Microgreens: Tasty Accents from Small Spaces

My first response to microgreens was: “Why would I spend my time growing 3-inch tall plants to eat?”

Then I thought about all of the tiny leafy green plants (beet, lettuce, kale, basil, etc.) I had eaten over the years in the process of growing transplants at home and in greenhouses. And it started to make more sense: why not plant seeds closely in a container to just grow baby plants?

"Brassica" microgreens
Tray of “brassica” microgreens ready to harvest

Benefits: When you eat microgreens you are ingesting the cotyledons, stems, and small expanded true leaves of edible plants. Some reasons to give them a try:

  • High in anti-oxidants and other health-promoting substances, like vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lutein
  • Can be grown year-round inside with strong natural light or inexpensive fluorescent tubes
  • Great for kids at home and in school- sow seeds, watch them sprout and grow for 10-14 days, and eat!
  • Wonderful assortment of colors, flavors, and textures

Microgreens don’t constitute a meal; they add pizazz to a meal! Use them fresh in wraps, paninis and sandwiches, soups, omelets, and frittatas; sprinkled on green salads and vegetable salads, burgers, pestos, nutritional smoothies; as garnishes for grain and pulse dishes and cocktails, or chopped in dips; and eat them raw by themselves.

Getting started: Growing microgreens really is very similar to starting seeds to produce flower, herb, and vegetable transplants. Two plant families are especially well-suited: Amaranthaceae (e.g., beet, Swiss chard, leafy amaranth, magenta spreen) and Brassicaceae (e.g., kale, cabbage, radish, mustard, arugula, mizuna, komatsuna, Tokyo bekana). Best not to mix the two families because of varying germination and growth rates.

Cilantro and basil (both slower growing), pea shoots, onion, and lots of other plant species have been grown for microgreens. Soaking Amaranthaceae seed and cilantro seed in water for 12-24 hrs. speeds germination.

Pea shoots
Pea shoots growing in restaurant dining area ready for harvest


Save money by re-using clamshells

What Do I Need?

  • Seeds
  • Reusable food-grade container or planting tray
  • Soilless growing media or compost
  • Water
  • Light (strong sunlight, fluorescent, or LED)



Light (16 hrs. under a shop light) and heat (70-75⁰ F.) are needed for quick germination and growth.

How do I grow them?

  • Fill a shallow container with 1-1.5 in. of moist soilless growing media
  • Sow seeds thickly and evenly (about 5 seeds/inch)
  • Water from bottom (preferred but not essential)
  • Harvest with scissors when 2-3 in. tall
  • Rinse microgreens with water, pat dry and use right away, or store for up to 10 days in fridge
  • Compost the growing media and start over


Roots watered from the bottom when shallow grow tray is inserted into deeper tray without holes.

Does it pay for itself?

If you select reusable containers, buy non-hybrid seeds by the ounce and growing media in large bags, you can grow your own microgreens for about 1/2 of the supermarket price!

Arugula seed
1 TBS of arugula seed sown in a tray (11 in. X 22 in.) produced about 10 cups of microgreens


By Jon Traunfeld, Director, Home and Garden Information Center 

3 thoughts on “Microgreens: Tasty Accents from Small Spaces

  1. tonytomeo February 17, 2018 / 3:38 am

    When I was a kid, bean sprouts were popular.

  2. Theodore from Garden Maintenance London February 23, 2018 / 1:35 am

    What I like about micro greens the most is the fact they’re so easy to store. I happen to live and work in London. Here apartments are quite small and it’s nearly impossible to create an indoor garden even of the smallest size. That’s why I grow basil and beets in a small container in my kitchen. Being a gardener is my passion and what I do for a living, so I really can’t imagine life any other way.

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