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Microgreens

Grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables constitute the diet chosen for us by our Creator. These foods, prepared in as simple and natural a manner as possible, are the most healthful and nourishing. They impart a strength, a power of endurance, and a vigor of intellect, that are not afforded by a more complex and stimulating diet.” MH 295/296


If people only knew the value of the products of the ground, which the earth brings forth in their season, more diligent efforts would be made to cultivate the soil. All should be acquainted with the special value of fruits and vegetables fresh from the orchard and garden.” CG 357.1


Why Microgreens?

Matthias Waber is currently a student of the School of Education at Bogenhofen, Austria and started producing microgreens for the schools cafeteria in his freetime.

Here are four key points that catalyzed him into his own production:

“First is passion. I was introduced to sunflower microgreens at the Fredheim Lifestyle Center, where I quickly learned to love those tasty nutty-flavored crunchy shoots.

Second is opportunity (or lack of alternatives). As a student at Bogenhofen, it is not easy to maintain a personal vegetable garden. However, a large window front on the cafeteria’s south side offers a great opportunity for growing small plants.

Third is the market. There is no use in producing crops if nobody needs them. In my case this was very easy. I only had to offer my microgreens to the kitchen to serve the school and discussed my business idea with the finance administrator.

And the fourth? Well, experiencing God’s nature is fascinating. The joy of watching an army of sunflower leaflets strain to catch the sun’s rays is so rewarding.

Well, as a bonus, there are always new things to learn. I found out that from my sunflower seeds about one in 3’000 produces an albino plant. It stays completely white because it cannot produce chlorophyll and thus cannot survive.”


Benefits of Microgreens:

  • year round season

  • all climates possible (especially if grown inside)

  • always fresh and locally grow

  • minimal time, space, effort, material and costs involved

  • quick to grow (1-3 weeks)

  • high yield to space radio (can be grown inside the house)

  • for commercially growth: minimal initial investment and once sown, they can start generating income in just two to three weeks

  • after the harvest, the soil can be easily amended and composted and is ready to be used within a couple of weeks

  • contain digestible vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that provide a wide variety of nutritional health benefits

  • are packed with flavour, colour, texture, living enzymes and nutrients

  • nutrient value is higher because they are eaten right after they are harvested

Microgreens vs Sprouts vs Baby Greens – All three are stages in a plant’s development. They have different identifying characteristics and various nutritional values.

A sprout is a germinated seed which hasn’t started growing yet. Sprouts are kept moist and at room temperature in different types of containers.

The second growing stage is microgreens when grown in a medium like soil. They have developed roots and the first leaves which are called “cotyledons”. If microgreens keep growing, they will develop another set of leaves - the “true leaves”. These ones identify the plant while cotyledons only identify which family they belong to (for example: the cotyledons show that it’s a brassica, the true leaves will show that it is broccoli, etc.). When true leaves are developed, their texture, appearance and flavor are much more like a salad green than a crunchy sprout.

If microgreens kept growing past the true leaves stage, they will reach the baby green stage. These tender leaves are very popular in salads, more flavorful than grown plants, but lose some of the intensity of flavor and nutritional value of the microgreen stage.

Health and Microgreens – Our health depends partly on the food we eat. Nutrition is limited by the quality of soil the plants are grown in, how they are harvested, their treatment after harvest, and how old they are when eaten. During winter months it’s difficult to find locally grown fresh food.

Studies have been done on how cruciferous vegetables reduce cancer or prevent it. They contain an estrogen stabilizer, diindolylmethane (DIM) which works as a deactivator, stopping growth of cancer cells. Cruciferous vegetables are also rich in phytonutrient sulforaphane which helps the liver to start flushing the system. It’s difficult to eat enough cruciferous vegetables in order to have an effect. Studies have shown that approximately 30g of broccoli microgreens has the same amount of this phytonutrient than 200g of the full-grown broccoli.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture looked at four groups of vitamins and other phytochemicals – including vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene — in 25 varieties of microgreens. They found that leaves from almost all of the microgreens had four to six times more nutrients than the mature leaves of the same plant. One study has pointed out 4 of the 25 microgreens which have the highest concentrations of four different vitamins and carotenoids:

  • Red Cabbage

  • Green Daikon Radish

  • Cilantro

  • Garnet Amaranth

Materials needed

1. Trays – You can use plastic trays or make your own wooden trays (best if they aren’t too heavy). Take trays which are shallow and wide which makes it possible to use little soil and many seeds. Make sure they have drainage holes and place them on a water tray to collect the spare water. Sometimes the local nurseries might have spare trays, especially after selling flowers, which you might get for free. It’s possible to use whatever one has in the house or also order professional microgreen trays online.

