Grow Your Own Microgreens!
Microgreens have recently been getting a lot of attention in health circles, but once that first sunflower shoot introduced itself to me once upon a salad, I have been inspired ever since. Microgreens give you the most bang for your bite. Yep, eat less, get more. You maximize the quality of nutrients to the highest level when you grow your own food. Microgreens are so simple to grow and provide awesome benefits for food security right in your own home.
What is a Microgreen?
A microgreen is the second stage of plant development. It is between a sprout and “baby” green.They differ from sprouts in that you are not eating the roots, but are harvesting the stems and leaves once the roots are established and the cotyledons open.
Why are Microgreens Awesome?
Microgreens are nutrient dense packages of goodness. They are loaded with enzymes and contain an increased vitamin content, as well as better mineral availability. The sprouting process dramatically improves their quality of protein that complements other protein sources well. You will even benefit from the essential fatty acids found in them. To top it off, they are also chock full of antioxidants to protect cells against free radicals.
The sprouting process boosts the nutrient content to the maximum level possible for absorption. You would have to eat 3-16 times the amount of mature plant to get the equivalent nutrient levels in one serving of microgreens.
Other than nutritional awesomeness, they can easily be grown locally, in small spaces, year round, and are ready in 1-4 weeks!
How to Enjoy Them
Try them in salads, stir fries, wraps, and egg dishes.
What Will You Need to Grow Your Own
- My personal favorites are organic Sunflower, Pea, and Broccoli.
- Living Soil
- Okay, so I am pretty excited about sharing this with you, but of course I am a soil freak, so I want to touch on this aspect of growing your microgreens for a moment. If you don’t think you like greens because they taste bitter, well that is because they were not grown in nutrient dense soil. Healthy soil makes tasty plants. If grown in living soil, your microgreens should have a “sweet” taste.
- Good Soil Should Contain:
- Organic Matter
- Microbial Community (mycorrhizal fungi, bacteria, protozoa)
- A good sprouting soil blend is:
- 30% Organic Compost
- 30% Peat Moss or Coconut Coir
- 15% Vermiculite
- 15% Sand
- 10% Worm Castings (delivers bioavailable minerals to the soil)
- Trace minerals
- Organic kelp meal (add to soak water and soil for a nutrition boost)
- Other than seeds and soil, you will also need:
- Trays (2, one with drainage holes, one without)
- Tile to fit in the tray
- Unbleached paper towels (can go in your compost pail)
- Heavy stone or brick to weigh down tiles
- Water: Chlorine is bleach, bleach kills life, use non chlorinated water
- Air, make sure you have good airflow to prevent mold (a fan or similar and don’t over crowd seeds.)
- Optimal temperature is between 67 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
How To Set Up Your System
- Add your soil mixture to the tray and smooth out, but do and compact. It should be 1-2 inches even of soil. You don’t want the tray to be too much deeper than the soil or there will be some air flow issues.
- Soak the seed, if appropriate for seed type. You can add organic kelp meal to the soak water. Broccoli seeds should and be soaked for more than 2 hours. Peas and sunflowers should be soaked overnight or up to 18 hours. You reduce wasted space when you sprout the larger seeds prior to planting in the tray. You can use a half gallon sprouting jar or a similar concept with a bucket. The sprout time is generally 1 – 2 days, or until you see a small tail emerging. You want to make sure you rinse the seeds twice a day during the sprouting process to prevent mold.
- Sow the seeds. The soil should be moist but not saturated. Sprinkle and spread them evenly over the soil. The density depends on the stage in which you are planning to harvest the microgreens. For small, one week microgreens, you can do one thin layer with the seeds touching. For two to three week microgreens, you want to leave a little more space between the seeds/sprouts. Feel free to grow a mixture of seeds the have the same harvest time for greater diversity.
- Water, press and cover the seeds. Lay an unbleached paper towel over your seeds, then give it a generous spray down, then place the tiles over them and place a brick or stone on each tile. Alternatively, for smaller seeds, you can just stack the trays in each other and put an empty tray on top with a stone for weight.
- Leave trays covered for 2 – 3 days. Check the trays twice a day to see if the soil needs water, it should be moist, not wet.
- Once you notice the seeds starting to push up about ½ and inch in the cracks between the tiles, you know your microgreens are ready to be exposed to indirect sunlight. If your microgreens begin to get tall and “leggy”, they may need more light. Grow lights are a good option. Be careful with direct hot sunlight as it may damage the sprouts.
- Then harvest in 1 – 3 weeks with sharp scissors by snipping them near the base. Rinse and dry before storing them in the refrigerator.
Dan Kittredge, The Bionutrient Food Association