What Are Microgreens, and How Do You Grow Them?
Microgreens are tiny, young greens grown from various lettuce or vegetable seeds. And they are beautiful for the sheer fact that they're small and delicate. What I love about them is that (a) they taste great, like a subtler version of the lettuce or veggie, (b) they make a stunning statement at the table, and (c) they are VERY easy to grow.
Whenever I'm hosting a dinner party and really want to turn up the charm, I start a week or two out and plant some seeds for this very purpose. You do not need a green thumb to do this (trust me, if I can do this, anyone can!), nor any super specialized equipment. And it can all happen indoors, any time of year, so long as you have a window that lets in some sunshine. Let me take you through the steps with three types of greens.
Equipment: The good news is you don't need much!
→ Seeds: I prefer to use certified organic seeds. More on how many to purchase below.→ Potting soil: Again, I like to go with organic here; you just want a rich, moist soil base.→ Tray: I purchased a couple of seed starter trays, about 10-inch square, with clear plastic lids; they didn't cost much, and I've used them over and over. But any shallow container will do: a casserole dish, an empty clamshell container (like what greens come in), or an inexpensive plastic storage container.→ Squirt bottle: The greens are so delicate that you'll want to water them this way, with a fine mist.
I love, love, love pea shoots. With their muted sweet pea flavor, they are amazing in salads, stir fries, and soups. I used Dwarf Gray Sugar Snap Pea seeds, and for the size container I was planting in (see above), four packs were perfect.Day 1: Soak the seeds overnight in a bowl or glass of water to speed up germination.
Day 2: Spread potting soil in the container about 1 to 2 inches thick. Moisten thoroughly so that soil is dark black and fairly wet and pat it down evenly. Sprinkle seeds evenly over surface of soil. It's ok that they're crowded, and you don't need to cover them with more soil—they can rest right on the surface. Cover with lid (if applicable) or loosely cover with plastic wrap to hold in moisture. Then, either move the tray to a dark space (like a cupboard or closet), or cover with a towel.
Day 3 (or 4): Check on the seeds after a day in the dark, and water well with a good misting from the spray bottle roughly every 12 hours. As soon as you see signs of growth (the seeds will sprout little tails), uncover the tray and put it in a sunny spot. Keep watering every 12 hours; I typically did 80 to 100 squirts at each watering.
Day 4: Green growth will start to appear! Just keep watering and make sure to provide plenty of sunlight.
Day 7: Look how much they've grown! Again, water with a good misting every 12 hours.
Day 13: These guys are now standing about 6 inches tall. I actually let them go another day or two to leaf out a bit more before cutting and using them; I cut 2-inch lengths and tossed into salads, and some went into stir-fries.
BEET AND BROCCOLI MICROGREENSThese don't take as many days as pea shoots—only about 7 days after germination.
For the beet seeds, follow the same procedure as with the pea shoots; start by soaking these larger, coarser seeds overnight. For a container about 10 inches square, use 4 seed packets.
For the broccoli seeds, which are much smaller, the dry seeds can go directly onto the moistened soil. For a container about 10 inches square, use 4 seed packets.
Cover and keep in a dark place, just like with the pea shoots, until you see signs of growth. Here brilliant magenta tails emerge from the beet seeds and pale-green tails sprout from the broccoli seeds:
And look where they are after one week. They've grown to about 2.5 to 3 inches height, and I snip them as close to soil level as I can...
… and then I make pretty things with them! I have also grown radish, sunflower, and arugula micro greens to great success.