2. Soil – As other plants in the garden, microgreens need a rich soil which can hold enough air and water. You may use your own compost soil or go to the local nursery and find out which soil they would recommend you. If your soil is very compact, amend it with peat.

3. Seeds – Buying seeds at local stores might provide you with organic seeds but most of the time the packages are very small and expensive. You might find good options online. Try out first with a small quantity if the quality is good (germination rate, healthy appearance, germination at the same time). Most seeds yield within the first 2-4 years well, after that the germination percentage goes down. In general, store your seeds at a cool, dry place, best in a container where the sun doesn’t shine on.

4. Towels & Lids & Heat Mats Towels are for covering your seeds and can be used as an alternative instead of soil. The seeds are kept warm and moist with it. You can use paper towels which can be composted or a lightweight cotton cloth which needs to be washed after each use.

Lids are used especially for temperature changes between day and night as well as in dry areas. Keep a constant temperature and moisture. Lids can be ordered online fitting to the trays or alternatively plastic bags, plastic film or a pane of glass.

Heat Mats are good for special warm-weather crops (like amaranth or basil) as well as for starting seeds in colder climates. These are mats which keep a steady warmth from below and can be ordered online. If kept inside by room temperature, heating mats might not be necessary.

5. Water – If you are growing the microgreens outside, a hose with sprayer is excellent, if you grow inside, a watering can may be better. Keep a balance in the amount of water, otherwise the plants rot. Water carefully so the plants are not pressed down.

pH meter - It’s important to find out how acidic or alkaline your water is because it can hinder the sprouting process. Adjusting the pH requires playing a little with chemistry. A bit of lemon juice can lower it, while baking soda, powdered oyster shells or powdered dolomite lime will raise it.

6. Harvesting – “If the ax is dull, And one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success.” Ecc 10,10

Best for harvesting are sharp scissors or knives in order to have a clean cut. It’s best to use one pair of scissors only for the microgreens and sharpen them frequently.

7. Storage – Harvested microgreens are best eaten freshly. If not, they can be placed in containers or bags and stored in the fridge.

How to Grow in 10 Steps

1. Trays – Fill your trays with about 5cm of compost soil and compress it a bit (either with a small board which fits inside your tray or any other tool with a flat surface). If the trays are filled too much, seeds and water will spill over. If you compress the soil too much, it will drain poorly which doesn’t give enough oxygen to the roots.

2. Seeds – When you have a smooth and even seed bed, you can take some seeds with your fingertips and sprinkle them over your tray. Try to spread evenly. The density of sowing depends on the seed variety and the size of harvested plants. After it’s sown, give it a light pressing. If the seeds have contact with the soil, they can easier set roots.

3. Covering the Seeds – This can be done either with some soil (about the depth of the size of the kind of seeds), with towels (paper towels are recommended) or not covering at all. If not covered, you may keep them in a dark place.

4. Water – After planting, it’s good to water enough and evenly. Overwatering isn’t so dangerous at this stage. If the seeds are covered with soil, be careful that they don’t dry out since soil doesn’t keep the moisture as good as towels do. Check every day if it has sufficient moisture.

5. Covering Your Trays – If covering with a plastic bag or a pane of glass, make sure it doesn’t become too steamy inside. For ventilation sake you may move the lid a little to the side.

6. Location – Germination process doesn’t require light which allows you to keep the trays anywhere. After germination it’s good to have some sunlight (different varieties require different intensity of it). The plants look healthy and green with light. Too little light will make them “leggy” and yellow. Grow light can be an alternative to sunlight. Warmth and moisture should be given at any stage.

7. Maintenance – After the plants started growing, covers should be removed (if they were used). Keep soil moist (not soggy!) by watering in the morning or evening. Depending on the variety, the greens will need 7-14 days of light.

8. Harvesting – Microgreens can be harvested either just after their cotyledons have opened or after the true leaves have come (about 8-14 days after sowing). Early mornings or evenings are the best time to harvest without stressing the plants too much. Use one hand to gather and the other to cut with the scissors or a knife. If selling, wash the microgreens with cold water and let them dry off a bit. When placed in a plastic bag for storage, make sure there is some air kept inside the bag as well. After harvesting the full tray, the soil can be composted and used again.

Which seeds can be used

Common varieties include alfalfa, amaranth, arugula, basil, beets, borage, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, celery, chard, chervil, chicory, cilantro, cress, dandelion, dill, endive, fennel, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, mustard, onions, pac choi, parsley, peas, radish, scallion, sorrel, spinach, sunflower seeds, tatsoi and tokyo bekana.



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