growing microgreens

Growing Microgreens Indoors

I’m head over heels for microgreens… probably more than the average person, and I love incorporating them into my meals. But let’s face it: to fully enjoy these nutrient-packed little gems, you need to know how to grow them right. Ever find yourself shouting, “Grow microgreens for health!” and then wondering where to even begin?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Let’s dive into the world of microgreens and explore everything you need to know to get started.

What are Microgreens?

Imagine you’re at a party, and you see a bunch of people you recognize, but they’re all younger and more vibrant. That’s microgreens in the vegetable world! They’re young vegetable greens that fall somewhere between sprouts and baby greens. They’re typically harvested just after the first true leaves have developed, which is usually about one to three inches tall.

These tiny greens pack a punch in terms of flavor and nutritional content, making them a popular addition to salads, sandwiches, and smoothies. Despite their small size, microgreens are bursting with nutrients and are incredibly easy to grow, even in small spaces.

“Growing Microgreens at Home: What You Need”

Growing microgreens at home is simpler than you might think. Here’s what you need:

  • Seeds: Choose high-quality seeds specifically labeled for microgreens. Don’t just grab any seeds off the shelf.
  • Growing Trays: Shallow trays with drainage holes are your best bet.
  • Growing Medium: Use soil, coco coir, or a specialized microgreen growing medium.
  • Water: A spray bottle for misting your seeds and keeping the growing medium moist.
  • Light Source: Natural sunlight or grow lights to ensure your microgreens get enough light.

With these basic supplies, you’re well on your way to growing your own nutritious microgreens at home.

Do You Need Lots of Light to Grow Microgreens?

Here’s the deal: microgreens do need light to grow, but they’re not as high-maintenance as you might think. They’re more like houseplants than sun-worshippers. Ideally, microgreens should receive about 4-6 hours of sunlight per day. If natural light is scarce, especially during the winter months, LED grow lights can step in as the understudy.

Place your grow lights about 12-18 inches above the trays and keep them on for 12-16 hours a day. This ensures your microgreens grow lush and vibrant, just like a well-watered garden in springtime.

Easiest Microgreen to Grow

If you’re just dipping your toes into the microgreen-growing waters, radish is your best bet. Radish microgreens are fast-growing and can be harvested in as little as 7-10 days. They’re hardy, require minimal care, and add a spicy flavor to dishes.

Radish microgreens are like the training wheels of the microgreen world, perfect for beginners due to their simplicity and quick turnaround time.

 

How to Grow Microgreens

 

Step 1: Calculate and Measure the Optimal Amount of Seeds Needed for Your Trays

Growing microgreens is like baking a cake—you need the right ingredients in the right amounts. Imagine you’re hosting a dinner party and you want to impress your guests with a homemade cake. You wouldn’t just dump a random amount of flour into a bowl and hope for the best, right? The same goes for your microgreens. To start, you’ll need to calculate and measure the optimal amount of seeds for your trays.

A good rule of thumb is to use about one ounce of seeds per tray, but this can vary depending on the type of microgreen you’re growing. Too many seeds can lead to overcrowding, which can cause mold and stunted growth. Too few, and you won’t get the lush, green forest you’re hoping for. So, take a moment, grab your scale, and measure out the perfect amount of seeds to ensure your microgreens have the best start.

Step 2: Prepare Your Trays and Growing Media

Now that you’ve got your seeds measured out, it’s time to prep your trays. Think of this step as setting the stage for a play. You wouldn’t want your actors (or in this case, your microgreens) performing on a wobbly, uneven stage. So, let’s make sure everything is in tip-top shape.

First, select your trays. They should be shallow, about 1 to 2 inches deep, with good drainage. Next, choose your growing medium. Some folks swear by soil, while others prefer a soilless mix like coconut coir or even a hydroponic mat. Whatever you choose, spread it evenly across your trays, aiming for a depth of about half an inch. This will give your microgreens a cozy, well-drained bed to grow in.

Step 3: Seed Your Trays

Alright, here’s where the magic starts. It’s time to plant those seeds! Spread your measured seeds evenly across the surface of your growing medium. This is the part where you channel your inner artist. Imagine you’re sprinkling glitter on a craft project—light, even, and beautiful. After all, you want each seed to have its own space to grow and shine.

Once you’ve seeded your trays, gently press the seeds into the growing medium. You don’t need to bury them deep, just a light press to ensure they have good contact with the soil or mat. Then, give them a light misting of water to kickstart the germination process.

Step 4: Microgreens Growth and Management

Now comes the part where you get to watch your microgreens grow. It’s like being a proud parent watching your child take their first steps. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a helicopter parent—just a diligent one.

First, cover your trays with a lid or another tray to create a dark, humid environment. This helps the seeds germinate more effectively. Keep them covered for about 2 to 4 days, checking daily to ensure they’re staying moist but not waterlogged.

Once you see the first signs of life, it’s time to uncover your trays and introduce your microgreens to light. And here’s where we hit the million-dollar question: what light is best for microgreens? The answer: LED grow lights. They’re energy-efficient, emit the right spectrum of light, and stay cool, ensuring your microgreens grow strong and healthy without getting scorched.

Place your trays under the grow lights, keeping them on for about 12 to 16 hours a day. Adjust the height of the lights to about 6 inches above the top of your plants. This setup mimics the sun, giving your microgreens the light they need to thrive. Keep an eye on the moisture level, and give your plants a gentle misting if they start to look dry.

