Microgreens have become all the rage lately. You see them showcased in trendy chef’s dishes or on YouTube with titles like “$10,000 a month growing microgreens in our basement”. So let’s take a look at what these trendy little plants are and how you can grow them at home.
What are microgreens?
What are these things called microgreens? Well, they are just baby plants. They are sown very densely and harvested after the cotyledon (first) leaves have made an appearance. They are intensely flavoured versions of what they would have become if left to grow to maturity.
Health Benefits of microgreens
Compared to mature plants, microgreens are small but mighty. They can provide between 3-40 times the nutritional content that you would expect from the mature plant. So while that is a big range, even the lower end of 3 times more nutrition is a winner! They are also packed full of antioxidants which makes them a great addition to any meal.
Microgreen vs Sprouts
While both are small and don’t qualify as “real” plants, there are still some differences between microgreens and sprouts.
Microgreens: Germinate in water or soil. Harvest in 1-3 weeks. Needs light. Stem and leaves eaten. Common types of microgreens is arugula, broccoli, cilantro, basil, chia, mustard, radish, kale, sunflower, beets
Sprouts: Geminate in water. Harvest in 4-6 days. Needs very little light. The whole thing is eaten. Common types of Sprouts is radish, mung bean, pumpkin, chickpea, sunflower.
What seeds are best for microgreens?
Now you may be wondering if you can use the seeds you already have to grow microgreens. The answer is yes. There are no “special” seeds needed to grow microgreens. Just about any edible plant can be turned into microgreens but there are some definite front runners when it comes to the popular ones.
Do microgreens need special lighting?
Yes and no. You can grow them on a sunny south-facing windowsill, but they may end up getting leggy. This isn’t as big a deal as it is with seedlings you intend to grow to full plants as microgreens are harvested so soon. That said if you have a grow light available then they will definitely benefit from the extra light. They are going to need at least 8 hours of light per day, more is better.
How to grow microgreens at home?
Microgreens are perfect for beginners, especially if you pick up a little kit. They are easy to grow home and you won’t need a lot of things to get started. So let’s look at what you will need.
• Growing medium
• Grow light or sunny windowsill
Growing medium for microgreens
The first thing you will need to decide is how you want to grow your microgreens. There are basically three main ways to grow microgreens. The first two being the easiest if you are just getting started. Soil, Soil-less medium, Hydroponically.
Growing microgreens in soil
While you may assume that you need to grow your microgreens in soil (and you can) it’s not necessarily the best option. If you are set on using soil then make sure that it is a good quality seedling starting mix. It will need to have good drainage, be loose and not have any large clumps. One of the benefits of using soil is the additional nutrients that you don’t get with a soil-less medium.
Growing microgreens in a soil-less medium
This is the middle of the road option, somewhere between soil and hydroponics. You can use coco coir, vermiculite or peat. Any of the three will provide a clean grow surface which is important. These options tend to help avoid mold issues that can crop up with soil.
Growing microgreens hydroponically
All you are going to need is a tray and a pad to grow your seeds on. Another reason I prefer this method is that the single-use grow mats is considered one of the most sanitary ways to grow microgreens. Additionally, they tend to be compostable, so into the composted they go!
If you love it and want to get into growing microgreens on a larger scale you can look to setting up a flood and drain system with growing racks, but for now, we will keep it simple.
Once you have your container and have settled on a growing medium and your desired seeds it's time to get started!
Fill your container with the growing medium you have chosen, add waterless for soil and more for the hydroponic method), top it all off with your seeds.
If you are using soil then cover them lightly with soil and put them under the grow light or on the windowsill. If you are using the soil-less or hydroponic method you can set the seeds aside in a dark room or cupboard for about 5 days. They don’t need much these first few days. After this, you can put them under the grow lights or on the sunny windowsill.
You won’t have to wait very long before you can start harvesting your tiny bounty! The microgreens should be ready within 1-3 weeks! Just be sure to wait until the first set of “true leaves” make an appearance. Don’t let them get too tall, you will want to harvest them by the time they are 3″ tall.
How to use microgreens
So you successfully got them to germinate and grow but now you have no idea what to do with them! Do not fret as microgreens are very versatile.
Start by giving them a wash and a gentle dry with some paper towel or if you have a lot you could use a salad spinner. It is best to harvest only what you need so the rest of them stay nice and fresh.
Once they are wash you can use them to add a burst of flavour to a sandwich or wrap. You could also add them to your morning smoothie, on top of your omelet, soup or even on a pizza!