Microgreens are moving beyond dinner plates at fancy restaurants, gaining popularity in homes just like yours because of their nutritional value. They are a great source of fibers, essential minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.
Microgreens can be consumed raw; added to salads, appetizers or sandwiches; they can accompany any meat or fish dish; they may be used as a pizza topping or even cooked into soups and stews.
In addition to their nutritional benefits, microgreens make a good addition to any kitchen routine because they are convenient to produce at home. Microgreens have a short growth cycle and can be grown in a small space indoors near a window or outdoors on a porch or balcony.
What can grow as microgreens?
Plenty of edible plant species can be grown to produce microgreens; however, some plant species are more suitable than others. The list below will help you get started in selecting some microgreens for your garden.
- Broccoli raab
- Swiss chard
- Fava bean
- Wild chicory
- Common dandelion
- Sea asparagus
Warning: Not all commonly-grown vegetables are suitable to grow as microgreens. For example, tomato, pepper, eggplant and potato are not edible at the seedling stage because they contain alkaloids which can be toxic for humans at high levels.
Determining seed density
Determining seed density is important to maximize yields because microgreens are not grown to maturity. You want to plant enough seeds so you grow a thicket of tiny plants, rather than a sparse arrangement of seedlings — think Chia Pet.
Optimal seed density for microgreens ranges from 2 seeds per square inch for larger seeds like sunflowers and peas to up to 12 seeds per square inch for smaller seeds like broccoli.
The first step in determining how many seeds to use is to calculate the area of your container. If you have a flat that is 10 inches x 4 inches, then you need to plan for enough seeds to cover 40 square inches. If you’re planting larger seeds you may only need about 80 to cover the surface area of the top of the soil. If you’re planting smaller seeds, you may need as many as 480 seeds to ensure your microgreens will come in thick enough.
Once you’ve determined how many of each type of seed you need for your various containers, you might consider weighing the seeds and recording the weights to make future plantings quicker.
Planting microgreens at home
- growing medium/mats
- small trays with holes for drainage
- large tray without holes
- small kitchen scale
- spray bottle
- sharp knife or pair of scissors
- Prepare your trays and growing medium/mats. Fill your small trays with a peat-based potting mix or a cotton, hemp or synthetic fiber mat. Then set your small trays in your large tray and slowly fill it with water so the smaller trays can soak it up from the bottom.
- Drain excess water. Once your growing medium/mats are moist, lift your smaller trays out of the water and let the excess water drain. The moisture will help your seeds stick to the surface of your growing medium/mats and keep the seeds moist during the germination process.
- Seed your trays. Evenly spread the pre-measured seeds over the entire growing area of each tray. Larger seeds and hard-shell seeds will need to be presoaked in water for 8-12 hours before planting them.
- Don’t cover the seeds with soil. It’s not necessary to cover the seeds when growing microgreens, and leaving them uncovered keeps the sprouts clean.
- Keep seeds out of sunlight during germination. Keep the seeds in the dark for a few days to keep a good moisture level during germination.
- Water the seeds. Use a spray bottle to mist the seeds occasionally to keep them moist throughout germination.
- Place trays in sunlight. Once your seeds have sprouted, uncover your trays and expose them to sunlight, placing them on a porch, balcony or near a window.
- Water only when necessary. Avoiding excess moisture and allow drainage to prevent the development of mold. Water from the bottom only when necessary.
- Harvest microgreens. Your microgreens will be ready to harvest anywhere between a few days and a couple of weeks after germination. You will know they are ready when they get their first true leaves. Use a sharp knife or scissors to harvest them at the base of their stems.
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