How to Grow Microgreens at Home
Yes, these nutritious little greens do exist outside of fancy restaurant menus!
If you’ve been to a trendy restaurant or have been served fancy toast at a café, you’ve likely eaten microgreens. Surprisingly, this fancy garnish is more than just an afterthought. Not only do microgreens pack a nutritional punch, they are easy to grow right on your windowsill. Add some of these miracle greens to your dinner party entrée to impress your guests.
Microgreens are the edible greens that germinate from the seeds of vegetables and herbs. They are harvested at the seedling stage, after two small leaves have appeared. In other words, microgreens aren’t all that unique after all — they are actually tiny versions of traditional greens.
Microgreens are intensely flavorful and add color and texture to many dishes including toast, salads, soups and a variety of entrees. Now that you’re paying attention to microgreens, you may notice that they aren’t all the same. These small greens are derived from a variety of different veggies and herbs like arugula, beets, broccoli, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, cress, radish, basil and cilantro.
These greens are less mature than the full-grown version, so does that make them less healthy? While there isn’t much research on the nutritional content of microgreens, a recent study did look at the composition of Vitamin A, C, E and K in several breeds. The researchers found varying nutrient levels in each green, based on the growing, handling and harvesting conditions. However, as compared to the nutritional composition of the mature leaves, microgreens were found to have a higher nutritional density. Needless to say, this fancy garnish serves a greater purpose than just looking pretty.
Growing Microgreens at Home
Luckily, you don’t need a green thumb to produce these plants at home. “If you don't want to invest too much money, you can begin with a seed starting tray with a top, seed starting soil, and of course, seeds,” says Emily Kyle, MS, RDN owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition and gardening expert. Kyle also warns that although microgreens are immature crops, it’s vital to purchase microgreens seeds to have a successful crop.
“Consider starting with familiar plants, such as lettuce, kale, or radish, as well as herbs like basil, cilantro, and watercress. Once you're more familiar with growing, you can get adventurous and try new types like sunflower micro greens, which have an unusual but surprisingly delicious flavor,” says Kyle. While the growing technique will vary by plant — indoors versus outdoor and amount of water — bright light is essential to successfully growing microgreens, according to Kyle. If this is your first at-home DIY gardening project, utilize your windowsills to make sure the plants get adequate light.
The best part about growing these seeds is how quickly you can see the fruits of your labor. “Some fast growing micro greens, such as radish, can be ready to harvest in less than two weeks from planting, while seeds, such as carrots, will take at least two to three weeks to germinate,” says Kyle. They are ready for the picking when the leaves open fully and turn green. From there, clip and wash them and pair with your favorite dish.