Growing microgreens at home is a quick and easy way to add nutrients to your diet. While they may be tiny, research has shown that microgreens contain 4 to 40 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts!
What are microgreens?
Microgreens are simply immature versions of vegetables, herbs and other plants. Many crops have been selected for use as microgreens, including basil, beets, broccoli, cabbage, celery, cress, kale, mustard, radish, sunflower and many more. Many seed companies offer individual crops of organic seed as well as specialty mixes such as sweet, mild, colorful, or spicy. Use them to enhance the color, texture, or flavor of salads and main dishes or add an extra dose of nutrients to juicing recipes.
What’s the difference between sprouts, microgreens and baby greens?
While all are harvested, and consumed in an immature state, sprouts are the youngest and smallest with typically the entire plant (root, seed, and shoot) being consumed, depending on the species. [Sprouts also have additional regulations concerning their production due to their relatively high risk of microbial contamination compared to other greens.] Microgreens are slightly larger and older, usually 2 inches tall, and are harvested at the first true leaf stage anywhere from 1-3 weeks after germination. Only the seed leaves and first true leaves attached to the stem are consumed (no seeds or roots). Baby greens are the oldest and largest, usually 3-4 inches tall, and look more like miniature versions of mature plants.
What materials do I need to get started?
In a commercial setting, microgreens are typically grown hydroponically using large trays with a fiber-like grow mat as the substrate. However, growing small quantities in a well-lit kitchen window or covered patio can be achieved by using an aluminum pie or loaf pan, or any shallow container of your choice. If you choose to use the commercially available fiber-like mat system, the mat can be cut to fit any size container. Otherwise, you’ll need to fill your container with 1-2 inches of quality potting soil or germinating mix. A spray bottle for misting is also needed.
How should I grow and harvest my microgreens?
When you’re ready to start growing, mist the media with water, sprinkle the seeds on evenly, mist the seeds and media again, and place the tray in bright, indirect light where it won’t receive rain or be bothered by animals. Mist the seeds twice a day during the germination stage. Blocking out light by covering the container can help with even germination. After germination, water lightly as needed but avoid wetting the leaves. Harvest time can vary from crop to crop, but generally plants are ready when the first true leaves emerge (after the seed leaves), usually at about 2 inches tall. Harvesting with scissors is typically the most practical, cutting the tops off with the stem. Microgreens should be washed immediately after harvesting and cooled for storage. Plastic clamshell packages tend to work well for storage.
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