Age-Old Wisdom meets Modern Tools
Growing Sprouts vs. Microgreens
And What Are Microgreens, Anyway?
Winter is a great time for experimenting. Since I was feeling starved for green, growing goodness to eat last month, I gave microgreens a try. I have been a longtime sprout-lover, so I grew some of those too, just to see which I liked better.
While doing a seed inventory I found we had lots of extra lettuce, kale, and dill seeds which I added to a mesclun mixture of arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, chervil, and more lettuce to use for my microgreen mix.
What Are Microgreens?
What are microgreens, anyway? The seedlings of just about any vegetable or herb can be eaten shortly after they have germinated. Most microgreens are harvested after the first true leaves appear but they can be eaten at the cotyledon stage.
They can be grown hydroponically on foam or fleece or other woven textile but I prefer a compost based potting soil. Others recommend using a soilless mix.
Sow the seeds thickly over your moist growing medium and cover with paper towels, fine vermiculite, or soilless mix.
Water gently and cover with a plastic dome. I like using the paper towels because it is easy to lift and check on the seeds’ progress. Keep them moist but not soggy. In 7 to 14 days, depending on the seeds you have planted, they should be sprouting and pushing up the paper towels.
My microgreens sprouted in 4 days.
Members of the cole family are fast sprouting including mustard, radishes, and cress. Herbs such as basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, and borage are slower to emerge as are beets, chard, arugula, and purslane. You can also grow shoots of peas, wheat, buckwheat, sunflowers, and nasturtiums this way. It is recommended to group plants that have similar growth rates.
Once they have sprouted remove the paper towels and move them into the light.
Clip them off at the soil line after the true leaves appear. Handle with care, wash to remove any dirt or seed hulls, dry, and use immediately or refrigerate until you need them. For the most flavor and nutrients eat them right away.
At the same time I started the microgreens I also started a batch of sprouts. Since there have been problems with people becoming sick and even dying after eating sprouts contaminated with foodborne pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and staphylococcus I make sure to buy sprouting seeds from a reputable source that has tested their seeds for these micro-organisms and I make sure my jars and lids are extremely clean.
A good rinsing of the seeds and an overnight soak in warm water gets things started.
I use a 1-quart canning jar with a piece of plastic canvas replacing the solid lid to make it easy to rinse and drain the seeds several times a day. A piece of cheesecloth or nylon netting will work too.
I used a heaping tablespoon of a sandwich mix of alfalfa, clover, and radish seeds and they sprouted in 3 days.
I kept rinsing and draining the sprouts 3 times a day and were eating them in sandwiches and omelets after they reached about 2 inches long. It took less than a week.
We chowed them right down, made a second batch that is gone, and just started a 3rd.
I’m still waiting for the microgreens to get tall enough to clip. They are at the cotyledon stage and only about 1 inch tall. Maybe because I’m growing them in a cool greenhouse that gets into the 40’s at night, they are staying pretty short, nothing like the pictures of microgreens I have seen that have 6 inch long stems. When I try them again I will grow them in a warmer spot like the sprouts which are in the kitchen.
The takeaway for me is that if you are as impatient as I am—grow sprouts.
For more information, see this video on how to grow sprouts indoors.
And here’s a great video with more how to grow microgreens indoors!
About This Blog
Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.