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?
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.
What Do I Need?
- Reusable food-grade container or planting tray
- Soilless growing media or compost
- Light (strong sunlight, fluorescent, or LED)
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
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!
By Jon Traunfeld, Director, Home and Garden Information Center