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Growing Microgreens: What, Why, and How to Get Started

microgreens

Microgreens have been making their way into grocery stores, restaurants, and into the recipes of some of your favorite foods.

These little leafy greens are packed with nutrients, usually more than the mature plants themselves, and can be a great addition to any diet as well as a beautiful garnish to any dish.

But what exactly are they? And what is the hype all about? These greens were popularized in the 1980s when they made their debut in fine dining restaurants in California.

They then started popping up in high-end grocery stores and specialty stores, but many of us steer clear of them due to their high price point.

But you’d be surprised to know just how easy they are to grow at home with just a handful of gardening supplies! They’re also ready to use in a matter of days (not months) and can be a rewarding activity for just about anyone.

What’s best is that they can be grown all-year around, so even if you’re reading this during winter time, you can successfully grow it at home next to your kitchen sink!

If all that sounds exciting to you, this article is for you! Here, we’ll go into detail on not only what microgreens are, but their benefits, some top choices to grow, and exactly how to grow them at home. So let’s get started and learn how to easily grow microgreens!

What are Microgreens?

Microgreens are basically seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs and are also known as vegetable confetti. These edible immature greens can be harvested with scissors in less than two weeks after germination, are the plants are around 1 to 2 inches tall.

You know they’re ready when you see their first set of true leaves. But don’t confuse them with sprouts, as sprouts are germinated seeds that produce greens that are entirely eaten from the roots to seeds to shoots.

Microgreens, on the other hand, are ‘micro’ versions of plants and are grown in soil, rather than water. They’re packed with not only flavor but also vitamins and minerals, and come in different colors, textures, and living enzymes.

Health Benefits of Microgreens

Studies show that microgreens can have up to 40 times more nutrients than mature plants, as is the case with red cabbage microgreens that have 40 times more vitamin c and six times more vitamin C, while cilantro microgreens are known to have three times more beta carotene than their mature counterparts.

This is because the seed itself contains all the nutrients a plant will need, so consuming the seedling soon after it has sprouted results in nutrient-dense greens that are incredibly versatile too! This is why it’s not surprising how rich and potent they are in phytochemicals.

Harvest and serve them immediately for the best flavor by adding them to your favorite soups, salads, sandwiches, or even main dinner dishes.

They pack a punch in terms of flavor and are known to be more flavorful than mature vegetables and herbs, so even a little goes a long way.

Thanks to their nutrient-dense nature, they have the ability to help lower the risk of illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

Some common vitamins and minerals you will find in microgreens include:

  • Vitamin K: Microgreen seedlings begin producing massive amounts of this vitamin as soon as they are exposed to sunlight. It works to help the chlorophyll in these plants absorb nutrients. Vitamin K is beneficial for human bodies because they help in the blood clot process and maintain healthy bones and teeth.
  • Vitamin C: Microgreens are known for the abundant amounts of vitamin C they offer. This vitamin is essential in helping your body eliminate free radicals. You can find up to 20 mg per 100 g of this vitamin in the smallest microgreen seedling. Compare this to the 10 mg of vitamin C you find in full-grown tomatoes.
  • Vitamin E: This vitamin is made up of alpha and gamma-tocopherol. This essential vitamin helps protect your body from damage caused by free radicals formed when we convert food to energy. A small serving of vitamin E rich microgreens like daikon radishes is more than enough to hit your daily requirement of this vitamin.
  • Beta Carotene: Beta carotene is a carotenoid compound that helps to reduce the risk of various diseases. Microgreens are filled with high beta-carotene levels, which is why they make such a useful addition to anyone’s diet.

Overall, these nutrients may be beneficial to the eyes, skin, weight management, physical and mental health, and fighting cancer, on top of all the benefits associated with their antioxidant properties.

Polyphenols are commonly found in microgreens and may have many benefits such as a reduced risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. They are a rich source of polyphenols and provide your body with powerful antioxidants.

