A Tiny, Yet Powerful Crop Anyone Can Grow (and they are delicious too)

Microgreens are young vegetable or herb plants that are grown to approximately 1 to 3 inches tall. Microgreens are usually harvested seven to 21 days after germination, once the plant’s first ‘true leaves’ have emerged. They have an aromatic flavor and concentrated nutrient content and come in a variety of colors and textures. 

You’ll often spot microgreens gracing the plates in fancy restaurants, but they are very easy to grow at home. Here’s why you should consider getting started with this mini gardening trend, and how to grow them on your very own kitchen countertop.

Why you should start growing microgreens now 

Fresh organic produce, fast

Microgreens are the second-fastest thing you can grow and eat – only sprouts are faster. They are one of the easiest ways to become more self-reliant and save money on food while getting more healthy, organic food down your gullet. Since microgreens can be grown from virtually any vegetable or herb, it’s a great way to get more variety in your diet. And because you have full control over the growing conditions, you can be sure that your fresh greens are free of the chemicals, pesticides, or antibacterial treatments that can be found on commercial produce.

Locally-grown & nutritious

Microgreens are about as local as you can get – your kitchen countertop! The short time between harvest and plate means microgreens are more nutritious than food from the grocery store, which may travel hundreds of miles and spend days or weeks in warehouses and trucks before it ever reaches your plate. And if that’s not enough, microgreens have been found to be many times over more nutritious than mature plants, containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and polyphenols

It is a satisfying & rewarding hobby

When you grow your own food and eat it, you get a deep sense of wellbeing. The routine and the primal wonder of watching seeds grow, knowing that you are doing it in the name of self-care, is just as beneficial for emotional health as it is for physical wellness. Not only are microgreens lots of fun to grow, but they also look beautiful on your kitchen countertop. They come in different colors, from bright green to deep red, and can be grown in decorative containers such as clay pots of recycled tins to add unique decor to your space.

Improve digestion

Thanks to the fiber content of microgreens, you can look forward to better digestion when you eat them regularly. They will also help you consume more living enzymes, which can help unlock the nutrients in food and promote more regular bathroom habits.

Help prevent cancer

A 2020 study revealed that the antioxidant and polyphenol levels in microgreens could make them valuable for preventing or reducing the development of cancerous cells. The researchers recommend a daily intake of brassica microgreens, such as broccoli, kale, mustard, and radish, as a preventative nutritional strategy against cancers such as colon cancer.

Lower the risk of heart disease

Studies show that eating more vegetables is associated with reduced heart disease risk factors and a lower risk of heart disease. One animal study fed rats a high-fat diet supplemented with red cabbage microgreens. The microgreens reduced weight gain by 17 percent, slashed bad LDL cholesterol by 34 percent, and cut triglycerides by 23 percent. It’s clear that incorporating a serving or two of microgreens into your day could help keep your heart strong and disease-free.

Fight Alzheimer’s disease

Research suggests polyphenols have been associated with a reduced risk of inflammatory diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. A 2013 study measured the polyphenols in five microgreens from the Brassica family, including red cabbage, purple kohlrabi, mizuna, and red and purple mustard greens. Not only were the microgreens found to be good sources of polyphenols, but they actually contained a wider variety of polyphenols than their mature vegetable counterparts. Therefore, microgreens are promising for protecting brain health.

Improve blood sugar balance 

Diabetes is an inflammatory disease, and the antioxidants found in microgreens may help reduce the type of inflammatory damage that can disturb the metabolic process and cause blood sugar imbalances. In lab studies, fenugreek microgreens were seen to enhance cellular sugar uptake by 25 to 44 percent, while buckwheat microgreens contain phenolic compounds that can help fight diabetes and other chronic diseases.

There are many good reasons to eat microgreens daily. Luckily, it’s easy to grow your own fresh supply at a minimal cost.

How to grow nutritious microgreens at home

While growing microgreens is simple and straightforward, certain types are easier to grow than others. If you’re worried about your ‘brown thumb’ getting in the way, here are some of the best types for beginners:

  • Arugula
  • Broccoli
  • Buckwheat
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Chia
  • Chinese mustard
  • Endive
  • Kale 

Once you’ve chosen your seeds, you’ll need a container to grow them in and some soil or soil-less medium such as vermiculite.

Step 1: Prepare your seeds

To help your microgreen seeds germinate quickly, pre-soak larger seeds in warm water for a few hours. After pre-soaking, drain, and rinse large seeds. For small seeds, you can skip this step.

Step 2: Prepare your container

Choose containers that are shallow, lightweight, and portable: plastic takeout trays, recycled food containers, or purpose-made seed trays all work. Wide, shallow containers that maximize the growing surface are best. Drainage is necessary, so punch holes in the bottoms of the containers, if needed. If you’re using a seedling tray, lay some moistened paper towel or newspaper on the bottom to stop the soil from falling through. Fill your desired planter about 3/4 full of moist soil about an inch deep. Try to use lighter, finer soil mixes as heavier or chunkier ones will be too dense for the seeds to push through. 

Step 3: Sow and grow your seeds

Sprinkle your seeds evenly over the surface of the soil and press in lightly. For smaller seeds, you can just apply a thin layer of soil over the top, so they are covered. Lightly water the newly planted seeds by misting with a spray bottle. To create a warm, humid environment for germination, cover the seeds with a wet cloth, paper towels or newspaper, and seal in the moisture with plastic wrap or a food cover. This is a great way to re-use the lids of strawberry containers or other clear plastic lids. Place seeds in a warm place out of direct sunlight, and check on them frequently. Once the seeds have germinated, remove their coverings, and move the planter into daylight. Developing seedlings will need water, but don’t overwater them. All that’s required is for the soil to look and feel evenly moist.

Step 4: Harvest your microgreens

Once germinated, it’s a good idea to apply some organic plant food, such as a seaweed solution, to feed the plants. This improves flavor and boosts nutrition. The plants are ready to harvest seven to 21 days from sowing when they are about one to two inches high. Use sharp scissors to cut the stems just above the soil and wash immediately in cool water before serving. Shelf life is short, but if they are kept in a sealed container in the fridge, they will last several days.

How to eat your new microgreens

Microgreens are so much fun to experiment with in the kitchen. The different flavors, colors, and textures will add fun to your everyday dishes such as salads, sandwiches, and wraps. Sprinkle on top of almost any dish, such as pizzas, soups, or stir-fries, or cook into a tasty omelet.

Enjoy your daily microgreens knowing that you’re doing your health a huge favor in the process! 

-Liivi Hess

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