Microgreens –Bring the Garden Into Your Kitchen
Winter is here, today it is especially cold and rainy, and I’ve been dreaming through my seed catalogs again. I came across a cool gardening idea a while back and I think it’s the perfect cure for the wintertime blues. I’m going to grow some Microgreens and bring some summer goodness into my kitchen. Even if you can’t plant a garden right now you can grow Microgreens, they are very easy to grow. I think they will also add a valuable component to my food storage plan, especially if I save my seeds correctly. I can have the ability to feed my family healthy food for years and have a quick way to add greens to their diet if I need to.
Any edible greens, lettuces and herbs can be grown as Microgreens
Microgreens are just seedlings of edible greens, lettuces, and herbs that are harvested when they are quite young – generally when they are 1 to 1 ½ inches tall. They need soil and sunlight to grow and are smaller and younger than baby greens – only being used for one cutting – when they are only a few weeks old. They are not soaked for long periods of time, like sprouts, and therefore may be safer.
Any salad or mesclun mix can be grown as Microgreens. You can use prepackaged seed mixes or even special Microgreen mixes, if you want. In the post, Growing Food on a Windowsill – Microgreens, YouGrowGirl.com likes these spicy and mild mixes:
Spicy: Peppergrass cress, ‘Giant Red’ mustard, radish, arugula, daikon radish, and ‘Wrinkled Crinkled’ cress.
Mild and Tangy: Tatsoi, mizuna, kale, lettuce, miner’s lettuce, and minutina.
And OrganicGardening.About.com’s page on Microgreens suggests beet greens, spinach, watercress, cabbage and basil. I think that cilantro, snap peas and broccoli need to be in there too! Although small in size, Microgreens can provide surprisingly intense flavors, vivid colors, and crisp textures and can be served as an edible garnish or a new salad ingredient. I’m using some Oregon Sugar Pod Snap Peas – left over from last year – for my first try.
Simple Supplies are all you need to grow Microgreens
- Potting soil mix – I chose to use an organic potting mix, purchased at the local hardware store. You can also get seedling mix. Whichever you purchase, it just needs to be suitable for growing in pots. Most outdoor garden soil is too heavy for seed sprouting.
- Seed – mix or single, organic or regular, it doesn’t matter. Start with something that you know your family will like and grow it.
- A container – You can find seed starting containers everywhere, at this time of year or use a plastic clamshell from the grocery. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but should be at least 3inches deep. I’ve even been looking into recycling milk jugs as mini greenhouses (more on that in a future post!)
Put two inches of moistened potting mix into your container and even it out, tamping a bit if necessary. Scatter the seeds so that they are about 1/8 to 1/4 inch apart, and cover with 1/8 inch of soil. Some say to soak them first; others seem to think it’s not necessary. I haven’t played around with it enough to see a difference, so for time sake, I’m not soaking mine.
Put your grow container in a sunny southern windowsill (for the winter) and make sure the soil doesn’t dry out. You can cover it with plastic wrap until the seeds sprout, to keep in the moisture.
Harvesting Your Crop
Microgreens will be ready about 10 days after seeds are sown. Clip clusters just above the soil line, once the first set of true leaves forms. True leaves follow the initial, simple-looking seed leaves and look more like the mature plant. You can harvest part of the seedlings and keep growing the rest for about 7 days more, but you cannot grow a second crop from the same stems. Replant every 3-5 days to have a continuous crop.
As you can see, Microgreens are simple to grow, and provide you with a quick harvest for not much work. You can add them to salads, sandwiches, or stir-fries, and it’s much cheaper to grow your own than it is to purchase them. For my first recipe, I tried clipping a handful of snap peas, chopping them up and mixed them into cream cheese. Tasty!
Nutritional Information about Microgreens around the web
Introducing Microgreens: Younger, And Maybe More Nutritious, Vegetables : The Salt : NPR for more information about nutritional the value of Microgreens
Tiny Microgreens Packed With Nutrients: Microgreens Have Up to 40 Times More Vital Nutrients Than Mature Plants
Growing Microgreens.com has provided some handy videos with growing tips. They definitely have a more advanced system than mine but you should check them out.