Microgreens 101: How to Grow Microgreens at Home
Microgreens have steadily been growing in popularity since California restaurants introduced them back in the early 1980s. The aromatic greens, also known as vegetable confetti and micro herbs, are rich in flavor and bring a beautiful punch in color to many dishes.
Don't let their small size fool you; microgreens are packed full of healthy vitamins and nutrition. With up to 40% more nutrition than their mature vegetable greens, microgreens make an excellent addition to any diet.
What are microgreens?
Microgreens are a young vegetable with an average size of about one to 3 inches tall. They are harvested just after the cotyledon leaves have developed.
Microgreens are used by chefs to enhance food's attractiveness and taste with its distinct texture and flavors. They can vary in flavor from being spicy, sweet, earthy, tangy, minty, citrusy, nutty, crunchy, and come in a broad array of colors.
Why grow microgreens?
There is a lot of reason for wanting to grow your microgreens.
They can be expensive, the average price ranging from $25 - $40 per pound.
Easy to grow even in small spaces
Quick turnaround with an average growth time of 7 - 14 days
A low-priced way to have a constant supply of fresh, high-density nutrient greens at home
A great introduction to gardening for beginners
No climate constraints due to a controlled, indoor environment.
You can add them to almost any dish, top your next meal for a fresh crunch of flavor.
What can be grown as a microgreen?
Most grocery stores will only sell the microgreens that have a longer shelf life. But when shopping to grow your own, you will find a large variety of microgreens that can be grown. Commonly grown microgreens include leafy vegetables, herbs, salad greens, edible flowers, and even some root vegetables.
The easiest to grow microgreens are the ones with a larger seed, and the most challenging ones have smaller seeds. The following is an organized list ranging from large to small.
Large microgreen seeds
Large seeded microgreens tend to be the easiest to grow, but the plant density will be lower because of the larger seeds. However, the plants themselves tend to be slightly larger and stouter microgreen. The larger seeds also allow for presoaking before sowing to help increase growth time.
Adzuki - nutty, sweet flavor
Barley - mildly grassy, earthy flavor
Beets - sweet, earthy taste
Buckwheat - fresh, slightly tangy flavor
Chard - sweet, earthy, mild flavor
Chickpea - nutty, crunchy, and sweet
Cilantro - pungent celery-citrus flavor
Collard Greens - strong, kale-like taste
Dill - mildly dilly flavor
Endive - slightly bitter, sharp, and bright flavor
Fava Bean - sweet, and nutty and crunchy
Fennel - licorice-like flavor sweet
Kale - sweet, somewhat broccoli-like flavor
Kohlrabi - mild, sweet, subtle taste
Lentils - slightly bitter, subtle pea flavor
Lovage - sharp, similar to celery taste
Mung Beans - sweet, rich, bean-like flavor
Parsley - light taste and refreshing
Pea - sweet, crunchy, pea flavor
Sunflower - nutty and sweet
Wheatgrass - bittersweet taste
Medium microgreen seeds
These will produce a higher plant density, and presoaking is still an option but isn't necessary unless specified.
Arugula - spicy, peppery, and sharp flavor
Basil - light, mild basil flavor
Broccoli - gentle, crunchy texture and slightly bitter
Brussels Sprouts - low-key brussels sprout flavor
Pak Choi - sweet, earthy, spinach-like taste
Cabbage - delicate cabbage flavor
Cauliflower - light peppery, mild taste
Chia - minty tang
Chives - light garlicky, spicy flavor
Fenugreek - lightly spicy, bitter, and rich taste
Flax - low-key spicy with a nutty flavor
Leek - light, sweet oniony flavor
Lettuce - mild, rich, sweet taste
Mache - gentle, sweet, juicy
Mustard - peppery, delicately spicy flavor
Orach - spinach-like, delicate taste
Parsley - fresh, soft, juicy parsley flavor
Radish - spicy, gentle peppery taste
Sesame - light, sweet flavor
Shiso - strong, licorice-like taste
Sorrel - brilliant, lemony flavor
Spinach - like a toned-down spinach
Turnip - sweet, broccoli flavor
Small microgreen seeds
The tiny seeds, several of them from herbs, are a little more challenging to grow because of the challenge in scattering them evenly across the planting medium. Nonetheless, they will produce a very thick mat of plants if planted heavily.
