Microgreens: Little Plant, Big Benefits
Microgreens are the second stage of plant growth after the sprout. They were first only grown for and used in high end restaurants, but now they are becoming more widespread and utilized. Before you get started -- eating them or growing your own -- there are some things you should know.
Microgreen vs. Sprout
Many people confuse sprouts and microgreens, let me clear this up. Sprouts are the first stage of germination when the root first pops out. When you eat a sprout you are eating the sprouted seed and the root. Sometimes, like with alfalfa sprouts, they include the first leaves or pales. These leaves are not developed at this point, but typically sprouts are eaten when the root first emerges. Sprouts are grown in a jar or other container without soil. You first soak the seeds overnight (8hrs) and then you dump water and rinse the seeds, do this three times per day until seeds germinate.
Microgreens can be grown in soil or hydroponically, but I only grow in soil. I use a shallow tray and densely plant the seeds, about four to six seeds per square inch. Plants are grown and harvested with the first generic leaves, called cotyledons; these leaves look the same on plants from the same family. I typically wait until the first true leaves emerge; this gives the salad a bit more texture and color. Once the first true leaves come out, the tray is harvested. This process takes anywhere from one to three weeks, depending on the plant. Trays are harvested with scissors or electric trimmers and then tray is dumped and soil is recycled. Some plants can be harvested multiple times, but most are cut below the cotyledon and they will not grow back.
Farmer Jay My favorite seed sources for microgreens.
Here are some varieties I grow: lettuces, greens, mustards, radishes, beets, carrots, herbs, celery, corn, beans, clover, amaranth, and purslane.
Health Benefits of Microgreens
In nature the seed is stored energy and nutrients. By design the seed has enough nutrients to jump start a plant to life and feed it enough until it begins to photosynthesize and feed itself. So, if we harvest the plant at this young age, when it is still growing from the stored energy and nutrients, then we can benefit from these nutrients. Therefore, by eating microgreens we are eating and benefiting from an escalated amount of nutrients that the plant uses to shoot the stem and leaves up to the sun's light. So microgreens are super concentrated with vitamins and minerals.