Step 5: Microgreens Harvest

After about 7 to 21 days, depending on the variety, your microgreens will be ready to harvest. This is the moment you’ve been waiting for—the grand finale of your microgreens adventure. Imagine you’re at a concert and the band is about to play the final encore. Exciting, right?

To harvest, simply use a sharp pair of scissors to cut the microgreens just above the soil line. Be gentle and try to avoid pulling or tugging, which can damage the tender stems. You now have a handful of fresh, nutrient-packed microgreens ready to elevate any dish.

But wait, there’s more! After harvesting, you might notice some seeds didn’t sprout. That’s normal. Just compost the leftover growing medium and start the process again with fresh seeds and a clean tray. The cycle of growing microgreens is continuous, and each harvest brings you one step closer to becoming a microgreens guru.

 

When to Harvest Microgreens?

Knowing when to harvest microgreens is crucial for the best flavor and nutritional content. Typically, microgreens are ready to harvest 7-21 days after planting, depending on the variety. Look for the development of the first set of true leaves, which is a good indicator that your microgreens are mature and ready to be cut. Use clean scissors to harvest them just above the soil line. Harvest in the morning for the best flavor and freshness.

10 Health Benefits of Microgreens

Now, let’s get to the juicy part: why should you bother with microgreens? Here are ten health benefits that might just blow your mind:

  1. Nutrient Density: Think of microgreens as the superheroes of the vegetable world, with nutrient levels higher than their mature counterparts. They’re like the Clark Kent of veggies, just waiting to reveal their superpowers.
  2. Antioxidants: These little guys are packed with antioxidants, the bodyguards that help combat oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
  3. Digestive Health: With fiber that keeps your gut happy, microgreens are like the friendly neighbors who always have a cup of sugar to share.
  4. Heart Health: Nutrients like potassium and magnesium in microgreens support cardiovascular health. Your heart will thank you!
  5. Anti-inflammatory Properties: Many microgreens have anti-inflammatory properties, making them the peacekeepers in your body’s neighborhood.
  6. Detoxification: Think of microgreens as a natural detox, supporting liver function and helping to eliminate toxins.
  7. Weight Management: Low in calories but high in nutrients, they’re the perfect ally for those looking to manage their weight without feeling deprived.
  8. Improved Vision: The high levels of beta-carotene in microgreens are like sunglasses for your eyes, protecting your vision.
  9. Enhanced Immune System: With vitamins and minerals that support a strong immune system, microgreens are the personal trainers of the plant world.
  10. Skin Health: Nutrients in microgreens promote healthy, glowing skin. They’re like a spa day in every bite.

Best Plants for Microgreens

Not all plants are cut out to be microgreens. Some of the best contenders include:

  • Arugula: Known for its peppery flavor, it’s like the spicy friend who always livens up the party.
  • Basil: Offers a sweet and aromatic taste, perfect for adding a touch of class.
  • Beet Greens: Provide a mild, earthy flavor that’s like a warm hug for your taste buds.
  • Broccoli: Mild and crunchy, great for beginners. Think of it as the gateway microgreen.
  • Cilantro: Adds a citrusy flavor, like a splash of sunshine on your plate.
  • Kale: Packed with nutrients and offers a slightly bitter taste, it’s the health nut of the group.
  • Radish: Provides a spicy kick, like a surprise party in your mouth.
  • Sunflower: Mild and nutty, with a great texture. They’re the smooth operators.
  • Peas: Sweet and crunchy, perfect for salads. The all-around good guys.

These plants are easy to grow and offer a variety of flavors and textures, making them a versatile addition to your culinary repertoire.

What is the Difference Between Microgreens and Sprouts?

It’s easy to get mixed up between microgreens and sprouts, but they’re as different as night and day. Sprouts are like the flash-in-the-pan friends who show up early and leave just as quickly. They’re germinated seeds harvested just as the seed begins to grow, typically grown in water and harvested within 2-7 days.

Microgreens, on the other hand, are the slow-and-steady type. They’re grown in soil or a growing medium and are harvested when the first true leaves appear, usually within 7-21 days. While sprouts are consumed entirely (root, seed, and shoot), microgreens are cut above the soil line, meaning you eat only the stem and leaves.

Microgreens generally offer more flavor and higher nutritional value compared to sprouts, making them a popular choice for health-conscious individuals.

What are the Healthiest Microgreens?

While all microgreens are nutritious, some are the overachievers of the group:

  • Broccoli: High in sulforaphane, a compound with potent anti-cancer properties. Broccoli microgreens are like the straight-A students.
  • Kale: Rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as antioxidants. The health nut’s dream.
  • Red Cabbage: Contains high levels of vitamins C and E. The life of the party, always bringing something good to the table.
  • Radish: Excellent source of vitamins E, A, C, B6, and K. Spicy and full of surprises.
  • Pea Shoots: High in vitamin C, A, and folic acid. Sweet and reliable, like your best friend.

These microgreens are particularly beneficial due to their dense nutrient profiles and should be included in your microgreen-growing endeavors.

Conclusion

Growing microgreens at home is a rewarding and straightforward process. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy a continuous supply of fresh, nutrient-packed greens that elevate your meals and boost your health. Whether you’re a novice gardener or an experienced green thumb, microgreens are a versatile and valuable addition to your home garden.