How To: Growing Delicious Microgreens at Home

Deirdre Armstrong

Deirdre Armstrong › Deirdre Armstrong and her husband Phil own Harvest Thyme Herbs, a 6 acre specialty produce farm in ...

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Bring a burst of color and flavor to your kitchen by growing your own microgreens! They’re tasty, trendy and easy to grow.

We grow a wide variety of microgreens every winter for our chefs here in Virginia. They love adding these colorful, bite-sized garnishes to their cuisine, and we love having a reliable, low-tech crop that can be grown indoors. Ours are grown in flats under fluorescent lights in our unheated basement, but our methods can easily be adapted for the home cook.

Microgreens are seedlings of herbs and select vegetables that are grown in soil or soilless mix and harvested soon after germination, at cotyledon stage, or when their first true leaves have formed. The stems are cut at soil level and the seedlings are then washed for use in the kitchen. The fact that microgreens are grown in soil differentiates them from sprouts, which are grown in water and are eaten as whole seedlings with roots, seeds and leaves.

Their culinary uses are limitless: sprinkle on soups, toss into salads, tuck into sandwiches, or fold into softened cheese. Any food that can use a bright flavor boost will benefit from these toothsome treats.

Microgreens can be grown in any shallow container without holes. This is a great way to repurpose produce clamshells that held mushrooms or salad mix. Simply wash them thoroughly with hot soapy water to remove any produce residue. Standard 10” x 20” seedling flats without holes can be used for larger plantings. Be sure to give them a good wash as well to remove possible soil pathogens.

Look for lightweight soilless mix that drains well. Since the containers you’ll be using don’t have holes, it’s important that the seedlings are not sitting in a heavy, poorly drained medium. We buy our mix from a local farm store that blends its own organic compost. Ask your independent nurseryman for recommendations.

To plant microgreens, first fill the container about 2/3 full with soil and water gently. Scatter seeds evenly across the entire surface of the soil. You will be sowing them much more thickly than you would for individual transplants. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil or vermiculite; this shiny, lightweight mineral will absorb water and keep the seeds moist until they germinate. Water the flat lightly again and place in bright sunlight or under fluorescent lights. Depending on what’s grown, seedlings can emerge in a little as three to four days and be ready to harvest in seven to 14 days. Water gently as needed.

To harvest, simply cut the seedlings at soil level with sharp scissors. You can harvest the whole flat at once or just a portion of it. Wash the microgreens lightly in a salad spinner or rinse them in a colander. Lay them on a towel to air dry and then wrap in a paper towel. Store in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator until ready to use. Properly washed and stored, they should last five to seven days. Their culinary uses are limitless: sprinkle on soups, toss into salads, tuck into sandwiches, or fold into softened cheese. Any food that can use a bright flavor boost will benefit from these toothsome treats.

We recycle our potting soil for multiple plantings by dumping soil from the harvested flats in a bucket and adding about 20% fresh soil mix, blending to combine. That way subsequent plantings will have adequate nutrition. You can also add the spent soil to your compost pile.

There are many exciting herbs and vegetables that can be grown as microgreens. Cruciferous vegetables (so-called because their flowers have 4 petals in the shape of a cross) are deliciously spicy, colorful, and germinate readily. These include radishes, kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, mustards, Asian greens such as tat soi, and salad greens such as cress and arugula. Pea shoots, harvested at just a few inches in length, taste just like…peas! Popcorn, when grown with a flat covering the seedlings to exclude light, produces pale yellow shoots that taste like the sweetest corn you’ve ever had. And culinary herbs such as basil, chervil, cilantro, dill and parsley provide big flavors in diminutive packages when grown as microgreens.

Seed Sources: Johnny’s Selected Seeds

For further reading: Microgreens: A Guide To Growing Nutrient-Packed Greens by Eric Franks and Jasmine Richardson (Gibbs Smith, 2009)

Have you ever grown microgreens at home before?

Photo Credit: Deirdre Armstrong