“Microgreens” is an umbrella term for a variety of leaf greens that are harvested in a very early stage of their growing cycle. This stage is called the “coteleydon growth stage”, and is where the plants first set of true leaves sprout. Microgreens can be harvested after a mere 14 days of growth! This is what makes them so appealing to young, old, seasoned and beginner gardeners alike. Common types of microgreens are as follows: kale, arugula, beet greens, onions, radish greens, dandelion greens, spinach, mustard, chard, bok choy, watercress, and herbs such as cilantro, basil, chervil, parsley and chives.
Many people insist that the taste of the microgreens is a very strong and concentrated flavor; much stronger than the adult plant’s flavor would be. The nutritional value of microgreens is exceptional as well, and is likened to that of sprouts… but the two are not to be confused. Microgreens differ from sprouts in that sprouts are grown using only water and microgreens are grown with soil. The microgreens absorb nutrients from the soil as they grow, increasing their nutritional value. Also, as they undergo more photosynthesis than sprouts, they acquire more nutrients this way as well.
The nutritional and health benefits vary from green to green. Leafy greens are rich with beta-carotene, iron and calcium. Darker leaved greens like kale and chard are additionally high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which both help protect your eyes from degenerative conditions. Even though the greens are small, they pack quite the nutritional punch, giving full meaning to the saying “A little goes a long way”.
Because microgreens require only minimal sunlight and growing space, they are ideal to grow in a container on your kitchen windowsill for easy access. You are also able to control the growing environment by growing them yourself, making you free to use organic growing methods.
The Growing Process, Step-by-Step
1. Select a shallow plastic container with drainage holes. The size of the container should directly reflect how much you want to grow. Fill the container with 1.5″-2″ of moistened potting or seedling mix. Press the layer of soil down gently to create a flat, even surface.
2. Select a microgreen seed that interests you, whether it be a mix or a singular type of green. The Pinetree Kitchen Sink Mix and Healthy Blend Mix are popular, and we offer a number of single green packs such as Cilantro, Beet, Basil, Lettuce and Arugula as well. Scatter the seeds over the surface of the soil before lightly pressing them down.
3. Sift or sprinkle a very fine layer (1/8″) of potting or seedling mix over the seeds. Make sure you have a drip tray under your container before watering the seeds as gently as possible. Place the tray on a sunny, south facing window or under a grow light. The seeds will germinate within 3-7 days.
4. Be sure to keep the soil constantly moist, but prevent it from being soggy by pouring off any excess water that collects in the drip tray. To harvest, snip the microgreens right above the soil line when their first true leaves appear (about 7-14 days after germination).
5. After harvest, unfortunately you will have to start a new crop if you wish for more greens. Harvesting them at such a young stage prevents them from producing a second crop on their own. The good news is that as long as you didn’t have any issues with pests or disease, you can reuse the soil. Simply pull up the remaining roots and stems before tilling the soil gently with a fork. Add more soil if needed and start the process over.
For continuous crops, use succession planting. Start a second crop of microgreens around a week after the first crop, a third crop about a week after the second crop, and so on.