Second only to sprouts, microgreens are the quickest food crop we urban gardeners can grow!  If you have limited time, space or gardening skills let me introduce you to growing microgreens. Tasty, nutrient-dense ‘fast food’ in just a few easy steps.

Rainbow salad with buckwheat microgreens | The Micro Gardener

I loved all the flavours in this rainbow salad with buckwheat microgreens & sesame oil, tamari (organic soy), vinegar, olive oil + maple syrup dressing.

 

What are Microgreens?

With sprouts, you eat the fully germinated seed. I think of sprouts as the ‘babies’ of the plant world. Microgreens are the next stage in a plant’s development, when the germinated seeds have developed tiny roots and their first true leaves (cotyledons). They have similar health benefits to sprouts, but greater nutritional value.

Whereas sprouts are seeds that germinate by being soaked and rinsed in water, microgreens are grown in soil. So you can add minerals to boost the nutrient value and flavour. These young seedlings are harvested smaller than baby salad leaves.

“These tender baby-greens are biogenic food at its best; biogenic meaning ‘life generating’, food by the capacity of their life-force, to generate ‘life-force’ for us.” – Isabell Shipard, How Can I Grow & Use Sprouts as a Living Food?

Benefits of Growing Microgreens

  • Quick to grow: from ‘seed to feed’ in just 1-3 weeks depending on which variety you choose.
  • You can grow an incredible number of plants in a tiny area = high yield to space ratio.
Cabbage microgreens sprouting after one week. | The Micro Gardener

Cabbage microgreens sprouting after one week in a tiny repurposed plastic punnet.

  • Minimal cost, time and effort required for a ‘fast food’ healthy harvest of organic greens.
  • Perfect solution for urban families with no room or time for a garden.
  • You just need access to good light (e.g. a  well lit bench indoors), a tray/suitable shallow container and a growing medium.
  • Produce fresh living greens for salads, sandwiches, soups and garnishes in the heat of summer or cold of winter. In our subtropical summer, microgreens are a solution to salad ingredients when lettuces, rocket/arugula and spinach crops tend to bolt to seed in the heat.
Certified organic radish sprouting seeds | The Micro Gardener

A much smaller quantity of seed is required than for sprouts.

  • A crop you can grow indoors on a sunny windowsill or kitchen bench, or outdoors on your balcony, covered porch or shade house with no need for a garden.
  • Contain digestible vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that provide nutritional health benefits and are packed with flavour, colour, texture, living enzymes and nutrients.

 

According to a 2012 research study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry*, “In general, microgreens contain considerably higher concentrations of vitamins and carotenoids than their mature plant counterparts, although large variations were found among the 25 species tested. In comparison with nutritional concentrations in mature leaves, the microgreen cotyledon leaves possessed higher nutritional densities.”
  • Ability to harvest your microgreens just before serving maximizes nutrients.
  • Have a lightly crunchy texture and can be used as garnishes to add flavour and colour.
  • Many varieties will regrow and produce several harvests – fantastic value!

 

Tending Broken Baby Seedling | The Micro Gardener

Children in particular will more likely eat food they have nurtured and grown themselves. It is a gift to give them this opportunity to find out where their food comes from.

Which Microgreens Seeds can you Grow?

Some common varieties include amaranth, basil, beets, broccoli, cabbage, celery, chard, chervil, coriander/cilantro, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, parsley, peas, radish, rocket/arugula, spinach, and sorrel. However, you are certainly not limited to these!

 

Growing Microgreens: Sweet basil microgreens almost ready for harvesting | The Micro Gardener

Most salad greens, vegies and herbs like these beautiful basil babies can be used.

 

Flavours range from mild to quite intense depending on the variety. They are a great way to add nutrients to your diet if you prefer young and tender shoots instead of mature vegies or herbs! I prefer to eat fresh microgreens raw because of their delicate nature and sensitive nutrients.


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Certified organic seeds for sprouts & microgreens | The Micro Gardener

Not all seeds however are safe to use for microgreens. I only use certified organic or untreated seed to avoid eating any food grown from seed that may have been fumigated or treated with a fungicide.

 

How to Grow Microgreens – 4 Step Guide

Microgreens are grown quickly from seeds in good light with adequate moisture. They are usually sown in a soil medium or substitute and harvested before they reach full size. Each seed needs enough ‘personal space’ to grow. You simply snip the greens off at soil level when the first two ‘true’ leaves of the plant emerge from the cotyledon (the embryonic leaf inside the seed).

Materials: Tray/container; certified organic/fungicide free seeds; spray bottle; seaweed solution; potting mix (sieved)/seed raising mix growing medium; paper towel/chux cloth to line tray; plant label.

 

Adding seed raising mix to greenhouses | The Micro Gardener

I like to reuse small fruit or vegie punnets – they are perfect mini greenhouses for growing microgreens!

 

STEP 1.  To help your seeds germinate quickly, pre-soak larger seeds (e.g. mung beans, wheat, peas) in warm water for a few hours or overnight.

 

Large presoaked seeds ready for sowing | The Micro Gardener

After soaking, drain and rinse – I don’t bother with this step for smaller seeds though!

 

STEP 2.  If using a tray, lay some moistened paper towel or chux cloth on the bottom to stop the mix falling through. Fill your container about 3/4 full of moist growing medium about 2-3cm (1 in) deep.

