Microgreens are the first true leaves produced from a seedling, often in fewer than 14 days. These greens are young and only reach about 1-3 inches in height. Left to grow, they’ll turn into the full size, mature leafy greens you already know. But you may be eating microgreens without knowing it already. Many restaurants are using them and even commercially packaged salad mixes often have microgreens tucked in. And they’re healthy!
Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland found that leaves from microgreens had more nutrients than the mature leaves of the same plants. So why not grow your own microgreens?
Most microgreens include large amounts of vitamins C and E and beta carotene. Of course this varies by plant but an example is that red cabbage microgreens contain the highest amount of vitamin C. In fact, they have 40 times more than mature red cabbage! Cilantro microgreens contain three times more beta-carotene than mature cilantro. With microgreens, the more colorful the crop the more nutrients it contains.
The difference between microgreens and sprouts is that sprouts are seeds germinated in water until they form roots, a stem, and some underdeveloped leaves. Sunlight and soil are requirements for microgreens. And sprouts take only about 48 hours to form while microgreens will take one to two weeks.
Some of the most popular microgreens are:
- Radish greens
- Beet greens
Growing microgreens is easy. You can even grow them indoors in just about any container. Use a Styrofoam cup or the plastic containers you buy fruit like blueberries in or even in the cardboard rolls from paper towels or toilet paper!
Make sure whatever container you use has drainage at the bottom. Fill the container with a seed starting mixture (and I just do them in regular, high-quality potting soil), leaving a bit of room at the top. Sprinkle your seeds in and cover with about 1/4 inch of the soil. Don’t overcrowd the seeds but if they end up close don’t worry. You’ll harvest the microgreens before space becomes an issue. After covering the seeds mist them lightly with water from a spray bottle. Keep the containers in the sun and don’t let the seeds dry out.
Growing microgreens in your garden is even easier. Ensure that the soil is loose and free of weeds. Plant the seeds about 1/4 inch deep. They can be spaced close together since they’ll be harvested while still very small. When you water use a gentle stream so you don’t wash the seeds too deep or wash them away.
Harvest the microgreens when they’re about 1 – 3 inches tall and a second set of leaves has formed. You can just cut the plant off above the soil level leaving the roots in the ground. Then plant more seeds. Microgreens cannot be harvested more than once so you want to keep re-seeding when you harvest for a continuous supply.
Follow these simple steps and you can have fresh, nutritious microgreens all year long!