microgreens: the new superfood

freshness, taste and vitamins: microgreens contain the full nutritional power of plants, and are a quick and easy way to grow your own superfoods at home.



tiny but mighty, microgreens are full of energy-boosting vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. 

they are popular in the urban gardening scene in the usa and are making waves in the kitchen. increased awareness surrounding health and the joy of being green at home combined with space, time, and money-saving production are the perfect storm of contemporary interests that microgreens thrive within.


what are microgreens?


although the name "microgreen" sounds akin to vegetables curated in a test tube, they are in their simplest, most natural form as seedlings. the word "micro" simply describes the size of the seedlings at harvest time, and the term "greens" is used to encompass the entire range of vegetable plants, cultivated, and wild herbs that can be used for this particular growing technique. translated into german, microgreens are vegetable and herb seedlings that are harvested and eaten fresh when they are only a few days old.



the plant seedlings are not only green, but depending on the vegetable sometimes also green-purple like those of radish


why microgreens?


herb and vegetable seedlings contain the concentrated energy that the plant needs to grow into full vegetable form. the amount of vital substances in the small plants is therefore many times higher than in the same amount of fully grown vegetables. for example, the leaves are rich in vitamin c, which boosts the immune system and builds connective tissue. in addition, they have b vitamins which supplement nerve pathways and vitamin a which benefits the skin and eyes. microgreen minerals include calcium for bone health, iron for blood formation, and anti-inflammatory zinc. and they offer plenty of trace elements, secondary plant substances and amino acids. pea seedlings grow incredibly quickly and after three weeks provide all essential amino acids as well as vitamins a, b1, b2, b6 and c. the leaves of fennel are rich in essential oils, silicic acid and flavonoids. they taste sweet and spicy, almost a bit like licorice. amaranth is high in fiber, plus it provides many amino acids, calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. it germinates slowly, taking about five weeks to harvest. and beets contain betanin, which has a positive effect on digestion and the liver. like home-grown sprouts, microgreens are therefore healthier than average and richer in nutrients which classify them as a "superfood”. 



an additional advantage of microgreens over conventional herb and vegetable cultivation is that the seedlings require very little space and hardly any care. a seed tray on the windowsill is all that is needed to grow the healthy fitters. without fertilizing, weeding and pricking, the seedlings are simply harvested after two to three weeks and can be eaten immediately. this allows chefs and gardeners without a garden to grow fresh, super-healthy food on their own, even in the dead of winter.


what seeds are suitable for microgreens?


in principle, you can use any seed, but organic quality is recommended. fast-growing herbs and vegetables such as arugula, lettuce, mustard, broccoli, cress, beans, mint, pak choi, rocket, watercress, buckwheat, red cabbage, radishes, cauliflower, kale, basil, amaranth, fennel, dill, coriander or chervil are very suitable, but good experiences have also been made with sunflower seeds, peas and wheatgrass. beet is one of the microgreens with the longest growing time. large and hard seeds and seeds like those of peas, beans, buckwheat or sunflowers should be soaked in water overnight before sowing to accelerate germination.





note: since microgreens are harvested at the seedling stage, the seeds are sown very densely. the need for seeds is therefore significantly higher than with conventional sowing. but because you don’t have to cultivate microgreens by variety, you can be creative in your seed-sowing. just make sure that the seeds have a similar germination period. this way you can try out different varieties and discover your own favorite microgreen mix.


10 delicious microgreens at a glance

mustard

rocket

watercress

buckwheat

radish

basil

amaranth

fennel

coriander

chervil


growing microgreens: here's how


sowing microgreens differs little from conventional vegetable sowing. however, microgreens can be sown all year round. the most professional way to cultivate microgreens is to use growing trays with drainage holes or soil-free sieve trays, such as those commonly used for sowing garden cress. however, any other shallow tray such as a large plant pot saucer or a simple growing tray without holes of any size can be used. if you don't have any gardening equipment, you can simply use a casserole dish or a juice bag cut open lengthwise. fill the tray about two inches high with fine-crumb compost or growing soil. adding soaked coconut fiber increases the water-holding capacity and air permeability of the substrate.


depending on the seed, you can harvest the microgreens after about ten days to five weeks



sow the seeds very densely and then lightly press the seeds into the soil. with a spray bottle, liberally moisten the seeds and soil. depending on whether the seeds are light or dark germinators, the tray will then be covered. the easiest and airiest way to do this is with a second tray of the same size, but you can also put a thin layer of soil loosely on top of the seeds. light sprouts are covered with plastic wrap. place the microgreens on a warm, bright windowsill without direct sun. tip: place the growing tray on a small pedestal, so the air circulates optimally under the tray as well.


care for microgreens


  • aerate the seeds two to three times a day and keep the seedlings evenly moist. aeration can be achieved by gently poking a few holes through the top layer of soil. 
  • fresh, room-temperature tap water is suitable for watering the microgreens. avoid using stale water or water from a rain barrel, as it can be contaminated with germs. 
  • if the plantlets have grown significantly after four to six days, remove the cover permanently.
  • after 10 to 14 days, when the first true pairs of leaves have formed after the cotyledons and the plantlets are about 15 inches tall, the microgreens are ready to harvest. cut the seedlings about a finger's width above the soil and consume immediately.

beware of mold!

the only difficulty in growing microgreens is finding the right level of moisture so that the seeds grow quickly but do not begin to rot. therefore, especially in the early stages, always use a spray bottle to moisten and do not water with a can. only when the plants are almost ready to harvest can they tolerate a larger amount of water. if the seeds lie in soil that is too wet for a long time, or if the location is too cool, mold can form (not to be confused with the downy white fine roots of the seedlings that grow just above the soil surface). a microgreen crop affected by mold should not be eaten and should be composted along with the soil. clean the tray thoroughly afterwards.


how to use microgreens in the kitchen


wheatgrass is an ideal addition to smoothies. it germinates and grows rapidly. it contains vitamins a, c, e, k and almost all b vitamins. when eaten regularly, the grass strengthens the body's natural immune defenses.


in addition to concentrated nutrients, microgreens also have a robust taste. they range from being very mild to hot & spicy (for example, mustard and radish) - you’ll be surprised how much punch just a few tiny radish leaves can pack! be sure to consume soon after harvest, as the seedlings are very sensitive cannot not be stored for long.


to avoid denaturing the valuable nutrients microgreens’ possess, they should not be heated or frozen. it's best to consume the little vitamin bombs fresh and raw in salads, cottage cheese, fresh cheese or smoothies. due to their filigree and whimsical growth, the small sprouts are also often used in the gourmet kitchen as an elegant garnish for dishes.