Photo by Devi Puspita Amartha Yahya
Microgreens are defined as bigger than seedlings but not full-grown plants. Microgreens include the first couple of leaves out of the ground and the next set of leaves produced after that. From seed to microgreen, it only takes a week to two! In this tiny form, their leaves are so superdense with vitamins and antioxidants that, with some varieties, they can surpass their adult form by up to 40 times in nutrition!
“Microgreens” are not a single species but a label given to any edible plant in baby form. Sprouts are another name for a microgreen that contains the root, such as mung bean sprouts or alfalfa sprouts, and are not considered microgreens.
You can grow many plants into a microgreen, anything from broccoli to radish and sunflowers to amaranth. Each plant will give you different nutritional benefits. For example, brassicas (which include broccoli, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts) have higher concentrations of sulfur to help regulate blood pH. In addition, they contain concentrated doses of zinc, calcium, and copper to help boost our immune system and reduce inflammation.
Fenugreek, an Indian herb, can help moderate blood sugars, and it has anti-viral properties and minerals used by the body to recover more quickly from cases of cold and flu. In addition, Fenugreek, parsley, and cilantro provide a rich source of antioxidants that combat free radicals in our blood that damage our cells and cause cancers. Plants high in color pigmentation, such as purple kale, red amaranth, burgundy okra, and royal purple basil, are extraordinarily high in antioxidants. Studies done by the Department of Agriculture showed that daikon radish, red cabbage, and cilantro have the highest amounts of vitamin C, K, and E compared to 21 other microgreens they had tested.
Be sure to purchase seeds grown locally and by reputable companies. Just because a seed is labeled organic does not mean that the seeds were not treated with a fungicide before being packaged up. Look for companies that do not ship microgreen seeds from overseas. By doing this, you will eliminate many of the chemical contaminants.
How to Grow Microgreens
It is easy to grow your own microgreens. You can use a large seedling tray without any drip holes, and a plastic seedling dome found for sale at any nursery or hardware store. If you want to try on a smaller scale, save those plastic ‘clam’ containers used for selling blueberries or the large plastic containers used for selling cut and washed lettuce mixes. The clear plastic lets in the light, while the top lid provides the extra humidity to encourage all your seeds to sprout. It’s also easy to tell if your soil is too dry and needs a bit more water.
Use a good organic potting soil and cover the bottom of the pot with 1 to 2 inches of soil and wet it until it is moist but waterlogged. If you are using a tray without drainage, put in a little water at a time until the surface is evenly wet. Berry containers have holes on the bottom, so you need to set them onto a drip tray or plate. If you are using tiny seeds like basil, simply sprinkle them across the top of the surface and gently press them down into the soil with your fingers. You want the seeds to contact the soil well but not be covered by it. The smaller the seed, the more likely it will need to be exposed to light to help it germinate. The larger the seeds, the more soil you will put over them. Mustard seeds are small but just large enough that a fourth inch of soil over the top will help them sprout. On the other hand, sunflowers are quite large and can be buried up to an inch.
Keep the soil moist but not sopping wet, or the seeds will rot. Once the seedlings start to appear, pop the top of the dome or lid to allow heat to escape and air movement in to prevent mold. Keep your microgreens in a bright window or under grow lights to encourage vigorous growth. Once the seedlings have reached three to four inches tall, cut them at the soil level, rinse and use them in your favorite dish! Replant every week to keep a succession of microgreens growing at all times. Change it up and try different types, or mix different seeds together and have a salad bowl! Stay healthy and have fun!