Growing Microgreens, or, houseplants you can eat!
Remember in grade school when you grew a bean plant from a seed on the school windowsill? Growing microgreens is just as simple, and even more rewarding. Microgreens are full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes and the fact that you can harvest them at home and consume them right away means none of these nutrients are lost due to transportation and storage time.
So what is the difference between microgreens and sprouts you may ask? Sprouts are grown in the dark without soil, and you eat the entire plant, including the seed. Microgreens are grown in soil in the sun and are allowed to grow until they have produced two “true” leaves along the stem. At this stage they are at their most nutrient-rich, full of concentrated active compounds which classify them as a “functional food” - foods which contain particular health promoting or disease preventing properties in addition to their normal nutritional value.
Types of seeds
Seed mixes specifically for growing microgreens are available, such as those from Botanical Interest (available locally at Mahoney’s garden center and Hyannis Country Garden, among others). Their “Savory Mix” includes seeds of beet, swiss chard, radish, mustard, cress, cabbage, and kohlrabi. Johnny’s Selected Seeds and True Leaf Market also have an extensive selection of microgreen seeds online. You can try any of your favorite greens, however, and grow them as a microgreen. Some of the easiest are radish, cabbage, and cress. Broccoli is a “super” microgreen as it contains the micronutrient sulphoraphane, shown to reduce the bacteria which causes stomach cancer and ulcers.
How to grow
Microgreens are ideal to grow in small spaces - a sunny spot is all that’s needed. Shallow containers with drainage holes work best, such as recycled plastic berry or salad green containers from the market. Drainage is the key, without it your greens may succumb to mould or rot. Fill the containers near to the top with a seed-starting mix, press down gently to create a flat surface and generously scatter your seeds on top. Cover the seeds with a fine layer of soil and water until damp but not soaking. Cover the container with plastic wrap or container lid and place in a warm, dark environment until germination occurs (usually 1-2 days). Once germinated remove the cover material and place the container in a sunny spot and keep evenly moist. In 7-14 days you will have beautiful, healthful greens ready to harvest. Simply snip the greens at the base of the stem, wash, and enjoy!