Microgreens are some of the most nutrition-rich vegetables your can find. They have caught the fancy of health-conscious folks everywhere simply because of how much more nutrient-dense they are as compared to their full-sized counterparts. Almost all varieties of microgreens are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. And while proteins and carbohydrates are easier to find, micronutrients often get left out. That is why, out of the many health trends out this, this one, in particular, is worth getting on board with. So, let’s see what these tiny superfoods are all about and how we can easily grow them and make them part of our daily diet.
What are microgreens?
When you sow a seed for an herb or vegetable, the first true leaves that grow out of the seedling are called microgreens. Generally about 2-3 inches tall, these can be grown from seeds of any vegetable or herb. Once grown, they are ready to be eaten cooked or raw.
Microgreens can be used as flavor boosters in breakfast items like omelets, sandwiches, and rolls. They also add flavor and nutrition to smoothies and juices. Because the flavors of microgreens can range anywhere from neutral, spicy, minty, or sour, depending on their type, they can be added to many different things, from salads to pizza toppings. However, simply eating them raw is considered the best way to absorb maximum nutrients.
Types of microgreens
From vegetables like radish, cauliflower, onions, celery, carrots, sweet corn, to leafy vegetables and herbs like kale, spinach, pea shoots, amaranth, fenugreek, basil, and parsley, all belong on the microgreens list.
Even cereals like rice, oats, wheat, and barley; legumes like chickpeas, green gram, beans, and lentils; or seeds like mustard, chia, and sunflower could be grown and used as microgreens. As per the type, microgreens can vary in taste, flavor, and texture.
How to grow microgreens
One of the reasons why microgreens are becoming popular is that they are extremely easy to grow. One does not require a whole lot of space, time, or things to grow them. Here are a few basic things you’ll require, though.
Things you’ll need:
1) Seeds: It is advisable to use mature seeds to grow microgreens. They are easy to procure and are available in different varieties.
2) Potting soil: Generally, any soil can work including that from your garden, but potting soil is considered the best to grow microgreens in. Try and get soil that is pesticide or chemical-free. This will ensure that your microgreens are healthy and organic.
3) Tray or pot: You can grow your microgreens in a pot or tray. There are seed trays available in the market or even a regular planter works fine. Simply ensure that the tray is at least 10 inches deep.
4) Light: Microgreens need to get at least 3-4 hours of natural sunlight daily. That is why the ideal location for any microgreen setup would be the terrace, the window sill, or the balcony to ensure the availability of good light.
5) Water: As with any plant, microgreens too require water to thrive. More importantly, the soil of microgreens needs to be moist all the time. Using a hand sprinkler would be the ideal and best way to avoid a harsh downpour of water. Fresh tap water should work wonders as compared to other chemically treated water.
Once your items are ready, you can simply follow the steps below to grow your own healthy and flavourful microgreens.
Step 1: Start by filling the tray with soil. Just 3-4 inches of soil height should be enough as microgreens roots do not go too deep.
Step 2: Once this is ready, simply sprinkle the seeds on the soil. No particular distance needs to be maintained between seeds so simply spreading the seeds with your hand is fine.
Step 3: Now spread a thin layer of soil on these seeds and gently pat it down to make the seeds settle well. Ensure not to dab too hard.
Step 4: After the seeds settle a bit, use a hand spray to sprinkle a little water on the surface of the soil to make it moist. Do not over-water but also do not leave the soil dry. The idea is to just make it damp.
Step 5: One can keep this tray or planter at room temperature for two to three days till the seed germination happens. After you see some germination, you can move the tray or planter to a sunnier spot for the seedling to receive some sunlight.
Step 6: Keep sprinkling water over the microgreens, twice a day. After about 3-4 days, you may find small leaves growing over the soil with little growth at the bottom. In a week, your container will fill with healthy microgreens.
Step 7: Once they are 2-3 inches taller, you can harvest them by cutting them slightly around the shoots. You can wait for 2 more days if you wish to have longer shoots.
Step 8: Wash the microgreens under cold running water and use them as required. While it is true that they are most nutritious when freshly consumed immediately after the harvest, you can simply dry them after washing and store them in a paper towel.
Growing microgreens without soil
Did you know that growing microgreens is so easy that it does not necessarily require soil? Yes, you read that right. The process of growing microgreens without soil is called hydroponic gardening. While one can use coco peat or coconut coir instead of soil in apartments, and when there is a lack of materials, one can even use paper towels to grow microgreens.
It is recommended to use seeds that generally do not have deep roots as plants, for the paper towel method. Seeds like amaranth, sunflower, spinach, beets, basil, fenugreek, etc. work well on paper towel setups.
To start, soak the seeds in water. Depending on the seeds, you may need to soak them either overnight or for a few hours. While this is an optional step, it helps to soften the hard exterior of the seed which will help with germination in a paper towel.
Then soak some paper towels in water and squeeze out excess water. Make sure that your paper towel is not completely dry or soaking wet. Fold the paper towels and line your container with them.
Spread your seeds on the paper towel evenly. Spray some water on them using a hand sprinkler and then layer another moist paper towel on top. Then place your container someplace dark. This is to mimic the conditions of growing food underground. Keep checking the moisture levels every 24 hours and spray more if necessary.
In 5 days, you may see some germination. However, these are not microgreens yet. In 7 days, you may find little more than sprouts with pale tiny leaves on your seeds. Now you may uncover the container and put your outgrowth in sunlight for photosynthesis to occur. This will take a day or two and your pale leaves may turn green.
Once you have achieved enough height with germination, you can harvest your microgreens. Depending on how and when you want to consume them, you can either let them sit for another day or two, or harvest them immediately.
Growing microgreens indoors
In cities where everybody does not have the comfort of a balcony or terrace, microgreens can very well be grown indoors as well. Simply ensure that they get natural sunlight for about 3-4 hours daily by keeping them in any sun-lit location within your home.
Here are a few more tips on how to build the perfect mini herb garden.
Hope with this handy guide you are now prepared to grow your own microgreens. Do let us know how they turn out!
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