Growing Magnificent Microgreens

Small in size but big on flavor, learn how to grow microgreens for a year-round crop that’s perfectly at home in the kitchen.

| Winter 2016-2017

  • For even more visual interest and variety in flavor, add some — or all — of these heirloom cultivars into your indoor microgreens rotation. All are available at 'Molten Fire' amaranth; 'Scarlet' kale; 'Pink Summercicle' radish; 'Early Purple Vienna' kohlrabi; 'Zwolsche Krul' celery; 'Bull's Blood' beet; 'Red Rubin' basil; 'Smokey' fennel; 'Golden' purslane
    Photo by Crystal Liepa
  • Shoots enter the microgreens stage just as their first true leaves appear.
    Photo by istock/temmuz can arsiray
  • All the equipment you'll need for a large microgreens planting.
    Photo by Crystal Liepa
  • Under good growing conditions, your microgreens should be ready to harvest in a week or two.
    Photo by Crystal Liepa
  • Harvesting micros is easy work and only takes a few moments with some scissors.
    Photo by Crystal Liepa
  • In a sealed glass jar, your microgreens will keep for up to two weeks if refrigerated.
    Photo by Crystal Liepa
  • When used as a garnish, microgreens add nutrients and intense flavor to savory dishes. This fried pork dish gets a big boost from a sprinkle of mustard microgreens.
    Photo by Crystal Liepa

Although some seed companies offer mixes designated as microgreens, there’s no such thing as specific seeds for microgreens. They aren’t grown using some special, almost magical seed that will produce a plant that’s only about 3 inches in height. Instead, microgreens can be grown from nearly any seed, representing one of the first stages of plant growth.

A plant enters the microgreen stage once the initial leaves, called cotyledons, give way to a plant’s true leaves. After becoming a microgreen, the growth into vegetable, herb, or fruit truly begins. In other words, if you plant seeds in order to get microgreens and then change your mind or leave them for longer than intended, the plant will begin maturing and, most likely, get too large for the pot you’ve chosen.

Fresh on the Scene

In terms of arrival on the home-garden scene, microgreens are the new kids on the block, but their popularity with chefs, small-scale farmers, and urban growers will likely propel microgreens past the trendy stage. Their cute size, mule-kick-level flavor, and nutritional clout make them a perfect addition to any indoor growing mix.

There’s a reason microgreens are catching on quickly. According to a recent study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, microgreens can have up to 40 times more nutrients than mature plants, ounce for ounce. Their nutritional density depends on the type of microgreen, but all seem lush with nutrients. Considering the nutrient boost microgreens can bring to a meal, keeping a small tray going in the kitchen is an easy way to benefit from their healthful qualities.

Most of all, though, there’s the flavor. A single, slender beet microgreen, only as long as a fingertip, can taste like a fully grown beet. Mustard and radish microgreens are far spicier than many people might expect, and carrot microgreens carry the fresh, sweet flavor of just-harvested vegetables. Also, when kept in glass containers in the refrigerator, microgreens can last for up to two weeks and still maintain their rich nutrient profile and hefty punch of flavor.

For those who are just getting started with indoor gardening, growing microgreens is an ideal initial project, and even for those who are experienced pros with kitchen gardens, the “crop” offers such endless variety that there’s always a new and zesty type of microgreen to try. So, let’s get growing.

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