It was October 2018. I was sitting across from Stephen, my best friend. It was his wife’s 50th birthday, and we sat at a table in an upscale restaurant in Atlanta.
The white-gloved server placed a colorful salad in front of me. I reached for my salad fork and paused briefly.
“They’re microgreens,” said Stephen.
Microgreens grow to one to three inches in height. They are small and come in various robust flavors, bright colors, and crunchy tastes. They are the tender, immature seedlings of edible vegetables and herbs with two developed embryonic leaves. They are young plants that haven’t grown to maturity. They offer a powerhouse of nutrition.
You are about to read the definitive step-by-step guide to growing the children of the soil.
Don’t waste time with all the disjointed information or advice out there.
Instead, let me show you how to get consistent results and healthier, more nutrient-rich plants while upgrading your microgreens knowledge to improve your health!
Even if you don’t have an indoor, outdoor, patio, or herb garden, you will learn how to prepare, seed, germinate, manage, harvest, and store your microgreens in less than ten days while spending less than 10 minutes a day.
What are Microgreens?
How Can I Start Growing Microgreens?
What MATERIALS will I need TO Grow Microgreens?
SEED Selection: What Microgreens Plants Do I Grow?
The MICROGREENS Growing Cycle
Your Next Steps to Growing Microgreens
What are Microgreens?
I picked up a few stems of these tiny-looking plants and bit into them. A sweet, spicy flavor and a peppery aroma hit my palate.
They were delicious.
I called the server over, and she told me they were a mix of arugula and radish microgreens from a local farm. For the next five minutes, Stephen introduced me to microgreens’ health benefits.
Fast forward to today, and Stephen and I are running JPure Farms and published Microgreens World.
Stephen spends much time planting microgreens and running our farm operations.
I spend a lot of time writing, researching, and experimenting with microgreens.
Consistently, the people like you who visit Microgreens World want to know more about growing microgreens.
So, here is my best research, experiments, and experience from the farm.
Children of The Soil
Think of sprouts, seeds germinated in water, as babies.
Microgreens are the stem and first leaves of a plant. Think of them as the children of the soil.
Microgreens look like green two-leaf clovers. They are the embryonic leaves of seeds that appear after they pop out of the ground. They are white at first. But when exposed to light, they undergo chlorophyll biosynthesis and become green.
What’s exciting is that you can also grow microgreens from many plants.
They include herbs, root vegetables, edible flowers, and an assortment of exciting and highly flavorful greens.
Cotyledons and Microgreens
The next time you get your hands on some raw peanuts or beans, peel the coat and split the seed in two.
Inside, you will see these two tiny leaves—embryonic leaves.
The inside of a seed’s skin or coat is called a cotyledon. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, it’s the “seed leaf within the embryo of a seed.”
You probably learned all this in fourth grade. If you’re like me, you forgot.
Cotyledons are the first plant parts to show up above the soil.
They look like fat leaves.
These embryonic leaves appear from a germinating seed.
Cotyledons feed the seedling until the seedling can make its food. They promote seedling growth through photosynthesis.
Direct sunlight fosters the most succulent growth, and indirect sunlight can suffice.
They look nothing like the next stage leaves called “true leaves.”
Microgreens Look Like Clovers
The “true leaves” appear in the second phase of plant growth. They pop out between the cotyledons 2-3 days after germination.
Four to five days later, 2-4 inches tall, the microgreens with their first leaves are ready to be harvested.
Don’t let them get much taller than that, or they’ll lose their sweetness.
This brief video, courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension Service, shows you the difference between cotyledons and true leaves.
You may think, “when can I grow them, and where?”
You can grow many types of microgreens at home and even at work.
And you can do it inside or outside, on your windowsill, in your kitchen or garden.
All you need is a small space: a windowsill, a protected area of your porch, or near a window in any room.
It would be best if you had sunlight or indoor light. Indirect light from the sun on a cloudy day is often enough.
You can grow microgreens in recycled containers or any pots with drainage holes: recycled clamshell containers, plastic containers, or old flowerpots.
The best thing about growing microgreens is that growing your own is a 52-week year-round treat.
It may snow outside, or it’s cold. You may be in the middle of the desert.
How Can I Start Growing Microgreens?
Growing microgreens is like any recipe. It would be best if you decided how many people you would feed. Here are two servings.
You’ll need some equipment which you may have to purchase.
You’ll need to decide on the key ingredients.
And you’ll follow the instructions which come later.
