Growing Microgreens at Home
Not all local food has to be purchased! Growing your own food is rewarding, offers the freshest options, and allows you to try any variety you want. You don’t have to have five acres of your own, a decent sized yard, or even any land at all. Even apartment dwellers can grow tasty microgreens in their apartment with little set up. Even better, growing microgreens can be done year round. You can join Winter CSAs, or visit Winter Farmers Markets in your community, but growing microgreens at home in the winter means fresh food all year!
Delicious microgreens are simply the immature plant of a seed grown in soil. They are harvested about two to four weeks after planting. Growing microgreens is easy to do. They take up little space and grow quickly. Microgreens are great to grow indoors, and have more nutritious compounds than their mature counterparts. If you have a grow light or a sunny window, growing microgreens is great! They are highly perishable, so growing them yourself guarantees the most nutritious plants. Try adding your microgreens to sandwiches, wraps, and salads. They are also delicious in smoothies and juices. You can also try putting them on pizza, in soups, omelets, and curries.
According to Healthline.com, microgreens are rich in potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper. They also contain a lot of antioxidants. Some studies show they have more nutrients than their mature counterparts, but not all studies show this result. However, eating microgreens may reduce risks of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and certain cancers. One study published by the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry tested twenty five different commercially available microgreen varieties, from arugula to wasabi. They looked for phytonutrients and carotenoids. In general, researchers found that microgreens contained higher concentrations of these nutrients than their mature counterparts. However, there were large variations among the species tested.
Any edible plant can technically be grown and consumed as a microgreen. Different varieties can taste mellow, spicy, tangy, earthy, nutty, or crisp. At Bootstrap Farmer, they have a table showing the easiest seeds to grow. Some of the more popular options are lettuce, kale, spinach, radish, beet, watercress, herbs, greens, cabbage, mustard, chia, sunflower and buckwheat.
Only a few supplies are needed to get started growing microgreens. Start out with a container (any old food container can be used), some good seeds, a spray bottle, and potting mix. If you don’t have a sunny window, you may wish to purchase a grow light. A warming mat can also be useful if your location is chilly. You can also grow microgreens outside when the weather is warm.
To start, poke some holes in your container for drainage. You may wish to line the container with a damp paper towel or scrap of clean fabric. Then add an inch or so of moist potting soil and smooth it out evenly, taking care not to compress it. Take your seeds and scatter them evenly, at a much higher rate than you would for growing mature plants. Cover them with a thin layer of soil, and mist the top carefully to not dislodge the seeds. Place the newly planted container on your windowsill or under your grow light. Mist it twice a day to keep soil moist.
After two to four weeks, once the cotyledons (seed leaves) and the first set of true leaves have grown, the plants are ready for harvest. They should be one to two inches high at this point. Cut them with scissors, rinse with water and dry them. Eat immediately for the best flavor, and store the rest in a plastic bag in the fridge.
Here in your Baltimore Foodshed, there are two retailers that specialize in growing microgreens. If you want to buy your greens rather than grow them, go check out Pure Fresh Microgreens, located in Gwynn Oak, or Metro Microgreens, located in Rockville.