Growing Microgreens at Home8 Dec, 2020
Growing Microgreens at Home by Lindsey Grolmes
Microgreens have become one of the most popular vegetable crops, gaining notoriety with chefs, at the grocery stores, farmers markets, and with home growers. Microgreens are vegetable crops harvested after the cotyledon stage of growth (formation of first true leaves), which usually occurs within fourteen days. Microgreens are high in nutrients such as beta-carotenes, vitamins E, C, and K, and antioxidants; they also have more nutritional quality than their fully grown vegetable counterparts per serving. In addition to being nutritionally beneficial, microgreens are wonderful ways to add beauty, texture, or a little spiciness/sweetness to a meal.
Growing microgreens can be done in a number of ways, but it doesn’t have to be complicated at all. At The Jewel of Encanto Farm, we use small growing trays filled with our grow-medium; these trays have strings on the bottom and fit into a container, which we can fill with water. The water is absorbed through the string and thus to the grow-medium, giving the microgreens a constant source of water, which is essential. You can easily make your own system like this by drilling or punching parallel holes in the bottom of a plastic container; then just feed pieces of thick string/cording through the holes and into the larger water container. The top tray with the strings should sit above the waterline so as to not over-soak the soil/grow medium. You can also simply use a spray bottle to water your microgreens, but you will just have to be more diligent of watering.
At the farm, we began growing microgreens in a fine seed starting soil (peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, compost). Soil is a great medium for microgreens, just be sure to avoid heavy or coarse soils with bulky materials like bark, which can burn the seeds and make even germination difficult. In an effort to reduce the soil we were using, we decided to experiment, and used newspapers as our grow-medium. Because you are harvesting the microgreens so soon after germination, they do not need any nutritional requirements from the grow-medium, they just need a medium that holds water and allows their roots to penetrate. The newspaper was simply folded a few times over to fit into our tray and then sprayed with water until moist before adding the seed. This system worked well for us: it was just as easy to set up, retained moisture well, produced beautiful microgreens, and unlike the soil medium, did not have any of the mess. The microgreens can simply be pulled straight out of the newspaper and will have completely clean roots. This reduces the mess when harvesting microgreens as well as ensuring they are as clean as possible and easier to wash.
When seeding your microgreens you will want to evenly spread the seeds across the top of your grow medium, having as level of a surface as possible will help. Unlike growing seeds for vegetable crops, you do not want to cover your seeds with soil. The seeds will remain on the surface of medium. You will then mist your seeds and cover them or keep them in the dark until they germinate. At the farm, we use a piece of cardboard and place it over the microgreen tray to create darkness. Once germination starts you can then place your microgreens in sunlight.
There are many different varieties of vegetables that make good microgreens including: kale, broccoli, mustard greens, alfalfa, amaranth, radish, swiss chard, beets, and arugula.
Growing microgreens is an easy way to add nutritional quality and delicious beauty to your meals!