If you’re reading about microgreens, mucilaginous is a word you’ll come across frequently. This is because a very wide variety of microgreens have mucilaginous seeds, and here’s why a microgreen grower must know about it.
What are Mucilaginous Seeds?
Mucilaginous is an adjective derived from mucilage. Mucilage is a gelatinous substance naturally secreted by seeds and is mainly composed of proteins and polysaccharides. So mucilaginous actually means “full of” or “secreting” mucilage.
How to identify Mucilaginous Seeds?
Prepare a tray with ¾ of its height filled with soil and place a handful of Red Rubin microgreens. To record changes take a picture and then spray water. The soil provides the contrast, and within 3-4 minutes, you might notice the seeds secreting a white jelly-like substance. Secreting mucilage is an immediate response of mucilaginous seeds to wet conditions.
Role of Mucilaginous Seeds
It’s should be no surprise if I told you mucilage is secreted for protection. The quick formation of mucilage is to retain moisture around the seed.
The long term benefits of mucilage are that it acts as a bank for the embryo and regulates the water uptake of the embryo. In dry, wilting conditions, the mucilaginous capsule is available to provide water and also has the tendency to repeal water when the embryo reaches its saturation point.
Besides internal benefits, mucilage also assists the seed in holding onto soil particles, protects from UV and harmful rays.
The most fascinating and interesting role of the gel is allelopathy. The gel provides mucilaginous microgreens, an added advantage to compete with other seeds for nutrients and water. It secretes chemicals that negatively influence the germination and growth of neighboring seeds. As a result, the metabolism and reactions of the adjacent seeds are slowed down, letting mucilaginous seed to nourish fully.
Types of Mucilaginous Seeds and their nutritional benefits
Although almost all microgreens are mucilaginous, only few are visible to the naked eye. Some of the most popular mucilaginous seeds include Basil, Arugula, Cress, Flax, Radish, Chia and a few kinds of mustards.
Chia seeds are small black and white seeds, but its powerful health and nutritional benefits are what make these a very good component of a healthy diet. The seeds are extremely advantageous for the circulatory system due to high content of Omega 3 oils. It helps lower blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and trigs. Its anti-inflammatory properties make it an efficient cure for inflammatory diseases. The high fiber content promotes the growth of good bacteria in the colon.
Flax seeds are very commonly used by females to maintain hormones level, increase fertility and ease menopause as it is rich in lignans. The Omega 3 oils and good fiber assist in lowering cholesterol and strengthening the immune system. Flaxseeds also contain magnesium, B Vitamins, and manganese and help maintain blood sugar, sooth, and enable movement of GI tract. The low-calorie content works well for weight loss, and its tendency to make you feel full makes you eat less. Flax also contains polyphenols like green tea and many antioxidants that are important to prevent cancer.
How to grow Mucilaginous Seeds
Choose a tray of your choice with small holes in the base which help in watering the seeds. Bottom watering is better than top watering as it keeps the greens clean and the force of the water does not harm the delicate shoots. Add premium potting mix to it and firmly compact and level it just below the top of the tray.
Using a spray bottle, wet the soil surface with un-chlorinated water and allow the water to soak into the soil, then respray the surface. If there are any depressions or high spots in the soil, level them out with your finger. It is very important to remember that the seeds are not supposed to be pre-wet because they are mucilaginous and will clump together.
Put the seeds in a shaker bottle, which will allow you to spread the seeds evenly as much as possible.
The number of seeds you plant depends upon the area of the tray. For example, an ounce of Genovese basil seeds approximately contains 16000-17000 seeds or 560-600 seeds per gram. It is recommended that 15 seeds of Genovese basil seeds should be planted per square inch. On the other hand, there are 2500-2600 Radish microgreens per ounce or 90 seeds per gram. Preferably, 10 seeds of these should be planted per square inch.
Similarly, plan and calculate the seeds you would require according to your tray size.
It’s sowing time!
Sprinkle the seeds in concentric circles in the tray and look out for bouncing seeds. In this step, the even spacing of seeds is of utmost importance mostly because of the biochemical response of mucilaginous seeds to adjacent seeds and also to avoid clumping. If necessary, use your hand to spread the seeds. It’s not obligatory that the seeds have equal space amongst them but should have enough space to sprout.
Water is highly essential for germinating seed. After sowing, gently spray water over the seeds to wet them.
Do not over wet them due to the seeds’ property to already retain water. You might observe the gel form almost immediately.
Place the planting tray inside a watering tray holding a sufficient depth of water. Now cover the seeds. Make sure it’s not air tight; instead, the cover works to keep light off the seeds. This is generally called the blackout phase.
Let this stand for 2-3 in case of Radish microgreens and 4 days for Genovese basil. Do not lift cover throughout this time because the seeds may stick to the cover, and the seedling is damaged.
When the seeds are through the germinating phase, you will notice it sprout. If the surface is dry, gently spray water over the leaves.
Make up for the blackout period by providing the plants with ample sunlight or any kind of light. The plant should be exposed to light continuously.
After the seeds grow in light, they are to be watered from the bottom using the watering tray. This helps prevents damping-off disease. Rise water from the watering tray through the holes, but make sure the soil doesn’t become too wet.
On average, it takes Genovese basil seeds 12-20 to fully grow and 8-10 days for Radish microgreens. Its then time to harvest.