The world moves much more quickly today than it did when sliced bread was the newest culinary invention taking the world by storm. Along with the farmers of the days of old, many agricultural operations today wait months for their crops to be ready to harvest. However, in the past decade or so a new leaf has been turned, and awareness of a new breed of crop is spreading. No longer do farmers need to wait a few months to half a year for a bountiful harvest. Only a week or two is necessary for perfection. What is this wonderful, enchanting, and irresistible new crop you’re dying to read about? Well, its Microgreens!
Microgreens? Aren’t those just sprouts? No! Sprouts differ from microgreens as they are much smaller and thinner than microgreens, with a less captivating flavor. Sprouts are also harvested a day or two after the hypocotyl emerges from the seed. On the other hand, microgreens consist of a group of rather common vegetables and leafy plants which are grown for a week or two, rather than being grown to the stage when they are fully developed. In most cases, studies have shown that a fully grown vegetable cannot compete nutrient wise with its microgreen counterparts, offering a minimum of 9-10 times the amount of nutrients! These greens are germinated on soil and allowed to grow until right before the first true leaves of the plant appear, which takes anywhere from a week or two depending on the species.
After the true leaves of the green start to form and are visible, the taste of the microgreen starts to diminish and the
texture begins to become tougher and less desirable as the seedling continues to mature and grow into a full-bodied plant. Each species has its own sweet spot for taste and texture. For example, sunflower microgreens grow rather tall, from 3-5 inches, with a full, thick hypocotyl. In terms of texture and taste, they should offer a crisp crunch, with a calm and comforting nutty flavor. Depending on the variety, the amount of time for development and growth varies. We love microgreens, and we want you to love them too- so here is a guide for producing them!
What will you need to grow your own microgreens? Here is a short list of the required items you’ll need to have a bountiful harvest in no time:
-Two growing trays, one with holes and one without (also known black plastic flats. They can also be grown in a pot, or anything that could hold a plant)
-Humidity dome recommended for the trays, but not required.
-Soil (seedling starter soil or potting mix works best, but any bagged media or amended soil should work fine)
-Microgreen seeds (variety choice is up to the grower, but we recommend radish, sunflower, and beet microgreens to start)
-A source of water
-Access to sunlight (windowsill, outside, or under growing lights)
To begin, the seeds of the greens should be soaked in water for a few hours depending on the variety (some do not require soaking). The seed packet should list the required soaking time. The trays should be stacked on one another, with the holed one on top. Soil should then be added to the tray to about half an inch below the top of the tray, and watered in. Once the seeds have gone through their required soaking period, they can be spread out on the soil in the tray. Most seed packets also offer a seeding density (and if it doesn’t, the number of seeds to use per tray in grams should be available online) which can be used to ensure that the right number of seeds is used per tray and per variety. Over seeding can result in overcrowding of the greens which can inhibit their growth.
Once the seeds are place on top of the soil, they can be spread out evenly among the trays. The tray should then be water once more.
Next, to ensure the greens grow tall, they should be covered with another tray which will weigh on the microgreens and restrict sunlight from reaching them. This will allow the greens to etiolate and search for the sun, growing longer than they would have if left alone otherwise. Typically, growers will stack trays of microgreens on one another to achieve this etiolation and blackout effect.
For the first few days of growth, the microgreens should be watered through the bottom tray. This allows the water to wick up from the bottom tray into the soil. Within the first 1-2 days, they may not require much water, but once the seeds have germinated fully and roots begin to appear, the water requirement will increase.
After 3-4 days, the trays can be unstacked, and the humidity domes should be placed on each tray. It may appear that the greens are looking rather yellow, long, and not very strong- however they have just not had much access to sunlight in their first few days on earth. To ensure they will thicken and develop a good flavor, they should be allowed to get access to sunlight on their third to fourth day. At this stage, they should be watered every day if the soil is semi-moist/dry when they are checked. Depending on the variety, the micros should be ready to harvest a week to ten days after they have initially sprouted. Some varieties do take longer to be at a harvestable stage.
Micros can be harvested with a knife or scissors, and for best flavor they should be eaten right away. Once they are harvestable, they only have a few days before they begin to become tougher as the first true leaves appear. For this reason, if growing in bulk, it is best to harvest the microgreens when they have a good flavor and crunch and store them for later use. Most varieties will last up to 5-7 days in the fridge.
Now you are ready to enjoy your fresh microgreens. So, get to it! 😊