Grow all year round without a garden: Microgreens and Sprouting
What are microgreens? What is sprouting?
Sprouting and growing microgreens offer a rainbow of easy, inexpensive and fun possibilities from using store-cupboard ingredients like dried peas or lentils for ’shoots’ to sprouting herbs used in cooking like fennel or coriander. Seeds can also be bought specially for microgreens and sprouting.
Many microgreen seeds are those of commonly grown veg like beetroot, radish or kale, but they are grown as small shoots rather than the larger vegetable.
Microgreens are tiny salad vegetables grown in just a few days in a small amount of compost, eaten when they are only about 5-7cm tall. Sprouted seeds also grow in a few days and need no compost! The difference is that the entire sprouted seed is eaten whilst with microgreens athey are cut at the base to eat the stalk and the leaves (not the seed).
Sprouting seeds in jars
Cut pea shoots will grow again
So much choice for microgreens
Why grow sprouted veg or microgreens?
· They are tasty and highly nutritious
· You don’t need a garden, just a windowsill with some sun.
· No need to sit huddled in a blanket waiting for spring: microgreens and sprouted seeds can be grown all year round!
· No expensive, complicated kit needed. Re-use supermarket punnets and jars.
· Microgreens only need a tiny amount of compost compared to garden veg. Sprouting uses only water!
· Like your food quick and snappy? They are ready to eat in 5-10 days.
· There is a huge range to try from familiar cress to radishes and beetroot to things you’ll never find in a shop like sweetcorn microgreens, little blades of grass that taste of sweetcorn.
· Go all-out cheffy adding taste and embellishments to salads, pasta, risotto, sandwiches and soups. Before you know it you’ll be serving microgreen-adorned canapés and sprinkling sprouted alfafa on your sushi ;-)
How to sprout seeds
1. Rinse 1 tablespoon of seeds. Soak in jar with 2 cups of cool water for 12 hours.
2. Drain and rinse seeds twice. Shake in jar to spread seeds.
Cover jar top with paper towel/muslin and place at an angle so the seeds are not sitting in water.
3. Repeat draining and rinsing every day for 3-5 days.
4. Remove towel and put jar in well-lit area to green up the sprout. Then eat the whole sprouted seed!
Further information on sprouting - techniques and uses - www.vegsoc.org/lifestyle/sprouting-how-to-sprout-at-home/
How to grow microgreens
1. Put 2-3cm compost in a container with drainage holes*. Water so that it is damp.
2. Sprinkle seeds evenly and generously on the compost, cover with foil or damp paper towel. Sow the seeds close together.
3. Keep out of light for about 5 days. Water or mist/spray once a day to ensure compost is damp for seed germination.
4. A couple of days after germination, place the plants in a well-lit spot like a windowsill.
Most microgreens are ready to harvest by cutting at the base in 8-14 days. Compost or put the remains in the green bin.
Pea shoots can be cut near the base and left to regrow!
* no special kit needed, you can use a vegetable punnet. If there's no holes, cut a few with scissors.
How healthy are microgreens and sprouted seeds? There is a lot of research avaible showing their benefits including nutritionally, pack with vitamins, digestion aid, lowering blood sugar levels,
Are there any contraindications for eating microgreens or sprouted seeds? Sprouted seeds and microgreens have many health benefits, but because seeds need dark, damp conditions for sprouting there is a small danger that bacteria or mould could grow. Therefore it is recommended that they are cooked if health risks need to be minimised, eg in pregnancy.
Can any seeds be used for microgreens? There are special seeds sold for microgreens - shop around to find a good deal (we found Verdant Republic good quality and well priced). They will usually be cheaper than seeds sold for growing the full-size vegetable.
You can also use left-over seed from growing normal-sized veg, even seeds past their use-by may be fine as they will not have the same growing needs as veg that takes weeks to mature. In fact you could mix a number of seeds together for a rainbow of microgreens.
Avoid nightshade plants as their leaves are no edible: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and okra.
Can any seeds be used for sprouting? Because you consume the whole plant when you eat a sprouted seed, you should only used seeds sold for sprouting or sold for cooking. Some non-organic veg seeds might have been treated, eg with a fungicide.
Do microgreens needs plant food? No! Because all seeds have nutrients in them to support a plant's initial growth, this is enough for the life cycle of microgreens. So you do not need to give them any plant food.
Can microgreen seeds be used for normal sized veg growing? Yes but they need to be sown more deeply and with more spacing. Microgreens are sown thickly and shallowly. They are harvested after a few days so do not need much compost or spacing between the seeds like normal size veg do to develop.
Recipe ideas - www.microgreensfarmer.com/microgreens-recipe-ideas/
Nutrition and health benefits www.healthline.com/nutrition/microgreens#what-are-they
Similarities and differences between microgreens and sprouting microveggy.com/sprouts-vs-microgreens/
Raw sprouts: benefits and potential risks - Healthline
How to grow microgreens from leftover seeds - www.gardening.org/how-to-grow-microgreens-from-leftover-garden-seeds/