I make my own home made seed raising mixes because they contain key ingredients to boost seed germination. Once seeds sprout, the ingredients I use in my own seed raising mix provides additional nutrition to grow healthy green leaves and minerals to boost health. That way, I know I’m eating the most nutrient-dense food possible.

How to Make Potting Mix at Home Guide

CLICK FOR DETAILS TO MAKE YOUR OWN MIXES

I share 5 easy organic seed raising mix recipes in my How to Make Potting Mix at Home Guide. Far cheaper to make than buy and you know what’s in it! No chemical ingredients.

 

Wheat seeds being sown in tray with moist potting mix | The Micro Gardener

TIP: The mix in your tray should feel like a moist sponge – not too dry or wet!

 

You could also use a certified organic seed raising mix (look for a suitable logo).

Spread the seed raising mix out evenly. I use a paddle pop stick or ruler so there is a nice even surface.

STEP 3.  Generously sprinkle your seeds over the mix and press in lightly.

 

Gently press down to cover seeds | The Micro Gardener

Then evenly spread a thin layer of seed raising mix or sieved compost (about 0.5 cm or 13/64 in) over the top so they are all covered.

 

Lightly water by misting with a spray bottle. This prevents you dislodging the seeds. Place on a drainage tray or saucer in a warm spot like your kitchen bench. Water regularly every day as needed. Check soil moisture first by touching with your fingers. The seeds should never dry out. Avoid overwatering though as you’ll drown your seeds!

To create a warm humid environment for the seeds to germinate, cover the seeds with the punnet lid. Or add a clear plastic bag over the top of the tray with holes snipped in the top for airflow.

 

Microgreens growing in a punnet | The Micro Gardener

Once the seeds germinate, you can move them to a sheltered sunny position like a windowsill or greenhouse.

 

STEP 4.  Once germinated, the seeds have used up their internal store of food to grow. So at this point, I apply seaweed solution to feed the plants with trace elements. This improves flavour and boosts nutrition.

When the seedlings are 2.5-10cm (1-3 in) tall – depending on the variety you choose, your yummy microgreens are ready for harvesting!  I use scissors to cut stems just above the soil when I’m about to put them on the plate.

 

Snip microgreens with scissors to harvest | The Micro Gardener

For all you frustrated would-be hairdressers out there, it gives you an opportunity to practice your scissor skills snipping shoots!


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Tips for Gorgeous Greens

  • Not interested in sharing your microgreens with the resident rodents or birds in your area? These creatures love seeds as a food source as much as you do. So try protecting them until they have germinated with a cover or upturned tray.
Mung bean microgreens germinating in a tray | The Micro Gardener

To have a continual supply of microgreens, sow little and often (succession plant) every 5-7 days.

  • Not sure if your old seeds are still viable? Sowing them as microgreens is a great solution to use them up quickly.
  • Do you live in a warm climate? If you decide to grow your microgreens outside in a humid summer like here in the subtropics, you may need to prevent mould forming. These are my tips:
  1. Check soil moisture daily with a moisture meter to avoid overwatering.
  2. Increase air circulation by putting in a breezy area.
  3. Sow fewer seeds – about half what you would normally use/tray.
Microgreens snip at base of stem | The Micro Gardener

If you grow a small quantity in a punnet container, you can pop in your fridge when they are ready to harvest to keep them fresh & crisp for a few days. Then give them a haircut as you need to!

  • To keep your greens growing lushly, add liquid seaweed solution to a tray or plate under your seed raiser every day or two. Or add dried seaweed (nori) to water as an alternative. This enables the tiny plant roots to take up the extra nutrition as they need it.
  • If sowing radish or beetroot seeds, you can use a deeper mix. So if you decide to harvest some as microgreens and leave the others to mature, you’ll quickly have root crops to enjoy.
  • If you don’t get to eat all your microgreens or want to start seedlings to grow in pots or outdoors, transplant a few microgreens from your container. Gently lever them out with a skewer or fork, holding the leaves only NOT the stems or roots. Settle the baby seedlings into a pot with some liquid seaweed to prevent transplant shock. Acclimatize them gradually to the sun over a few days as they venture into the big wide world. Then let them grow into mature salad greens and vegetables. This is an easy way to raise seedlings from seed.
  • Sow little and often. Regularly sowing seeds in punnets every week or two will provide a continuous supply of tasty nutritious food. Saving some for your garden will also enable you to expand your skills to grow outdoors as well with a sufficient supply you can manage and consume.
  • When your microgreens have all been harvested, you can use the same mix to sow another 3-4 crops. As the plants have been grown so quickly, the seed raising mix will still be full of nutrients to help raise more crops. Then you will need fresh mix. Reuse your seed raising mix in your compost or another pot.

 

Delicious Recipe Ideas for Microgreens

 

Microgreens Salad with Garlic Mustard Vinaigrette Recipe | The Micro Gardener

Microgreens Salad with Garlic Mustard Vinaigrette Recipe

Microgreens Seed Suppliers & Resources

How Can I Grow and Use Sprouts as Living Food Book

Related posts: Grow Sprouts on Your Benchtop | Growing Your Own Food from Seed | Micro Gardening in Small Spaces

 

Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. Please read my Disclosure Statement for more details.

 

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