Microgreens are one of the easiest and healthiest edible plants to grow at home. They can be harvested a week after planting rather than waiting the months it takes to harvest most vegetables. Once you learn how to grow microgreens, you’ll have them growing in your kitchen all the time!
What Are Microgreens?
Microgreens are the tender shoots of baby vegetable plants. These miniature versions of select edibles have a delicate flavour and are packed with nutrients. Microgreens are quickly becoming a mainstay in restaurants as customers look for healthy fresh options. You might have seen microgreens mixed into a fresh salad or perched on top of a plated dish.
Microgreens are very similar to sprouts but are grown with soil and light rather than just water. Microgreens have a lower risk of bacteria than sprouts because they are grown in an open-air, soil-based environment similar to an outdoor garden.
Growing Microgreens At Home
Fortunately, microgreens are easier to grow at home than most vegetables. They also cost very little once you have the supplies. Once you get set up and learn how to grow microgreens, you can have a year-round source of healthy vegetables growing on your kitchen counter. You simply sprout vegetable seeds in sterilized soil, allow the plant to grow into a little shoot, and then harvest when they are a few inches high.
Once you’ve learned how to grow microgreens, you’ll love using them in the kitchen. Toss in some microgreens with a store-bought salad for an instant gourmet facelift. They are also perfect in sandwiches and tacos. Microgreens can also be included in smoothies, a stir-fry, or placed on top of a bowl of soup. I even place them on top of cooked fish for a pop of colour.
How To Grow Microgreens
Supplies For Growing Microgreens
- Tray: Seed-starting trays or repurposed take-out trays. If you don’t want to use plastic, you can use a single baking tin or pyrex dish (between 1″-2″ deep). Having a lid or cover for the tray will help with germination.
- Mesh Strainer: metal or plastic. Ensure the holes in the strainer are smaller than the seeds, so as not to wash out any seeds.
- Seeds: Certified Organic, Pathogen-Free Sprouting Seeds. Start with large seeds such as peas, sunflower, buckwheat, or wheatgrass (peas are my favourite!). I like Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds (Canadian). Botanical Interests in the US sells a nice collection of microgreen seeds so you can test different types.
- Potting Soil: Sterile seed-starting mix. Choose an organic potting soil that does not have chemical fertilizers mixed in.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (sold at drugstores and grocery stores).
- Light: Sunny patio/window, or a plant light; If you have a very sunny window or patio free from pests, your microgreens may grow well without any additional light. If you don’t have such a space, or would like bushier microgreens, use a fluorescent light or a compact LED plant light.
- Water: Filtered water is best. If using tap water, allow it to sit on the counter in a container for several hours to off-gas.
- Spray Bottle: Misting bottle full of filtered water.
- Knife: Sharp chef’s knife (or scissors if greens will be used immediately).
If you’re just starting, you may want to consider simply buying a microgreens kit such as this beginner kit or this full kitchen garden tray kit. It may be more economical than buying all the supplies separately.
Steps: Preparing The Seeds And Planting The Microgreens
- Measure out your seeds. Pour enough seeds into the tray so that the seeds cover about half the available area. The seeds should be almost touching each other, but not quite. Set the seeds aside.
- Sanitize all your supplies and your work area. I use my dishwasher’s sanitize setting to sanitize the tray, mesh strainer, and knife.
- Treat your seeds to combat pathogens/fungus. I follow the University of California method, in which seeds are immersed in a mixture of warm water and drugstore hydrogen peroxide for 5 minutes. There is an excellent, step-by-step overview of the process on page 2 of these instructions. Ensure you don’t let the seeds sit in the solution for too long, and be sure to rinse them thoroughly following treatment.
- Following treatment, soak the seeds in the tray for 6-8 hours in filtered water.
- Pour seeds into the mesh strainer, rinse, and set aside to drain.
- Fill the tray with sterile soil mix until soil is about 3 cm (1 inch) deep. This amount of soil doesn’t have to be exact. Using less soil is cheaper, but using more soil will raise up the greens and make them easier to harvest. Gently compress the soil mix in the tray as you fill it to create a flat planting surface.
- Water soil with filtered water so that the soil is moist but not dripping wet.
- Evenly distribute the rinsed seeds onto the moist soil surface.
