Microgreens have an aromatic flavor and concentrated nutrient content and come in a variety of colors and textures. They are usually grown in soil and can be harvested when the germinated seeds have developed tiny roots and at least their first true leaves. They should take about only 2 to 3 days to germinate and roughly 7 to 14 days to be ready for harvest.
Some growers prefer to keep them until the first set of true leaves appeared, which may take up to 25 days or so, when they are approximately 1–3 inches (2.5–7.5 cm) tall. That said, the later the harvest time, the stronger the taste and less tender the texture. In terms of flavor, microgreens are more flavorful than sprouts or the more mature stages of the plant.
Microgreens Have Many Advantages As a Food Crop
- Quick to grow, 1 to 3 weeks depending on which variety you choose;
- High yield to space ratio – in other words you can grow a huge number of plants in a very small space;
- Little/inexpensive equipment required, just access to good light (e.g. a sunny counter or windowsill indoors), a tray/suitable shallow container, water and a growing medium.
- Minimal time and effort required for a good harvest of organic greens;
- Feasible in a small urban space and for people with no room or time for a garden – can fit into a windowsill, balcony, or mini-greenhouse;
- Suitable for all climates. Produce fresh living greens in the heat of summer or cold of winter;
- Nutrient-dense food. Microgreens are packed with living enzymes, digestible vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that provide a wide range of nutritional benefits. Most varieties tend to be rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper. Their nutrient content is concentrated, which means that they often contain higher vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels than the same quantity of mature greens (can be up to nine times higher than in mature greens);
- Research shows that they contain a wider variety of polyphenols and other antioxidants than their mature versions;
- All the health benefits of eating fresh fruit and vegetables (e.g. staving off heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and certain cancers) are intensified;
- Retain nutrient value well because they are generally harvested just before serving;
- Enhance all sorts of food with a wide variety of colors, flavors (from mild to fiery spicy) and textures;
- Many varieties will regrow and produce several harvests.
Chefs also love using them both as a garnish, in salads and as an ingredient in cooked meals. They appeal to the health-conscious as they are packed full of nutrition and flavor. They have a high cash value and can be sold to restaurants.
Equipment For Growing Microgreens
The equipment for growing microgreens can be very simple and can be improvised in various ways:
- Seeds, organic, fungicide/pesticide free;
- Clean water;
- Sprouter, bowl or jar;
- Containers (10”×20” trays or any shallow trays that contained shop-bought vegetables or fruit, do not need drain holes);
- Organic potting soil or organic seed-starting mix. One can also use single-use growing mats produced specifically for growing microgreens;
- Spray bottle, for gentle watering;
- Plant labels or other way of identifying the contents of a tray;
- Windowsill or sheltered area that receives sunlight for 12 to 16 hours a day (or ultraviolet grow lamps)
Seeds For Microgreens
There is a huge choice of seeds suitable for producing microgreens:
- Cereals/legumes – peas, beans, chickpeas, wheat, buckwheat, sunflowers, rice, nasturtiums;
- Cole family – cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, mustard, radishes, cress, kohlrabi, kale, chard;
- Dill, carrot, fennel, celery;
- Herbs – basil, cilantro/coriander, parsley, borage, lemon balm, mint, chervil, sorrel ;
- Leafy vegetables – lettuce, rocket/arugula, spinach, endive, chicory, radicchio, sorrel, kale, chard, purslane, amaranth;
- Melon, cucumber, squash;
- Onion family – onions, chives, leeks, garlic.
Step 1: Prepare container(s)
- Prepare 10”×20” trays or any shallow trays that contained shop-bought vegetables or fruit. Some experts are recommending trays that are 3” deep and that contain at least an 1” depth of soil but I have had very gratifying success with trays that are only an inch deep at the most.)
- Fill the container about 3/4 full of moist growing medium (should feel like a moist sponge – not too dry or wet).
- Spread the soil evenly with something like a spatula and pat down very lightly (you don’t want to over-compress the soil).
Step 2: Prepare the seed
- Measure out the seed you are going to use. If your tray is 3”x 6” then it will accommodate about a tablespoon of big seeds (like sunflowers or peas) or two teaspoons of small seeds (like radish or alfalfa).
- Rinse and drain the seeds.
- Soak the seeds overnight in a bowl of water, making sure there is at least twice as much water as seeds because the seeds will swell. This step is especially important for large seeds.
- Rinse in the morning.
Step 3: Seed planting
- Add seeds evenly in one layer on the soil: they should be touching but not overlapping (use a spoon to help spread small seeds).
- Press the seeds lightly into the soil. (Also for small seeds you can sieve a thin layer of potting mix or sieved compost (about 1/5”) over the top so they are all covered.)
- Mist the seed trays lightly with your spray bottle (to avoid washing the seeds out of the soil)
- Add a temporary protective cover – damp newspaper or paper towels laid on the soil or punnet lids or other (empty) vegetable trays placed over them.
- Place the trays in a warm place, without direct sunlight or heat.
- Leave the cover in position for 3 to 4 days, probably without watering – but if conditions are very dry check that the soil is still moist and re-mist if necessary.
Step 4: Germination and growing
- After 3 to 4 days, the plants’ yellow seed cases could appear to be pushing up the protective cover;
- Remove the cover;
- Move the trays to a sheltered sunny position like a windowsill or greenhouse;
- Water the trays with a spray bottle once or twice a day (Check by touching the soil with your fingertips that the soil is moist but not wet – your seeds should never dry out but they must also not be drowned.)
- Let your microgreens grow and gain color for one or two more weeks depending on the seeds you have planted
Step 5: Harvesting
- After the first two ‘true’ leaves of the plant emerge from the cotyledon (the embryonic leaf/leaves inside the seed) and the seedlings are 1 to 3 inches tall (depending on the variety you choose), they are ready for harvesting.
- Use scissors to cut the stems just above the soil.
- Handle with care, wash to remove any dirt or seed hulls,
- Serve immediately as part of your meal. (Harvest them as needed rather than preserving them in the fridge, so as to ensure the maximum nutrition.)
Microgreens: Health Benefits, Nutrition and How to Grow Them
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