Fresh garden produce in January?! Microgreens make it easy!
Last week we harvested our first microgreens of the fall season: peppergrass, arugula, turnips, purple kohlrabi, spinach and our 5-way lettuce mix. I think the peppergrass, arugula and kohlrabi are my favorites. What are microgreens you ask? They are more than sprouts, but greens that are allowed to mature only to the first true leaf stage before harvesting and eating them. All I can say is - Wow! - they pack a punch of fresh flavor and are some of the most delicious and nutritious plants that you can consume. They are super easy to grow indoors, and can provide you and your family a fun wintertime growing activity that yields amazing greens to consume through the long, cold, winter months. I can hardly wait for the basil, oregano, thyme and amaranth that will be ready next week!
All you need to start microgreens yourself is your preferred seed, 3 half-height seed starting trays (one with holes), some seed starting soil (or coco coir), full spectrum lighting, water, and a little nutrient. For our growing location, we have a couple shelves in the warehouse that were just perfectly spaced for plants and lighting - the sun never reaches the plants at all. It’s climate controlled at about 68 degrees, and we have fans running all the time to keep the air circulating to prevent diseases.
For our first experiment, we started with arugula seed. It germinates fast, has few problems with disease, and is usually ready to harvest in about 14 days. We filled our 10x20 inch tray with hydrated coco coir, sprinkled about 1/2 ounce of seed on top, and moistened them with a fine mist of water. Most of the seeds germinate better with a little pressure on them, so we took the seed filled tray, placed it inside another tray with no holes in it, and put the third tray on top with about a 10 pound weight on top of that and placed it on one of the shelves. Within 24 hours we had seeds germinating. Slightly misting the seeds every 24 hours, in roughly 3 days, they had all germinated and were ready to start stretching.
On day 4 we took the weight off and inverted the tray so there was a gap between the seedlings and the upside down tray. Roots had grown through coco coir and out the holes of the tray. The microgreens need a few days without light to make them grow extra tall and aid in harvesting the leaves when they are mature. At this point we started misting tops and roots once a day. In about 3 days the seedlings had grown tall enough to push the inverted tray away from the bottom and start to allow light into the plants.
At this stage of growth (about 1 week into the process) the tall, light deprived plants get moved to the artificial lights (full spectrum LEDs). We began watering daily from the bottom tray, and our seedlings colored up very nicely and started to grow more. When they started to show their first true leaf - it was almost exactly 13 days into the growing process - then we knew it was time to harvest. A few quick snips, and we had amazing, delicious microgreens to add to a salad, use on a sandwich, or to garnish other foods. Believe me, the flavor is potent and unbelievable. When harvested at this stage of growth, microgreens have 4-5 times the nutritional value of the fully mature plant.
If you have a little extra space in the pantry or a spare room, you can keep your garden growing all through the winter months indoors. It is fun, rewarding, and easy to grow your own crop of delicious microgreens. There are literally dozens of options to try and sample - I think our next experiment will be with sunflower, kale and purple mustard. I can hardly wait to try them.