It would be best if you planned on an hour of preparation time.
|Container||You can use just about any container to grow microgreens. You can even grow them on eggshells!|
|Soil Shovel or Scoop||You will need a small garden shovel or soil scoop to fill your container with soil.|
|Trays or Flats||If you want to venture out and start with a big harvest, get the industry standard 10x10x2 inch trays with holes in the bottom.|
|Location||Depending on where you plan to grow microgreens, you need a clean surface, shelf, or windowsill to place the growing container.|
|Lights||Nothing fancy here. Simple LED Light (See above)|
|Timer||(OPTIONAL) It would be best if you had your lights on for 14 to 16 hours a day to promote the maximum growth of your microgreens.|
|Two Misting bottles||You will need one misting bottle to spray your seed bed and another to spray the seedlings after you sow them. Amazon.|
|Bed Rake||You will need a rake to cultivate and level the soil. Raking is essential for the seeds to sit in their bed correctly.|
|Kitchen Shears or Scissors||You could use a sharp knife or a pair of regular scissors. But you wouldn’t want to hack your microgreen harvest.|
|Other TOOLS You May Need|
|Temperature And Humidity Meter||(OPTIONAL)|
What Materials Will I Need To Grow Microgreens?
The first thing I consider when I start growing microgreens is the soil.
The better the soil, the healthier your microgreens.
|Soil||Avoid potting or garden soil, as this may be too heavy for the microgreens.|
|Use a potting mix, container mix, or seed-starting mix.|
|Poorly mixed soil can give you a lot of growing problems: mold, inconsistent growth, etc.|
|Seeds||You can make all the preparations perfect for growing microgreens.|
|But like my buddy Stephen used to keep saying, “if you don’t have good seeds, well, expect nothing but bad microgreens.”|
|Keep in mind, the same seeds used to grow mature herbs, greens, and vegetables are the same seeds used to grow microgreens.|
|Also, avoid chemically treated microgreens seeds.|
|Look for the Certified Naturally Grown or certified organic label on the produce.|
|Read more at Microgreens World on how to Pick The Best Seeds To Grow Microgreens.|
|Distilled Water||As you learned earlier, water is at the heart of growing microgreens.|
|When growing with soil you won’t need anything but distilled water.|
|Distilled water is the purest form of that has had both contaminants and minerals removed.|
|Food-Grade Hydrogen Peroxide||Neither your kitchen nor your garden should be without H2O2. This pale blue liquid is an oxidizer, cleaner, and purifier.|
If you think I forgot anything, head to the Microgreens World Resource Page for more ideas.
Okay! We are ready for instructions.
Select the plant (or plants if you feel adventurous) you want to grow first.
The following section helps you make that big decision.
SEED Selection: What Microgreens Plants Do I Grow?
Do I want my microgreens to be sweet, nutty, and peppery? What nutrients do I want the most? Do I want to harvest in 9 days, not 14?
You can grow most edible plants as microgreens with a few rare exceptions. People across the globe have grown over 100 of them.
Since this is an Easy Guide®, I have compiled five more criteria to help you make an even easier decision:
- Microgreens Brassicaceae family
- Microgreens that grow fast
- Microgreens that fit your taste buds
- Microgreens that are high in essential nutrients
- Microgreens that have a good shelf life (in the fridge)
The most popular studied and researched microgreens belong to the Brassicaceae (or mustard) family.
- Red Cabbage
People worldwide recognize Brassica vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) and value them for their significant amounts of carotenoid phytochemicals, vitamins, and mineral elements.
Microgreens that grow fast
There must be a reason these five microgreens are among the top grossing in the world.
You guessed it!
They have some of the shortest growth cycles, 7–10 days, with a few exceptions.
Microgreens that fit your taste buds
Do you want microgreens that are sweet, nutty, or peppery?
Arugula has a savory taste, a nutty but not bitter flavor, and a powerful aroma.
Red cabbage is sweeter and milder in taste than regular cabbage.
Radish has a sweet, peppery taste with strong flavors.
Microgreens that are high in essential nutrients
You find glucosinolate in all the brassica vegetables, with differing amounts in different species and at different life stages.
There is mounting evidence that sulfur-based chemicals like glucosinolate can fight cancer cells.
Arugula is exceptionally high in potassium (K). As one of the essential minerals in your body, K regulates muscle contractions and nerve signals. A diet rich in K can reduce blood pressure and water.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are xanthophyll carotenoids accumulating in the macula of your eyes and preventing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Red Cabbage is high in both.
Microgreens that have a suitable shelf life
Microgreens are challenging to store.
But if you can get good shelf life out of your microgreens, you won’t need to plant as often.
In one study comparing arugula, radish, and red cabbage, researchers found that the shelf life averaged 14 days for arugula and red cabbage and 21 days for radish when stored at 4°C (39°F
The bottom shelf is the coolest part of the fridge. Keep your microgreens in an airtight container to keep them fresh and free from spoilage.
