We’re still firmly in winter’s icy grip here on Colorado’s Western Slope, and there’s no better cure for spring fever than growing something indoors. Let’s learn how to grow microgreens!
Microgreens sound fancy and expensive, but really they’re just tiny versions of things we already eat, like kale, radishes and beets. They are packed with nutrition, super flavorful, quick and easy to grow with no special equipment needed and absolutely gorgeous on the plate. What more could you ask from an indoor crop?
If you’re growing individual varieties, be sure to label your containers!
To grow microgreens, you only need a few things: shallow trays or cups, good-quality seed starting mix, seeds and a spray bottle of water. You can certainly orchestrate a more elaborate set-up with special trays and grow lights and heat mats and all of that, but you can grow these in simple paper cups on a sunny windowsill, too. Just know that your sprouting rate will definitely be affected by ambient temperature, so you may need to experiment a bit.
Because microgreens are harvested so young (typically after the first leaves appear), the containers don’t need to be deep – two inches is adequate. I started by poking holes into all of my scavenged containers to ensure that the seeds wouldn’t sit in a puddle of water. I then added a layer of seed starting mix, sprinkled the seeds on top, covered with another thin layer of soil and misted generously with my spray bottle.
When they’re sown this thickly, the seeds can actually shift the soil. Amazing strength from something so tiny!
Keep the soil moist but not saturated, and ideally let the containers live in as warm a place as possible. (Definitely lay an old towel or other moisture barrier between the trays and any floor or furniture surface!) Our house is typically less than sixty degrees in winter, so heat mats are mandatory here or nothing will ever germinate. Depending on where you’re growing your greens, you may see sprouts in as little as two days, and you’ll probably have your first harvest between a week and ten days after planting.
Why yes, I did rescue these containers from the recycling bin.
I made my own microgreen seed mix by combining lots of seeds from the Quiet Farm seed bank – beets, kale, chard, mustard, lettuces, radishes, and more. You can buy premixed seed packets, or you can experiment with what you already have. Microgreens are sown thickly because their roots don’t need room to grow; when these are grown in commercial greenhouses, like Rebel Farms, they look almost like a living carpet. Because you need so many seeds for growing quantities of microgreens, it can be cost-effective to either buy in bulk or start saving your own seeds from your outdoor garden. Different varieties will sprout at different times, so it can help your harvest schedule if you’ve sown an assortment.
When you’re ready to harvest, cut just what you need.
When your microgreens are about two inches high and have their first true leaves, they’re ready for harvest. Use sharp, clean scissors to give the greens a neat haircut, cutting as close to the soil as possible. Microgreens are fragile and delicate, so harvest carefully, and only wash if necessary; they don’t store well, so only cut what you’ll need for a single meal. You’ll never eat store-bought greens this fresh.
Look at the color on those beet stems!
Unlike many cut-and-come-again lettuce mixes, microgreens are only a single-harvest crop; the plants can’t regenerate once their first leaves are gone. This means that if you want to have these regularly, you need to succession plant, or sow a new crop every two to three days. Use your microgreens as a garnish on everything – soups, salads, grain bowls, eggs – wherever you want a burst of color and flavor. Just make sure to handle them carefully, and harvest only as needed.
Chasing the winter blues away with bright, vibrant, healthy food.
Growing microgreens is a fun, inexpensive indoor project for kids (don’t we all remember sprouting seeds in tiny cups at school?) and reminds adults of the inestimable magic of seeds. And when it’s this gloomy outside, isn’t a little magic exactly what we need?