Nutrient-Packed Microgreens and Mini-Greens

There is a trend that started in the west coast (as many trends do) and is growing in the gardening world, with good reason. Microgreens are very easy to grow and extremely nutritious. It is somewhat like sprouting. With sprouting however, you just barely let the seed germinate and  you generally eat the whole thing (root and all). Sprouting poses a few additional challenges to home growers due to the process of sprouting which usually involves rinsing seeds with water until they sprout, usually in a clean vessel (jars, trays, bags). Sprouting needs a bit more care and unconventional supplies. Growing microgreens is somewhat easier because is involves growing seed in ways you already know how to grow, using dirt. Only, you can grow them in more convenient spots, like in pots, in the window sill, or still in the garden and in any season. The big difference is you eat them when they are about 2-4 inches tall.

Tatsoi, a type of flat bak choy, as a mini-green.

Growing Microgreens is also extremely convenient for the urban gardener with no space to garden. You can really grow them almost anywhere there is some light, and it’s super easy.

Mini-greens are greens that are just a LITTLE bit bigger. Mini-greens are generally the next stage of thinning, where plants are not full size, but they are still very young and tender. In a garden where you are managing space, you will be harvesting mini-greens and they are also highly nutritious, tender and delicious.

For you experienced gardeners this might sound familiar…right? Yeah, you already do this. When you sow your seeds and they come up, you thin them out at this size. And I am sure most of you are like me, you eat them. Of course, if you have chickens, your microgreens might be nourishing them instead!

One major gardening challenge in hot Tucson can be solved by this technique: how to grow fresh greens in the summertime when most greens want to bolt. Microgreens are your answer. Because you are harvesting them before they get the chance to bolt, you can have greens year-round, al beit little tiny ones. And you can grow them indoors in a bright window if you want to save most of your summer gardening space for space-hogs like tomatoes and squash.

This is an incredible experiment for both the newbie and experienced gardener. For the experienced gardener, this is a new way to think about growing food: as said above, you can have greens year round without worrying about the usual problems of bolting in hot weather. For the beginner it offers a chance to become acquainted with growing things from seed. Once you realize how easy growing plants from seed is, your gardening habits will be revolutionized.

Directions for sowing microgreens:

  1. Select the varieties you want to grow (see list below).
  2. Decide on the location: outside, in a container inside or outside.
  3. Plant seeds about an inch or less apart (closer than packaging directs). Follow instructions for each variety concerning seed depth. Use fresh, organic garden soil. Feel free to add in some compost.
  4. Water as normal (more often in a container that is outside).
  5. Wait. Depending on what you are growing, it can take as little as just under a week, or as much as two.
  6. Basically, when they look delicious to eat, take a pair of scissors and cut them just above soil level (or gently pull up root and all).
  7. Rinse, toss and eat. You can lightly cook them too.
  8. Plant a new succession every week to maintain a constant supply. Make sure you freshen up the soil with compost if you do.

Time to thin these Osaka Red Mustard Greens = microgreens to eat.

Many plants can be used as microgreens. Herbs, veggie crops, grasses. Feel free to experiment. If the plant is generally already edible, it can be used. Just make sure the WHOLE plant is normally edible. Tomatoes and Rhubarb still possess poisonous leaves even as sprouts, so experiment with caution. Also, plant the cheaper seed in heavier doses. Rarer, more expensive seed is used sparingly for obvious reasons. Remember with microgreens you will not have a chance to save the seed, so be experimental but be wise about it. What works well for me at the end of the cool season is to gather up all the cool season stuff I didn’t use and use it all up (the stuff that I am not particularly saving). If you have been gardening for a long time, I KNOW you have that plastic bin of old seed somewhere. This is putting that seed to good use.

And for god’s sake, but some damn color in there! Include at least some red chard, red amaranth or red shiso. A little color makes the world go ’round.

List of plants to use as microgreens:

Alfalfa

Amaranth

Arugala

Bak Choy

Basil

Beet

Broccoli

Burnet

Cabbage

Carrot

Celery

Chervil

Chia

Chicory

Chives

Chrysanthemum greens (asian edible)

Cilantro

Clover

Collards

Corn

Dandelion

Dill

Endive

Escarole

Fennel

Fenugreek

Flax

Garden Cress

Garlic

Kale

Lambs Quarters

Lettuce

Minor’s Lettuce

Mâche

Mustards

Nasturtium

Onion

Orach

Parsley

Peas

Puntarelle

Radicchio

Radish

Sesame

Shiso

Sorrel

Spinach

Sunflower

Swiss Chard

Water Cress

Wheat Grass

Sprout People offer seed packets in convenient sizes and fair pricing. They also offer sprouting supplies if you want to start sprouting too. Look also for bulk seed prices for better savings. Heirloom Organics offers buckets of seed that will last you forever of many varieties suitable for microgreens. Plus, they are non-hybrid and non GMO.

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