Do not put the microgreens in the freezer!
For best results, put them on the bottom shelf and maintain the temperature of your fridge between 35-40° F (1.66 to 4.44° C.).
Which Microgreens should I Grow?
I believe the two best microgreens to use to start growing are arugula and red cabbage.
Red cabbage is a fast grower, highly nutritious, keeps well, and has an earthy and peppery flavor that I like.
I like Arugula. It is a fast grower, just as nutritious as any other Brassicaceae microgreen. Arugula has a perfect shelf life and has a nutty but not bitter flavor that I like.
Recently, I learned that it is also one of the oldest domesticated plants, and growing is easy to manage.
Suppose neither of these is your choice, no worries. Green or red cabbage, watercress, red radish, or wasabi are excellent choices. Just follow the instructions carefully.
But which species are not suitable to grow as microgreens?
Microgreens to Avoid
Some common vegetable crops like tomato, pepper, eggplant, and potato are not edible at the seedling or microgreen stages.
They contain toxic levels of alkaloids that can harm you. Regarding toxins, refrain from using wild plants to grow microgreens unless you are a plant expert. That includes wild chicory and common dandelion.
Day 0 is finally here! We are ready to plant.
The MICROGREENS Growing Cycle
Day 0: PREPARE, SOW, WATER
Carefully prepare the seed bed, sow the seeds, and water the seed bed.
Whether they are store-bought or lying around like mine were, I suggest you sterilize all your equipment in boiling water (it might not be suitable for plastics).
DAY 1: germination
Check in on your seeds and ensure adequate moisture, temperature, and visible seedling sprouts.
Light, water, heat, humidity, and disease control
DAY 2: SEEDLINGS
The plants have germinated. Check-in on your seedlings, prepare the watering tray and set up your natural and artificial light sources.
But it took me about two days to figure out that 6-8 hours was not enough for seedlings and that they needed over 12 hours a day.
DAYS 3-8: MONITORING AND MANAGING GROWTH
Water is essential to plant life and growth.
Water moves sideways towards root hairs and upwards from below as the plant’s demand increases, either through growth or evaporation.
When planting your microgreens, maintain a temperature between 68 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (20-30OC) to encourage germination.
I chose LED lights for growing my microgreens at home. That’s my recommendation to you.
Choose them for ease of operation and the price.
Microgreens seedlings need between 100-300 PPFD to germinate and about 200-600 PPFD to grow to harvest.
Plants use more red and blue light. They use little yellow and green light in sunlight.
I have a new color for you: “burple.”
Microgreens grow best with blue and red lights all the time. If you’re thinking of growing commercially, fine-tune this for each growth stage.
|Avoiding Root Rot||Your most serious threat to microgreens is Pythium and Phytophthora, persistent problems in areas over-irrigated or not drained right.|
|Molds||If you follow my instructions, root rot, and molds are less likely to happen.|
|Mildew||Inspect your growing seeds for mildew. It would be best if you sterilized your seeds with food-grade hydrogen peroxide.|
|Dampening Off||You can avoid the problem with good circulating air.|
|Soil pH||Most microgreens grow best at a pH between 5.5 and 7.0|
DAY 9: HARVESTING YOUR MICROGREENS
Cut, wash, clean, and dry your microgreens and enjoy the fruits of your labor-a nice meal.
- Washing and Cleaning
- Eating your harvest
Your Next STeps to Growing Microgreens
If you haven’t started yet, find some time, buy some seeds, and start to grow theming.
Microgreens are a great way to boost your health, and you add nutrients to your meals.
Growing microgreens is a great way to get your family involved, too.
This route is ideal if you want to add flavor, something pretty to a plate, or just some added nutrition to your meals.
Microgreens can provide all the nutrients your body needs to heal and support your journey to a long and healthy life.
Where in my home can I grow microgreens?
Microgreens are convenient to grow. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You can grow them on your windowsill, in your kitchen, and in your garden.
My post, Growing Microgreens at Home in Containers, shares instructions on how to grow microgreens in your home that are delicious, tasty, healthy, and safe to eat.
Is there a demand for microgreens?
Chronic diseases constitute a significant health problem around the world. Research shows that eating more fruit and vegetables, including microgreens, not only reduces the risks but may even help to reverse them. Learn more when you read my post, Why Eat Microgreens?
How do I start incorporating the health benefits of microgreens into my nutrition?
I’ve learned a lot about microgreens, how good they are for you, and what you can do with them. Check out my guide, “The Beginner’s Nutritional Guide to Incredible Microgreens.”