What are Microgreens?
Microgreens are tiny edible seedlings collected after germination, specifically after the appearance of their first two true leaves. The main difference between a microgreen and an outbreak is that the shoots are intended to be consumed alongside the seed and the root.
The microgreens are ready to be harvested in a period of between four days and three weeks, depending on the type. Their tender stem, cotyledons and true leaves are the main edible parts.
The overwhelming data on their nutritional properties are turning microgreens into one of the most interesting novelties in the fresh vegetable market, to the point of being considered a superfood by various researchers and nutritionists.
Scientific studies from two major American universities have shown that the same plant species harvested when it is still a microgreen, has an antioxidant content of up to twelve times higher than if it was harvested at the point of commercial maturity.
Thus, for example, the microgreen of a variety of cabbage, has up to four hundred times more vitamin E than the same ripe cabbage, sixty times more vitamin K and six times more vitamin C. This makes a few grams of microgreens able to provide the recommended daily amount for these vitamins to an average adult. In addition, they are not only rich in vitamins and antioxidants, but also an ideal source of minerals.
What seeds can I use to grow microgreens?
The most commonly used seeds for microgreens are: basil, amaranth, broccoli, cabbage, coriander, kohlrabi, spinach, peas, mustard, pak choi, radish, beet, rocket, sunflower seeds, cress, red clover and wheatgrass.
What material do I need for cultivation?
- Culture trays
- Sowing land: organic crop substrate or a mixture of 60% peat or coconut fiber + 40% earthworm humus
Where can I put the culture trays?
A small micro-garden needs little space and can be grown both indoors and outdoors. In the soaking and germination phase, the seeds should be in a warm place at an ideal temperature of 18-24ºC. Once the seeds sprout, uncover them and place them in a lighted area. They will grow well next to a bright window or on any balcony or sill and can also be grown in warm climates in the garden, but in a protected place and sheltered from direct sunlight.
If you do not have a sunny corner or want a more automatic and controlled system you can choose to use an automatic indoor micro-garden. It is a gardener with a self-irrigation system and built-in light, which allows plants to feed through the water with nutrients, which makes them grow three times faster than in normal conditions.
You can also use an electric germinator, which is an automatic sprout cultivator that allows germination with very little effort. You simply have to keep the water tank full. The automatic germinator sprays clean water several times a day, according to your programming and creates a microclimate inside is perfect for plant growth. You don’t have to do anything else!
The micro garden is perfect in case of interiors where there is no natural light. The electric germinator makes it possible to grow larger quantities of sprouts and microgreems, although it is better to be exposed to light so that they can generate chlorophyll and avoid obtaining totally pale plants.
General procedure: step by step to grow microgreens
Step 1: Soak
- Wash the seeds with a strainer in a germination bag or in a germination jar .
- Soak the seeds for about 4-8 hours (depending on the size of the seed). We can soak them in the same bag or jar. Mucilaginous seeds like arugula, watercress, mustard or basil need not be soaked beforehand).
- Introduce the seeds in the germination bag or in the germination jar and wait for them to begin to germinate. You have to wash them two or three times a day. Once they have reached the same size as the grain, they will be ready to sow.
- The previous two steps can be skipped, and seeds are sown directly on the wet substrate, especially if they are very small or mucilaginous seeds.
Step 2: The preparation of the culture tray
- Prepare the culture tray by spreading the substrate on the tray forming a layer about 2-3 cm deep. We can use containers that we have for this use. We can also cultivate with soil; in this case, we recommend using a large germination tray. If we use a micro-garden or indoor garden, we will use a pot that fits inside, or several of them, if we use a large micro-garden.
- Soak the soil with water without flooding it, leaving it moist and spongy.
Step 3: Planting
- Spread germinated or non-germinated seeds evenly on the ground, pressing them slightly with your hands. It should be well filled with seeds, and there should be little space between the seeds, although this will differ depending on the type.
- Moisten the seeds again with the sprayer.
- Cover the tray with another tray of the same size or with a rag. Let it stand for 3-4 days.
- Uncover the tray and put it in a place that gives indirect sunlight (except with micro-gardens, which have the built-in light).
Step 4: Maintenance
- Keep the soil moist without flooding it. Do not let it dry.
- At this stage, the plants can be enriched with a solution based on compounds rich in trace elements, thus increasing the nutritional value of the plant, but it is completely optional. Two options to pay for our micro garden are kelp powder and macerated compost.
Step 5: The collection
- Once they reach the desired size, between 2 and 4 weeks after planting, collect with scissors or a sharp knife taking small bunches by hand.
- Wash them by soaking them in a bowl of water, drain them well and use them directly in the salad or store them in the fridge. One of the advantages is that they can be harvested when you need to consume them.
- Sometimes if the stems continue to be watered, a second crop returns.
- Once harvested, we can reuse the soil to compost.