Forget the Green Giant: Tiny Microgreens Pack a Powerful Health Punch
Feeling impatient to start growing veggies again? Why not grow microgreens? One of the newest culinary trends, a recent study from the University of Maryland indicates that these teeny-tiny young plants are jam-packed with nutrients: four to six times as potent as those of their older cousins.
Microgreens are less than fourteen days old and usually about an inch high when they’re harvested. They’re different from sprouts, which are ready to eat in just 48 hours, germinated in water just long enough to grow roots, a stem and leaves. Microgreens require soil, sunlight and at least 7 days of growth before they’re ready to eat.
Best yet? These miniature veggies are easy for the home gardener to grow, and are a great choice for those with limited space.
To get started planting microgreens:
- Choose your greens: Mustard, kale, beet greens, arugula and spinach are popular choices, or you can start with a prepackaged salad seed mix: any lettuce, salad green or herb can be grown as a microgreen.
- If you’re planting in the ground: Loosen and rake the soil smooth, and scatter seeds so that they are about 1/8-1/4 of an inch apart. You’ll be harvesting the plants very young, so no need to worry about giving them space to spread out. Once the seeds are scattered, cover with a shallow layer of soil and water gently.
- If you’re planting in a container: Choose a container that’s at least two inches deep and fill it with a good quality potting mix. Again, scatter seeds close together and cover with a thin layer of soil — about 1/8 inch. Water thoroughly and place in a sunny area. Your plant will need at least 4 hours of sun per day.
- Keep the soil moist: Also make sure to remove any weeds so that they don’t choke out your teeny plants.
Now watch and wait! Since you’ll be harvesting soon, you probably won’t have to worry about pests or diseases. When your microgreens have developed their first set of true leaves — generally about ten to fourteen days after planting — cut the microgreens just above the soil. Since the plants haven’t had time to develop, you won’t get any additional harvests from that planting, so if you want a new crop, just replant (no need to remove the old roots).
Once you’ve harvested, add your microgreens to salads, use as a nutritious garnish, or create a yummy soup. Since they’re so quick to reach harvest and will never need to be transplanted outdoors, it’s easy to experiment with different kinds of greens and makes a fun and delicious winter-time gardening activity.