What are Microgreens? Why are they so Healthy?
Extremely healthy but, what are they? Grown from seed, microgreens are typically grown from grains, herbs, salad greens, or vegetables. They are the germinated seed shoots with 2 or 4 baby leaves of the plants. Because microgreens are harvested within two weeks after germination, all the nutrients they need to grow are there. If they are harvested at the right time they are very concentrated with nutrients and the flavor and texture is also very good. But, once they’re harvested, they don’t last very long, you should eat them as soon as possible.
Amazing Nutritional Benefits of Microgreens
Tiny microgreens can pack big nutritional punch! Studies show, they can offer up to 44 times more nutrition compared to the same plants when grown to full size! Researchers found microgreens like red cabbage, cilantro, and radish contain up to 40 times higher levels of vital nutrients than their mature counterparts. The specific nutritional profile for each microgreen depends on the type of plant it comes from originally. Microgreens are most commonly harvested from leafy greens such as kale, arugula, beet greens, onions, radish greens, watercress, chard and bok choy and herbs such as cilantro, basil, chervil, parsley and chives.
How to Use and Store Microgreens
Best stored refrigerated on a moist paper towel, they can last up to one week. Ideally they are cut and washed just before use. You must handle them very gently and use dressings or sauces that won’t weigh them down. Perfect as a garnish or in a salad, they can sometimes be more nutritious than what you’re serving them over. Often used on sandwiches or wraps, you need to add them last because they can get crushed. Alfalfa sprouts seeds have been popular because they are so vigorous, resilient, and hold up so well when smashed. But, there are much better tasting types.
What Types of Microgreens Taste Good?
Nearly all of them! As an example, some are more bitter or peppery, like radishes, they taste just like the vegetables but a gentler flavor of them. The taste of microgreens depends on the original vegetable. Some microgreens have a very strong and concentrated taste of the original vegetable. Pea shoots, however, are very popular because they are sweeter than most. Beet microgreens and amaranth microgreens are popular because of the beautiful deep red color they produce. But, where have these beauties been all your life?
Where to Find Microgreens
Most are popularly provided at your farmer’s market in the spring. But, they can be grown year round in many places. Until recently, commercially grown microgreens have only been available to chefs, who use them as flavor accents and garnishes for soups, salads, and sandwiches. Today, they are available at most farmers markets and upscale grocery stores or online. I have found them at Whole Foods, or at Trader Joe’s stores. Lately, I’ve found another place to get them, my kitchen! Here’s 3 ways to grow microgreens at home.
How to Grow Microgreens in a Window Sill
Luckily, they are quick and easy to grow indoors on a sunny window sill. It’s a great project for kids, too. I remember how fun it was growing them in a little soil in a paper cup. This was in elementary school in the third grade, but, I still remember the delight! It was in a sunny southern exposure window sill in Southern California. Every child grew one lima bean sprout, but we didn’t eat them. We just had fun watching them grow! But, the same strategy works for growing microgreens in a small container, preferably narrow and long to fit in your window sill. This size system would be perfect to get started. Or, you could try a really simple system. Just look for organic soil that contains organic matter or fertilizer to use to grow it in. You don’t want to eat the chemicals!
How to Care for Your Simple Microgreen Sprouts
You can find a small bag of organic soil at a plant nursery or garden center. Once you soak the seeds in water for at least 6 hours or up to 3 days, you’ll see the sprouts begin to change. Then plant them just below the soil. Keep the soil moist but not dripping wet. Test the soil with your finger to test the moisture. The top should be somewhat dry but, the soil should feel moist about one half inch down. If you don’t have a green thumb, you could use a container with holes in the bottom (or poke holes) with a small dish underneath that will catch any water overflow. You can test them daily for moisture until you get the hang of it. But, there’s another microgreens growing method you can try that doesn’t even require soil…or testing for moisture.
How to Grow Microgreens without Soil
There is a company that makes hydroponic or sometimes they are called aquaponic aquariums, that I love. You don’t need to use grow lights, and any special equipment comes in a kit. I was given one as a gift, and I’ve expanded to more because they’re so much fun to use. This involves the use of one male Betta fish. You can easily find them at pet stores. This type of fish is well suited to solitary life in small aquariums. It’s set up as a symbiotic system meaning the fish and growing microgreens benefit each other. The fish supply the nitrogen from their waste, the plant roots filter and clean the water for the fish. Awe, beautiful. You’ll still have to feed the fish 6-10 grains of fish food per day, or buy the pellets that can be left for fish when you’re out of town. And, you’ll need to order seeds online. I buy organic seeds from the company that supplies the grow aquariums. And, these are the grow aquariums I use. They cost around $100 or less.
How to Grow Microgreens without an Aquarium
There are many convenient kitchen-sized hydroponic grow stations to use at home. You can buy the liquid nutrients and seeds, but these have the grow lights built-in. This is better because you can grow a wider variety of plants in addition to microgreens, such as herbs, lettuce, fruit, or even delicious edible flowers. Hello nasturtiums! I’ve wanted to buy one of these but they are triple the price of the hydroponic aquariums. Plus you have to buy the liquid nutrients since there’s not a fish supplying them. You could use a very basic grow system to get started and these can all be used anytime of the year since they come with grow lights. Here’s the growing system I’d like to buy next. And here’s a less expensive system you might prefer. Once you get set up, you’ll need some phenomenal recipes with which to use them.