Reasons to Grow Microgreens at Home

If the health benefits aren’t enough to entice you into growing these immature greens at home, let us share some of the top reasons why you should consider growing microgreens at home:

  • Can be grown year-round: One of the best things about microgreens is that you can grow them year-round at home since they are grown indoors at home. This means that they’re not affected by the weather outside, but only by the environment you create for them. This is especially great for those who live up north, since regardless of how cold it is outside, you can grow these easily indoors.
  • Don’t require a lot of space: Have you always wanted to grow your own greens but didn’t have the space for them? Do you live in an apartment and feel that gardening just isn’t for you because you don’t have a backyard? Well, with microgreens you don’t need much space at all; a little space next to your kitchen sink will work just fine!
  • Cheaper than store-bought: If you’ve ever come across microgreens at a grocery store, you know exactly how expensive they can be. We’ve been single trays ranging from $5 all the way to $10! Growing them at home is way cheaper and definitely more rewarding!
  • They grow incredibly fast: One of our favorite things about growing microgreens is how fast they grow! Germination happens in a matter of days, and you’ll be able to consume them in less than two weeks.

What Types of Microgreens Can You Grow at Home?

Seeds used to grow mature vegetables with true leaves are the same seeds used to make microgreens grow. Leafy vegetables, herbs, salad greens, peas, and even edible flowers can be grown at home as microgreens.

However, some varieties definitely work better than others. Some great choices for beginners include broccoli, buckwheat, cauliflower, cabbage, chia, mustard, or even sunflower and they can all be grown in a single container.

But that’s definitely not all you’re limited to; here is a list of some of the most popular types and the plant family that they belong to:

  • Brassicaceae: cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage microgreens, red cabbage microgreens, watercress, radish microgreens, arugula, kale
  • Asteraceae: lettuce, endive, chicory, radicchio
  • Apiaceae: dill, carrot, fennel, celery, cilantro
  • Amaryllidaceae: garlic, onion, leek
  • Amaranthaceae: amaranth, quinoa, swiss chard, beets, spinach
  • Cannabaceae: hemp
  • Cucurbitaceae: melon, cucumber, squash
  • Lamiaceae: chia, basil

How to Grow Microgreens at Home

Microgreens can be expensive to consistently supply for a household, especially living microgreens. But, growing microgreens is quick and easy, and those who plan on taking care of these indoors can expect to have microgreens at their fingertips year-round.

Fortunately, they grow in about one to two weeks, meaning you will have homegrown greens in no time.

To get started all you need is a seed mix of your choosing or pre-packaged mixes of specific microgreens, a seed tray, and some potting soil.

Make sure you pick containers that are at least an inch to two inches deep. Fill it with an organic potting mix and loosen the potting soil. Scatter the seeds across the container and cover them with a thin layer of soil.

Keep the potting soil moist with consistent rounds of water and ensure the seeds get at least 4 hours of sunlight (more in the winter months). South-facing windows work best for indoor growing, but eastern or western-facing windows work well also.

Add some organic fertilizer to the potting soil before each round of planting to help the seedlings grow. Sprouts will appear soon after. You should notice that the true leaves grow and are ready to be used between 10 days to 2 weeks.

When are Microgreens Ready to Harvest?

Microgreens are generally ready to harvest around week two of growth but may also be ready as early as 10 days into the growing process. You will know when they are ready to be harvested once they have developed the first set of mature leaves.

Another indicator of fully grown microgreens is to measure the height of your plant. They get to about 1-1 1/2” in height before they are ready for harvest.

To harvest your microgreens, use a sterile blade to cut them right above the soil. This allows you to utilize the entire growing microgreen for dishes from the stem to the mature leaves.

You may leave the roots behind if you like as they will become useful in your next microgreen growing cycle. The shelf life of your harvested microgreens is 10 to 14 days after you’ve cut them.

Do Microgreens Regrow After Cutting?

Microgreens are harvested very early on in the growing stage, which means the plants cannot generate new growth. When you cut them off for use, you are cutting off everything the plant has developed besides the stem, which gives it no way to regrow.

Luckily, they grow easily and quickly from new seeds. You can scatter other seeds into your soil after harvesting, and these will grow just as quickly as the previous batch. You can leave the roots of the harvested greens in the soil. This becomes a great source of organic material for the new microgreen seeds to use.

Thanks to the nutrients leftover from your previous harvest, you will find that your growing container sprouts microgreens within a few days after resowing seeds. This makes these easy-to-grow plants capable of providing a variety of vegetables for your table throughout the year.

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