by Andrea Knepper, Extension Master Gardener, University of Vermont
BOLTON – What could be better than fresh greens during the dreary winter months? What if you grew and harvested them yourself?
Growing microgreens in your home is easy, cost-effective and satisfying. All you need is some soil, seeds and a sunny spot.
Microgreens are immature plants that can be ready to harvest in one to two weeks. They are nutrient-dense with some varieties having up to a 40 percent greater concentration of some micronutrients according to researchers at the University of Maryland. Any seeds can be used for microgreens, but because they are harvested at an early stage, they should be untreated and organic.
Plants that are quick to sprout are good options for microgreens. Radishes, broccoli, cabbage, peas and sunflowers are popular choices as are the spicy flavors of mustards, basil and cilantro. Microgreen blends also are available from most seed suppliers.
To get started, find a container. Take-out containers, plastic produce containers, cardboard juice cartons and seed-starting trays will all work.
Choose a light, indoor potting soil or seed-starting mix. Put about two inches of the soil in your container.
Spread your seeds over the soil. The seeds should form a dense layer but not cover each other. Loosely cover the container with its lid or an unsecured layer of plastic wrap. Or lightly cover the seeds with more soil.
Use a spray bottle to mist the seeds thoroughly. Keep the soil moist until the seeds sprout.
When the seeds have sprouted, remove the cover. New seedlings need at least four hours of direct sunlight. Grow lights can be used if you don’t have a windowsill or counter that receives enough sunlight.
Microgreens will be ready to harvest when they have one set of true leaves. Seed leaves, or cotyledons, are the first to develop after the seed sprouts.
Keep tending your seedlings until more leaves appear. These leaves will look different. They are the true leaves and will resemble the adult leaves of the plant. Your microgreens are now ready to harvest.
You can plant new seeds over the clipped stems. Lightly cover the seeds with fresh potting soil, and repeat the process for another harvest.
Give your microgreens a wash, and they are ready to enjoy. Add fresh microgreens to salads and sandwiches. Use them in place of lettuce in tacos and burgers. Garnish dishes or blend into smoothies for a nutritional boost.
Microgreens can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Just make sure that they are completely dry before storing.
For a step-by-step guide to growing microgreens at home, go to //go.uvm.edu/microgreens.
[Andrea Knepper is a UVM Extension Master Gardener from Bolton.]