- Microgreens are the seedling versions of edible greens, vegetables, and herbs.
- They make for a quick and easy DIY garden project.
- Microgreens can add a flavor and nutritional explosion to almost any dish.
Many associate microgreens with the tweezer-adorned side dishes that accompany carefully prepared gourmet meals, but these young plants can add a nutritional and flavor boost to almost anything you cook at home.
Microgreens — the tiny, nutrient-dense seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs — also make the perfect little DIY gardening project: They’re easy to grow, take up little space, and can be grown indoors any time of the year.
What are microgreens?
In short, microgreens are the seedlings or young plants of everyday garden plants. With microgreens, you harvest the plants instead of letting them fully develop when they are young and only about 2 inches tall. They are used to add color, flavor and nutritional value to foods.
Microgreens are best enjoyed raw because their delicate texture and flavor don’t tolerate heat well, says Josh Tesolin, co-founder of gardening and sustainability blog RusticWise. Microgreens can be added to sandwiches, salads, sushi and smoothies, and can be used as a pretty garnish on everything from pizza to avocado toast.
Sometimes referred to as “vegetable confetti,” microgreens look like two-leaf clovers. However, all microgreens have a unique color and taste. For example, microgreens made from beets often have a deep red splash on their stems and an earthy but sweet flavor, while microgreens made from daikon radish have light green stems and a slightly tangy flavor.
5 types of microgreens for beginners
There are more than 80 different types of microgreens, and each type differs in appearance and care. According to Tesolin, many of the easiest microgreens to grow belong to the Brassica family, like cabbage, broccoli, and mustard greens.
While you can use regular garden seeds to grow microgreens, Tesolin advises going for organic microgreens seeds. These may be more expensive, but they are specially formulated to have a shorter germination time so you can grow and harvest them faster.
Here’s what you should know about some strains of microgreens that are easy to grow.
- broccoli: These easy-to-grow microgreens thrive in plenty of sunlight, so place them near an east or west window or use grow lights in winter. Keep the soil moist, but don’t overdo it or the roots can start to rot, Tesolin says.
- Cabbage: Known for her mild flavor and delicate texture, Tesolin says this strain is great for beginners due to her high germination rate—which means a large proportion of the seeds actually germinate. Keep the soil consistently moist and ensure these microgreens get at least 7 to 8 hours of indirect sunlight or up to 12 to 15 hours of grow light daily.
- Pea Sprouts: According to Tesolin, this is one of the few types of microgreens that can regrow. However, they require an extra step: pre-soaking the seeds in a bowl of warm water for 10 to 12 hours to allow them to germinate. Shoot sunlight and water for 10 to 12 hours, or mist the soil heavily once it begins to seem dry.
- Arugula: This peppery tasting green is easy to grow and ready to harvest in only about 10 to 14 days. Apply an even mist of water to these microgreens once a day and aim for at least 7 to 8 hours of indirect sunlight per day.
- Radish: Known for their zesty flavor and tender crunch, these microgreens should be placed in a sunny window that gets plenty of indirect light. Always keep the soil moist.
How to grow microgreens
Growing microgreens at home does not require any special tools. Typically, microgreens require 10 to 12 hours of bright sunlight and well-drained but consistently moist soil.
These nutrient-dense seedlings bring instant gratification because they can be harvested and consumed in as little as one to three weeks, says Lindsey Hyland, founder of the organic farming and sustainable eating blog UrbanOrganic Yield.
To avoid root rot, Tesolin recommends using a standard wax tray or an upcycled flat container with drainage holes, such as a wax tray. B. a clam shell. If your container doesn’t have a lid, you can use newspaper or a breathable fabric.
Look for organic potting soil or a potting mix, or try specific soilless growing media like coconut coir. Coconut coir retains moisture well, which means you can get away with watering less frequently.
The quality of the water also influences the growth and taste of the microgreens. Tesolin recommends using water that is at least of drinking water quality. Tap water can work unless you have hard water or heavily chlorinated water, in which case distilled or bottled water is better.
Each microgreen strain has its own unique growing instructions. That said, here are some general guidelines to follow.
1. Prepare the seed tray. Start washing your hands, tools, and trays with soap and water to prevent bacterial transmission, Tesolin says. Then fill the tray with 1 to 2 inches of soil. Squeeze the soil lightly with your hands or a small piece of cardboard and add clean water until it feels very moist but not soggy.
2. Sow the seeds. Spread the seeds evenly over the surface of the growing medium. Gently press the seeds down with your hands or a piece of cardboard. Then use your water spray to mist the tops of the seeds.
3. Cover the seeds. Put the lid on to maintain a warm, humid environment and place the container in a low-light area. Check under the lid daily and mist as needed when the soil appears dry, and always replace the lid after watering.
4. Remove cover and move to a sunny spot. Once the microgreens have germinated and are showing steady growth, which usually takes three to four days, remove the cover and place the container next to a sunny windowsill or under an artificial grow light for about 10 hours a day.
5. Harvest. Most microgreens are ready for harvest when they are around 2 inches tall, but you can continue to grow them to reach 4 to 5 inches if you so desire. Look for the cotyledons — the very first seed leaves — as a sign that the microgreens are ready to harvest. If you harvest too early, you’ll miss out on those nutrient-rich leaves, and if you harvest too late, your microgreens can taste bitter. Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut the greens just at or above soil level so as not to disturb the roots.
Care and maintenance tips
Here are some key, expert-approved tips for best results when growing microgreens.
- Water from bottom to top: Tesolin recommends sub-irrigation to ensure your microgreens are well hydrated but not oversaturated. To do this, place the tray of microgreens over a larger basin of about ½ inch of water and allow it to soak for a few minutes before removing.
- Sow the seeds thinly and evenly over the soil surface. It’s okay for the seeds to be close together, but try to avoid overlapping them, Hyland says—otherwise they could be more susceptible to mold problems, which usually resemble a white, cottony fuzz above the soil line.
- Use them right away. According to Hyland, the sooner you eat your microgreens after harvest, the more nutrients and flavor they offer.
- Consider offspring for certain species. Most types of microgreens don’t grow back, says Tesolin. However, there are some exceptions, including pea sprouts, basil, coriander, oregano, fenugreek, and sage. After harvest, simply remove the roots from the soil and replant the microgreen seeds or discard the tray and start over.
There are many benefits to growing microgreens – not only are they ready to harvest in just a week or two, but they add an explosion of flavor, micronutrients, texture and color to a variety of dishes.
Some microgreens are easier to grow than others. As a general rule, make sure they get at least 10 hours of sunlight and the soil stays moist for them to thrive. Once they are at least two inches tall and ready to be harvested, remember to cut them just at or above the ground. You can store them in an airtight bag or container in the fridge. They are best enjoyed within a day of harvest, but should keep well for up to three days.