Microgreens, sometimes called baby greens or vegetable confetti, are edible plants that are harvested at the first true leaf stage. Microgreens are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that can have significant health benefits. They are an easy edition for the home gardener to grow. Seed a tray and within a few weeks plants are ready to harvest. These gourmet toppings can bring color, flavor, and nutrition to the table.
The term “microgreens” is a marketing term. In the eighties cutting edge restaurants introduced this trend. It has spread to the point that commercial operations produce crops sold in specialty stores. They can be found in the produce section in plastic clamshell packaging. Usually there are variations such as “sweet” or “spicy”. The sooner the product makes it to the table the better, as the nutrition and quality degrade rapidly. Here home gardeners have the advantage. It costs less to grow them at home. Store bought microgreens can be pricey.
Microgreen crops can vary widely. Common crops are kale, beets, amaranth, sunflower, and herbs. They are grown in shallow containers with a growing medium such as mixtures of perlite and vermiculite. Plants are typically harvested once the true leaves develop and the stems reach one to three inches tall. The stems are cut leaving the roots in the growing medium. The same container can be reseeded for another crop. Typically fertilizer is not needed, however, some longer-growing microgreen crops, such as micro carrot, dill, and celery, may benefit from a light fertilization applied to the tray bottom. Some of the faster-growing greens, such as mustard cress and chard, may also benefit from a light fertilization because they germinate quickly and exhaust their self-contained nutrient supply quickly. Light fertilization is best achieved by floating each tray of microgreens for 30 seconds in a prepared nutrient solution of approximately 80 ppm nitrogen. Plant varieties are usually grouped together by the time it takes for germination to occur. Germination times can vary, but usually it takes between ten to fourteen days for growth to appear. Succession plantings are required for ongoing harvests.
The home gardener can search online for microgreens and numerous sites will appear. Seed growers sell all types of seeds and growing kits. Colors, textures and tastes abound. The seeds are the biggest expense. They can be grown inside all year long in a sunny spot or indoors under a grow light. Once the plants reach the desired growth snip (clean/ sterilize tools prior to using), clean, and bring to the table. Both stem and leaves are eaten.
Studies have found these small plants have a much higher nutritional content than their full grown siblings. This is a major benefit for the majority of folks who struggle to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Take note that the quicker the produce reaches the table the better. A handful of these colorful greens will add flavor and texture to sandwiches and salads. Salads can be made with just the microgreens. Smoothies are another option. Some recipes use microgreens in casseroles. As the trend gains in popularity more creative culinary options are sure to evolve.
Microgreens offer the home gardener a fun and easy way to grow nutritious and flavorful additions for the family table. A small investment of time and money affords the beginner and experienced gardener immediate rewards. Florida offers the prospect of year round gardening which is both exciting and overwhelming, but if a vegetable garden is too much consider trying a few trays of microgreens seems doable. For more information check out https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/hs1164