We’ve talked about growing and eating superfoods in previous articles, and this time, we’re going to be delving into the world of microgreens. Despite their small size, microgreens pack a serious punch in terms of flavour as well as nutrients. According to an article on WebMD, microgreens have up to 40 times more vital nutrients than mature plants. For example, cilantro microgreens had the highest recorded levels of lutein and beta-carotene while other varieties like red cabbage had 40 times more vitamin E and six times more vitamin C than mature red cabbage.
You too can harness those nutrients, especially over the winter when fresh living plants are harder to find. What’s even better is you can harvest your microgreens right when you need them, ensuring they still fresh, living, and retaining as many nutrients for as long as possible. Kids love seeing the beautiful color and fun size of these mini greens, adding them to salads and sandwiches, and tasting the vibrant flavours of healthy plants. For these reasons, we’re eating more and more microgreens.
What Are Microgreens?
Microgreens are very young plants. They are alive, full of vigor, and have the potential to grow into full sized plants if given the time and space. Vegetable and/or herb seeds are placed in a potting soil or growing media base along with bright lights and regular watering that allow for photosynthesis to take place and the uptake of nutrients from the soil/growing media. Seeds are spread in a thin layer, meaning each individual seed/plant has space in which to grow and develop. Once the seeds germinate, their seed leaves and sometimes their first set of true leaves are allowed to grow before being harvested. Good air flow among microgreens results in increased vigor, more vibrant colour, stronger flavour, and a greatly reduced chance of harmful bacterial buildup.Microgreens are best purchased/harvested while they are young and still growing, rooted in the soil to be cut just when needed by the end user. Many varieties of microgreens can be ready in 1-2 weeks, though some take 4-6 weeks (ex. basil) to be ready for harvesting. Microgreens are harvested by cutting the plant just above the roots. The stems and expanded leaves are eaten while the roots are left behind in the soil.
What’s the Difference Between Microgreens and Sprouts?
Microgreens and sprouts are similar in that they are both very young plants, however there are some key differences. Sprouts simply are seeds that have been germinated. They are not grown in soil but rather in a humid environment in jars, cloth bags, large drums, or with hydroponic equipment. The seeds are soaked and the abundance of moisture allows them to grow and germinate quite quickly. A high density of seed is typically used, meaning they germinate and grow in warm, wet, and crowded conditions. Sprouts are typically rinsed 2-6 times per day to prevent spoilage and make for a thick tangled mass of sprouts. Unlike microgreens, Sprouts do not need much light to grow and are often grown in dark conditions. This creates a moist, dark, damp environment that has the potential to lead to harmful bacterial growth and buildup if adequate sanitary measures are not taken. For this reason, some retailers and restaurants do not carry sprouts.After the seeds have sprouted, the entire sprout/plant is eaten including the root, stem and underdeveloped leaves. Many sprouts can be ready in less than one week.
Why Should I Eat and/or Grow Microgreens?
We love sprouting and encourage everyone to grow their own sprouts. However, for those that want to really take their sprouts to the next level, microgreens are a perfect way to do that while enjoying fresh, vibrant veg. Think of microgreens like supercharged sprouts. Not only do they have a stronger taste, they keep longer and are just as easy to grow. Whether we’re in the shortened days of winter or the dog days of summer, microgreens help to liven up and bring loads of essential nutrients to your meals.
Where Can I Get Microgreens?
If you have a very sunny window, sun room, or greenhouse, you can grow your own microgreens indoors in a more temperature and climate controlled space. Like most plants, they do best planted in a rich loam or potting soil mix in trays with good drainage. During the warmer spring/summer/fall seasons, you can grow microgreens outdoors in your garden in trays, raised beds, containers, or directly in the ground. Remember to harvest them before they get too big and crowded. Indoors, microgreens can also be grown under growing lights all year round.
One of our favourite ways to grow microgreens is with the Urban Cultivator. This indoor appliance comes in two sizes – a home size and a commercial size. The home size fits into a space the size of a dishwasher and the larger commercial size is intended more for restaurants, caterers and venues who go through a lot of microgreens. For those interested in purchasing their own Urban Cultivator, we offer setup, installation, and one month of troubleshooting and maintenance tips to help get the best start possible. A listing in our online store is coming soon. Until then, please contact us to arrange your order or for additional inquiries.
2. Order Living Microgreens from YUF