It has been a while since we have had a freshly grown salad. As winter continues on, now is a good time to try growing microgreens indoors. Microgreens are great for adding to store bought salad mix or eating on top of appetizers. These green shoots add variety and interest and bring a whole lot of nutrition in a tiny package with them.
Microgreens are not the same as sprouts. While sprouts are sprouted seeds eaten soon after sprouting and grown under damp, non-soil conditions, microgreens are grown either in soil or a soil-like growing medium that holds moisture well. Additionally, microgreens are usually not eaten until after the first “true leaves” (leaves three, four…) emerge. The microgreen root is left behind and only the green above the soil line is harvested. A microgreen crop, planting to harvest, takes about 2 weeks, but varies depending on the crop planted.
There are several microgreen growing kits on the market. Kits are a more expensive way to go but they do include everything you need and instructions that are easily followed and seed that is specially chosen for microgreen crops.
Growing microgreens without a kit works too. Fill some shallow trays (with drainage holes) with about 2”s of good potting mix. Plant each seed type separately because not everything grows at the same rate. Using left over garden seeds such as lettuce mix, mustard greens, beets, radishes, broccoli, kale, cilantro, parsley, basil, dill…sprinkle seeds over the soil. Seeds should be spread about ¼ to 1/2 inch apart to achieve a full crop but not so close that air can’t flow through the seedlings. Lightly press seeds into the soil so good seed-soil contact is obtained. Apply another light (sparse) layer of potting soil. Place your planted trays into another tray without drainage holes. Water your newly planted crop, cover with plastic and place in a well lit window or put under grow lights for 12-14 hours each day. Once seedlings begin to emerge remove the plastic. Water trays from the bottom when needed, which helps deter mold growth.
The first two leaves to pop are not true leaves. Wait until more leaves appear before harvesting. To harvest, cut the greens with a pair of scissors above the soil level. The cut plants will not regenerate but cutting them with scissors keeps dirt off the greens and prevents disruption of neighboring plants. Only harvest what you will need and leave the other leaves to grow on the plant until needed. Always wash greens before adding them to your plate. Mold and/or microorganisms are always possible and therefore microgreens should be washed before consuming.
Variations in growing methods do exist. Some kits suggest starting seeds in darkness, using food grade peroxide in your misting water, etc. Find methods that work for you through additional research and trial and error.
Salads can be boring but additions like microgreens change the flavor. Use them in addition to olives, homemade dressings, boiled egg, capers, grilled chicken, beet pickles, a sprinkle of basil, dill, or thyme will liven up your winter salads by providing varying flavor each time.