We have a secret weapon that helps us to effortlessly get a huge variety of greens in our diet every single day! We grow our own microgreens! Microgreens are the baby versions of vegetables. They are incredibly nutrient dense, delicious, easy to grow, and very pretty too, making any dish you create look like it’s from a fancy restaurant. Microgreens are a great way to get some extra greens, especially if you have someone in your family, (or maybe it’s you) that refuses to eat their veggies.
Benefits of microgreens
Microgreens are incredibly nutrient dense, having much more concentrated amounts of vitamins and minerals than the full grown vegetable. During the beginning phases of a plant’s life, its nutritional content is the most concentrated, because it’s producing all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it needs to grow.
A study conducted at The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland, studied nutrients like Vitamin C, E, K and beta carotene found in 25 different types of microgreens including cilantro, celery, red cabbage, green basil and arugula. Their results found that microgreens contain 4 to 40 times more nutrients than the mature plants.
Studies have also shown that broccoli microgreens had higher concentrations of Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron, Calcium, Sodium, and Copper than the mature vegetable. You would need to eat approximately 42% less mass of microgreens to obtain the same amount of minerals as in raw broccoli florets.
30 types of plants a week
A second great reason to consider adding microgreens to your diet is the variety.
Gut microbes communicate with the brain and can effect everything from your mood, health, and metabolism. Having a healthy microbiome can effect every aspect of your health and well-being, and studies have found that the more diverse your gut microbiome is, the healthier it is as well.
So how do you feed the trillions of microbes in your gut a more diverse diet? The rule of thumb is to try to get 30 different types of plant foods a week. That number may sound intimidating but it includes all of your fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds, herbs and spices.
You can also grow a variety of microgreens in a single container, which means that you can easily add five or six different types of greens into any of your meals, instantly increasing the diversity of the foods you eat.
Some of our favorite microgreens are:
- sunflowers (Our Lab, Sawyer, loves these!)
- swiss chard
- herbs – basil, cilantro, oregano, dill…
You can also buy pre-packaged salad blends that contain several varieties of seeds, such as Broccoli, Kale, Kohlrabi, Arugula & Red Cabbage, all in one package.
Microgreens and the environment
Microgreens provide a dense source of nutrients that can be grown with a small ecological footprint.
One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of food per year!
In contrast to mature vegetables, microgreens generate little to no food waste during meal prep and cooking. Take broccoli, for example…many people eat only the florets and discard the stems and leaves, even though they are perfectly edible and have large quantities of antioxidants. On the other hand, except for the roots, 100% of the broccoli microgreens are consumed, with zero waste.
Broccoli microgreens also require 158–236 times less water than is needed to grow a nutritionally equivalent amount of mature broccoli. And they require 93–95% less time without the need for fertilizers, pesticides, or energy-demanding transport from farm to table.
Microgreens don’t require a lot of space, money or effort to grow, so they have the potential to be a rich source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can be produced by anyone, even in urban settings, providing easy access to better nutrition.
The difference between sprouts, microgreens, baby greens and full grown vegetables:
Sprouts are the first stage of a plant, when the seeds have just germinated. Sprouts are eaten within a couple of days of sprouting.
Microgreens are the second stage when the plant has began to develop a root, stem, the first leaves, called cotyledons, and sometimes the first set of true leaves. Microgreens are typically harvested when they just 1-3 inches tall, usually one to two weeks after sprouting, depending on the type of vegetable.
Although both sprouts and microgreens are healthy, we feel that microgreens look and taste better. Their flavor is really concentrated, and they taste just like the full grown vegetable.
When harvesting microgreens, you cut the plant at the base and eat the stem and the leaves.
The next two stages are the baby greens, and finally the full grown vegetable. Once a plant begins to develop more than their first set of true leaves, they go from the microgreen phase to the baby greens phase. Baby greens are tender and more delicate than the grown plant.
The first microgreens I ever grew was about 15 years ago, for my cat Zoi. Zoi and I were living in an apartment in New York, and although she used to go everywhere with me, I wanted her to have her own little patch of grass at home. Wheatgrass can be good for cats, aiding digestion and reducing hairballs, so I started growing it in big trays for her.
Zoi loved to lounge around on her little patch of wheatgrass!
How to grow microgreens at home:
Microgreens are quite expensive at the store. But luckily, growing them at home is easy and does not require much space. All that’s needed to get started are some seeds and some growing medium. So everyone can grow their own.
Because microgreens are harvested so young, they have all the nutrients they require in the seed, and don’t need additional nutrients. This means that they can be grown in a variety of growing mediums – not just soil. You can choose hemp mats, which are like thick paper towels, super light and clean, so you don’t have to carry big bags of soil around. Other options include coco coir – which is the ground up coconut husk, or a good seed growing mix.
We have tried all of these, and have found that the microgreens will do fine in most of them. Growing them in good quality soil however, produces the most robust, strongest and most vibrant sprouts. Having to deal with bags of soil may not be ideal, but if you don’t mind, our favorite and the one we use at home, is Fox Farm Happy Frog potting soil.
As far as containers, you can use just about any container you have at home. You can recycle any food container or take out packaging. You can also invest in reusable microgreen trays. We’ve been using ours for about 6 years, and they are still going strong.
If you have a sunny window, you can place your microgreens in the sunlight to grow. You can also set up a shelf with an LED light. We bought our lights at Home Depot for about $15.
where to buy
We buy all of our microgreen seeds online from True Leaf Market. We find that they have a great selection of seeds and good prices, lots of information and growing tips, plus you can get any extra supplies you need from them as well.
*Microgreen seeds are the same as the seeds you would plant for a full grown vegetable.
How to grow Microgreens at home
- growing tray
- soil – we use Fox Farm Happy Frog
- spray bottle
- a sunny window or light
- Place about 1.5-2 inches of soil in your container.
- Moisten the soil and spread evenly in your container.
- Scatter the seeds on top in a thin, even layer. Press down gently.
- Dampen the seeds with a mister and place out of direct light until sprouts appear. (3-4 days)
- Use the mister once or twice daily to keep the soil moist but not wet. The rule of thumb is that it should feel like a wrung out sponge.
- Once the seeds sprout, place near a window, or under lights, misting daily.
- In 7-10 days, when they grow their first set of true leaves, the greens are ready to harvest.
- Snip off near the base and sprinkle over your favorite dishes.
We add microgreens to every savory dish we make. Just add a hand-full just before serving, as cooking kills some of the nutrients.
Even our dogs, Sawyer and Finn, get microgreens in their food every single day!
We truly believe that everyone should be growing microgreens at home. So much so, that after we closed the bakery, we even sold microgreens and showed people how to grow them, at the Fort Collins, Colorado farmer’s market!
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