- Lightly compress the seeds into the soil.
- Cover the tray with the lid. If your tray has no lid, cover the t ray with another tray or with clear plastic wrap. It is possible to grow microgreens without any sort of lid, but the lid can help with the germination process.
Steps: Care And Maintenance For Growing Microgreens
- Once or twice per day, lift the lid and check on your seeds. If the soil has become dry at all, mist the seeds with filtered water to keep them moist.
- When the seeds have germinated and you can see a little sprout, remove the lid/covering and place the tray in a sunny warm indoor area, on the patio, or under a plant light.
- As the greens grow, ensure the soil is moist but not overly wet. Pour off any excess water to prevent fungus problems.
- Check the seeds daily for growth and soil moisture. Harvest just as the second set of leaves appear (7 to 14 days after germination). Experiment with different ages of microgreens to find the stage that you like best.
- To harvest, cut the microgreens with a sharp knife right above the soil line. Only use scissors if the microgreens will be used within a few days.
- Wash the greens by fully submerging in cold water.
- Spread the greens onto a clean towel to dry.
- To store, wrap them in paper towels and place in an airtight container or bag in the fridge.
- The used soil can be composted, and you can start all over again!
Microgreens are the perfect way to learn to garden. You can develop gardening skills from the comfort of your kitchen, in the middle of winter if you so choose! Growing microgreens will teach you the basics of how seeds sprout and grow into plants. You’ll have a green thumb before you know it!
Gardening often requires patience and skill. Some crops take years of investment before you can enjoy the fruits of your labour! Fortunately, not everything requires experience or a lot of time. Growing microgreens takes only a week or two, and it’s the best way to start gardening if you’ve never grown plants from seeds before.
Tiny, Fast-Growing Vegetables
Microgreens are baby seedling versions of their fully-grown counterparts. Both vegetables and herbs can be harvested at their microgreen stage. Popular vegetable microgreens include broccoli, radish, sunflower, buckwheat, and peas. Common herb microgreens include basil, cilantro, and parsley.
Most microgreens can be grown and harvested in 7-10 days! That’s in comparison to the months it takes to grow and harvest most other vegetables. Because the time between planting and harvest is so short, you’ll have lots of opportunities to practice. You won’t lose months of time if something goes wrong.
Growing Microgreens Will Teach You How Seeds Grow
For some gardeners, getting vegetable seeds to grow into seedlings for an annual vegetable plot can be the hardest part of the gardening season! Getting seedlings started can be tricky, but the practice of growing microgreens on a regular basis will make annual seed-starting a breeze.
Once you get the hang of growing microgreens, you’ll be seeding a new tray every week. During this weekly practice, you’ll become very comfortable with the seed-starting process. You’ll take note of how the seeds swell as they absorb moisture, how the seeds sprout after they’ve been soaked, and how the root portion grows downwards while the seedling reaches upwards. Growing microgreens is a wonderful way to connect with nature and learn about plants on a regular basis.
The Equipment for Growing Microgreens is Simple
To start growing microgreens, you’ll need a container, soil, seeds, and light. The setup isn’t expensive or hard to find. You may already have a container that will work for a seedling tray, or you can make a DIY tray by repurposing a convenience food tray. There are also great microgreen growing kits to make the process easy.
Microgreen seeds can be purchased from sprouting seed providers, online, or from your local organic/natural bulk food store. As for the growing medium, you’ll need sterile potting soil for your microgreens. Using soil from the garden isn’t recommended, as it is both heavy and also has the potential to carry bacteria that isn’t beneficial to growing conditions. Choose an organic seed-starting mix for your microgreens.
Fresh Organic Microgreens Are Incredibly Nutritious
Growing microgreens will help you increase the nutrient density of your meals. The tiny greens can be higher in certain nutrients than their mature counterparts. Check out these microgreen nutrition facts from microgreen technology company Urban Cultivator:
- Red Cabbage: Microgreens have 6x more vitamin C, 40x more vitamin E, and 69x more vitamin K than mature cabbage.
- Cilantro: Microgreens have 3x more beta-carotene concentration than mature cilantro.
- Sunflower: Microgreens are comprised of 24% to 30% protein.
The nutrition facts alone make microgreens worth growing!