Microgreens are becoming increasingly popular for home gardeners and restaurants alike. They are nutritious, delicious, beautiful to look at, and easy to grow once you get the hang of them. Growing microgreens is a great way to learn about gardening and about hydroponics (cultivating plants in water rather than soil). However, before we can begin growing them we need to understand what microgreens actually are.
What Are Microgreens?
Microgreens are basically baby plants that have been harvested before they become full-grown vegetables or herbs. They can be grown from a variety of different seeds and there is huge potential to experiment with flavors and color combinations. Most microgreens are milder in flavor than their adult forms and provide a great way to add more vitamins and nutrients into your diet.
Microgreens are the edible plant shoots used in salads, sandwiches, and all other dishes. They contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. You can find them on the menus of top restaurants worldwide. Grown commonly indoors at home with grow lights, microgreens are becoming more popular for people who want to eat healthy food but live in urban areas where there is no access to fresh greens.
Microgreens tend to be harvested anywhere from 7–20 days after germination occurs. They tend to grow much more quickly than the full-grown plant and require less time, water and sunlight. The most common type of microgreen is cress (also known as “Lamb’s Lettuce”) and is very similar to the plant that we eat in salads.
Growing Microgreens At Home
Now that we know what microgreens are, let’s learn how to grow them at home! We can do this in a number of ways but for now we will focus on the most common way, which is in soil.
Supplies You Will Need for Growing Microgreens
There are a number of different supplies you will need before you can begin growing microgreens at home. The most important things to remember are to make sure that your equipment is clean and sterile before use. You can sterilize it by boiling it or running it through a sanitizing dishwasher cycle. It is very important that you do not introduce any bacteria, fungi or other germs to the seeds as this can cause your growing microgreens to wilt or die.
In addition to clean equipment you will also need the following:
• A transparent container
• Seeds for growing microgreens
• A growing medium (soil, coco coir etc.)
• Grow tray or another container to hold the soil and seeds.
• Grow lights or a window sill (with good sunlight)
Choosing Seeds for Growing Microgreens
Before you get begun choosing the seeds that you will use, keep in mind that some plants are better suited than others for microgreens. Try to choose plants that grow quickly and have a mild flavor. You will also want to avoid any plants that are poisonous as you don’t want to ingest those toxins now before they can be detected by your taste buds.
• Arugula (rocket)
• Beet greens
• Carrot tops
• Cilantro (coriander)
• Dandelion greens
• Fenugreek greens
• Kohlrabi leaves, stems and buds.
• Mustard greens
• Red Russian Kale
Choosing a Growing Medium for Your Microgreens.
Each seed variety will have its own preferred growing medium, but the most common are soil and coco coir so these are what you should focus on using. You can increase your yield by using multiple mediums in your growing tray.
You can find soil and soilless mixes at your local nursery, garden, or hardware stores. Just look for good potting soil with good aeration and drainage. Like a peat moss and perlite mix. Coco coir is also available at nurseries and big box stores. If you can’t find it or live in an area that has very little agriculture then try hydroponic gardening suppliers.
Growing microgreens on mats
You can also grow microgreens on coco coir, jute, or hemp mats. These are commonly used for home hydroponic systems and will provide the perfect environment to grow your favorite microgreens. You can find these mats on Amazon or big box stores that sell home hydroponic systems.
If you choose to use a mat, it is important to place them under your seed trays so they do not dry out. That way you can quickly water your microgreen seeds and they will not dry out.
How to grow microgreens indoors at home
Now that you have all the supplies and seeds you need, here’s how to get started!
1) The first step is to prepare the soil or coco coir by loosening it up with some warm water. You don’t want to add too much water or you will have a muddy mess, just enough so that the soil becomes wet and clumps in your hand when you squeeze it.
2) Next, fill up your container with the moistened soil or coco coir mixture till about an inch from the top of the container.
3) Plant your seeds by spreading them out evenly over the soil. The recommended spacing for most microgreens is around 8 seeds per tray (4 trays in a stack) with about ¼ inch between each seed.
4) Cover your seeds by sprinkling a thin layer of the dry growing medium you used to moisten it. This will help in preventing the germination of weeds. Just make sure you don’t cover your seeds with too much medium or they will not be able to germinate (sprout).
5) After covering, water your seeds in gently by either spraying with a spray bottle or sprinkling them with water from above. This is called “watering in” your seeds. Your microgreens should start sprouting within a few days. Once they have grown to about 2 inches tall, you can put them under the grow lights or out on your window sill if they receive good sunlight.
How to harvest microgreens?
Your microgreens are ready when the first set of true leaves start to emerge from the soil. For baby greens, this is when there are 2-4 sets of true leaves. Greens should be harvested just before they have a chance to flower and go to seed. This usually takes around 10-14 days from germination.
For smaller plants like cilantro and arugula, it usually isn’t necessary to thin them out because they can grow very quickly. Just snip off the greens at soil level using a pair of clean scissors or shears. You can also use a sharp serrated knife to harvest your microgreens too.
How to store microgreens?
Freshly harvested microgreens are very perishable and should be eaten right away or preserved for later consumption. The best way to preserve your harvest is by placing them in a plastic zip-top bag while they are wet and then putting them in the refrigerator.
Place a paper towel or some sort of absorbent cloth inside the bag to help draw out any moisture that may accumulate. If you don’t have access to a refrigerator, you can place your harvest in a plastic or paper bag and place it in an airtight container (like Tupperware) with a damp paper towel inside. Keep it in a cool, shaded area with good air circulation.
The Benefits of Growing Microgreens indoors at Home
Growing microgreens is beneficial for many reasons:
• You can grow a very large amount of microgreens in a small space and in less time than with traditional gardening.
• Microgreens are packed with nutrition. When you eat them, you get all the nutrients of an adult plant, including beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.
• Microgreens are very easy to grow.
• They have a short shelf life so they will never go to waste. (unless you don’t eat them)
• You don’t need to worry about your crops getting damaged by mother nature or any pests
• You can even sell your microgreens and make a profit.
List the healthiest microgreens?
There are many microgreens that you can grow at home. Some of the healthiest include:
• Beet greens
• Collard greens
• Dill weed
• Mustard greens
What are the differences between growing sprouts and Growing Microgreens?
There is a big difference between sprouts and microgreens. While both are edible, microgreens are much more nutritious because they have been grown for a longer time period. Sprouters only allow their seeds to germinate so the plants will be soft. Microgreens, on the other hand, are grown until they have developed two sets of leaves.
Do you need lots of light to grow microgreens?
No, you don’t need lots of light to successfully grow microgreens. They can be grown well even in low light conditions. It’s best however if the plants are kept under bright fluorescent or led lights for about 16 hours a day or more depending on the specific types of plants that you are growing.
Here are some microgreen recipes and ideas
If you’re having a hard time coming up with recipes for your microgreens, here are some ideas to get you started:
• Microgreen salads
• Savory micro green pancakes
• Sautéed microgreens and garlic
• Microgreen pesto
• Tossed microgreens with pasta and a little butter or olive oil
• Grilled bread topped with goat cheese, tomato slices, and a mixture of microgreens.
Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know about how to grow microgreens indoors at home, it is time for the fun part. It can be really exciting watching your plants grow and knowing that they are only a few weeks away from being ready to harvest!
There are so many ways you could use them in your kitchen or on your dinner table, but don’t forget about all of their nutritional benefits too! We hope these tips have been helpful and we look forward to hearing what ideas come up as soon as new ones start growing 🙂