would have to be assured — somehow — that nothing spoiled would be used for human consumption. Basically, there are a lot of food safety issues involved, too, and for good reason.)

    Ultimately, Trader Joe’s is probably happy to work with you if you band together as an organization. We probably can’t work with individuals, though, for legal reasons. (So feel free to keep on dumpster diving! A few of my friends survived on TJ’s garbage for most of a summer…)

    Oh, and also — when dumpster diving, be careful. If you are legit going in the dumpster, be aware that some of our dumpsters have pneumatic compactors that we periodically run by pressing a button. So if an employee approaches the dumpster, make your presence known.

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