Alfalfa - light, sweet flavor similar to peas
Amaranth - Beet-like, earthy flavor
Celery - celery-like flavor
Lemon Balm - light, tangy citrus taste
Marjoram - robust, oregano-like flavor
Mint - sweet, minty flavor
Oregano - spicy, intense flavor
Purslane - tangy, citrusy spinach flavor
Sage - soft, earthy sagey taste
Tarragon - sweet, mildly licorice-like flavor
Thyme - robust, herbaceous taste
Sourcing seeds for microgreens
The ideal seed for microgreens should be organic and not treated with fungicides or pesticides. Seeds treated with pesticides or fungicides can be dangerous for your health and defeat the purpose of a healthy microgreen plant.
The volume of seeds needed for a continuous microgreen crop is slightly higher than for gardeners growing just a few plants to full-size plants. It is best to look for a distributor that sells them by the ounce. Buying in bulk will reduce the cost and will last a lot longer.
How to grow microgreens at home
It doesn't take much to get started growing microgreens. It also doesn't take much space; if you live in an apartment, you can still grow microgreens. The supplies needed consist of a growing medium, growing trays, and a grow light.
Growing Medium -
One essential choice to make is the growing medium. Many growers prefer soil, while others prefer soilless mediums like coconut coir. When choosing a soil medium, be sure to select a potting soil that allows for proper water drainage.
Growing Trays -
There is no hard-fast rule here; almost anything can be used as a growing container, but we have found specially-designed microgreen trays are the easiest for growing in. They help keep moisture in when it comes to harvesting; it just makes chopping them a lot less work.
Grow Lights -
There are many affordable lights to choose from out there. A 30 watt LED will provide enough light for a full indoor garden. Bear in mind that even a windowsill is sufficient and an excellent place to start experimenting with your small microgreen garden. Four to eight hours of sunlight per day is necessary for healthy growth.
Spray Bottle or Watering Can -
Some microgreen growers will argue that spritzing emerging seeds is terrible, while others encourage it. It is best to follow the requirements provided for the specific microgreen you are trying to grow.
Once you have your supplies ready, getting started is easy. Following the following steps to ensure success:
Choose a Location -
Find an area where you will be growing microgreens and ensure the surface is protected from overspray from spritzing and overflow from drainage.
Prepare Growing Trays -
If you are re-using containers, be sure to disinfect and dry them thoroughly. Fill the tray with one inch of moist soil and level the soil throughout the entire container.
Prepare the Seeds -
The larger seeds benefit from soaking them for a few hours and some overnight. Spread the seeds across the whole surface of the soil. Then add a little more growing medium over them but don't compress the soil as it could create too much compression and not allowing them to sprout.
Cover and Wait -
Trays that have a dome should be cover at this point. Most seeds require no light for the germination stage; stacking the trays is not a problem here. Some growers will cover the trays with plastic wrap to help encourage germination in the beginning.
Water as Needed -
Trays in a windowsill or the open-air will often need watering. One important thing to remember is to keep them moist but not too wet while they are germinating. Once they have sprouted, spraying them once or twice a day is recommended.
Harvest and Enjoy -
Once the microgreens reach a few inches tall and have developed a set of leaves, they are ready for harvesting. Using scissors, cut the stems close to the soil. Next, rinse them to remove any dirt collected from growing and harvesting. Finally, dry them with a paper towel and serve over a salad or any other dish of your choosing.
A fungus outbreak is the most common problem when growing microgreens. Excessive amounts of watering and spraying can encourage mold to grow; this can ruin your crop. Using a growing tray with proper drainage holes and bottom watering is an excellent solution for many growers.
Washing microgreens will shorten their shelf life; the best practice is to cut what you need and cut high enough from the soil line can help from having to rinse them.
Growing microgreens is fun and very rewarding. Take your time and experiment with all the different microgreens that are available.