How to Grow Microgreens Indoors: The Perfect Culinary Garden

Microgreens are easy, nutritious, and fun to grow. With minimal effort, you can produce fresh produce in your own home, and add a fancy dash of flavor and garnish to any dish.

Many herbs and vegetables that are traditionally difficult to grow indoors are a breeze when you are only growing them 2 to 3 inches tall. This makes them ideal for both beginners and year-round growers alike.

Read on to learn all you need to know about how to grow microgreens indoors!

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purple microgreens

What Are Microgreens?

Microgreens are the seedlings of herbs, greens, or other vegetables. They are not a specific breed of plants, but rather a plant that has been grown over a short period of time and has passed the “sprouting” phase. Microgreens are packed full of healthy nutrients and enzymes since the plants are in a period of young rapid growth. 

Microgreens are similar to sprouts, but they are one step ahead in their development because they’re allowed to grow up to 3 inches tall. They sprout their first set of leaves, also known as the “true leaves”, before being eaten. They take less than a month to germinate and are easily harvested with a pair of scissors.

What Can I Grow?

Microgreens can be grown from many types of seeds, including flowers, herbs and vegetables. While this process is easy, it is not fool-proof. It may be best to start with microgreens that are the easiest to work with.

Five Easy Microgreen Plants to Get Started With:

  • Radishes are very easy to grow as microgreens, and hard to mess up. They also grow quickly, which means you can harvest as soon as 10 days if you provide adequate water and light to your seeds.
  • Red Cabbage microgreens are easy to grow and also incredibly nutrient-dense. Researches have found that red cabbage microgreens significantly reduce the circulating amount of bad cholesterol in mice that were fed a high-fat diet. Because of this, it may play a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Kale microgreens, like the above plants, are also a faster-growing plant. Different types of kale seeds will produce different colors, textures, and flavors. This is a fun plant to test varieties out with.
  • Red Mustard plants may be a bit slower than the above-mentioned plants, but they are incredibly resilient and will grow well in a variety of environments. They are also exceptionally nutritionally dense and have been known to have anti-cancer properties.
  • Amaranth is used as a seed, flower, and grain. It also makes a beautiful microgreen, and you may get leaves that are purple, red, green, or gold.

Additional Plants

Microherbs: Chervil, cress, purple basil, dill, sorrel, cilantro, fennel, celery, nasturtiums, shiso, mint, rosemary, sage, oregano.

Microgreens: Cauliflower, broccoli, arugula, lettuce, endive, chicory, carrot, garlic, onion, leek, quinoa, spinach, chives, cucumbers, wheatgrass, barley, rice, oats, chickpeas, lentils.

Benefits of Microgreens

seedlings growing out of soil

Lifestyle Benefits

Microgreens are a perfect option for those who want an affordable, easy, healthy, and flexible form of indoor gardening. Microgreens grow in 1-3 weeks, meaning they are much quicker to produce than a plant you will grow to maturity.

There is also a high yield to space ratio, meaning that you can grow lots of plants in a small area. The plants will not be growing into maturity so it is fine to plant them very close together.

Supplies are affordable and simple when growing microgreens. While there are kits that can be purchased, you can easily use recycled materials to build your own growing kit. In addition to a good container, you’ll need growing medium, water, and sunlight. That’s it!

This is also an excellent way to produce fresh greens all year round. It can be challenging to find fresh food year-round depending on your location’s climate. Microgreens can solve this problem and also provide you with a variety of fresh food if you choose to try several types of seeds. 

Health Benefits

Microgreens are an even healthier alternative to your average plant-based foods. Because they are so small and in a state of quick growth, they are rapidly producing nutrients and enzymes that are beneficial to eat.

Microgreens contain high levels of antioxidants, which have been shown to reduce the rate of growth of certain cancers. It is also helpful in supporting the body when fighting off viral infections.

They may also help with detoxification in several ways. The plants support the liver and blood in removing toxins. Since microgreens aid in digestion, this is another way in which they help eliminate toxins from the body. They also remove toxins by helping the body flush out congested mucus membranes.

Although the nutrient content of microgreens varies from plant to plant, levels measured have been up to 40 times higher than their mature plant counterparts. Microgreens are a great source of vitamins A, B6, C, K, and E. They also contain carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, folate, iron, sodium, and calcium.

What Materials Do I Need?

  • A shallow tray is a perfect base for your setup. You can use a plastic or non-plastic tray. You can buy it or use a recycled container you have around the home.
  • Soil or growing medium is needed for providing stability and nutrients to your plants. You can use a soil mix for most plants, and there are also grow mats and starter mediums available for smaller seeds.
  • A sunny spot or a grow light is important to provide the full spectrum of nutrients to your plants. For maximum growth, they’ll need about 4-6 hours of daily light. Since the seeds will grow quickly, you don’t need to worry too much about the tray taking up windowsill space or driving up your electricity bill, as would be a concern for plants growing to maturity. 
  • Microgreen seeds are the same as regular seeds. However, you may want to buy organic seeds, since the small plants will be very concentrated with whatever treatments (such as pesticides) are on the plants. Some companies offer microgreen seed mixes which is a perfect way to try a variety of flavors.

Step-By-Step Guide

  • 1.Soak your seeds overnight to help them germinate faster. This step will help ensure that your plant will actually sprout.
  • 2. Find an area with lots of light. This can be a south-facing window if you are lucky to have a good natural light source. If not, you can use a small grow light for your seedlings and put them anywhere that is convenient for you. In warmer months, feel free to bring your plants outside to grow.
  • 3. Place 1.5 inches of potting soil or growing medium into your tray. It is often recommended to use an inch of soil, but I find that the extra half-inch adds support and a bit of nutritional insurance to the plant. 
  • 4. Place your seeds all over the surface of the soil. You don’t have to worry about overcrowding the seeds because you won’t be growing them for very long.
  • 5. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil or medium. Then you should use a spray bottle to moisten this layer of soil.
  • 6. Spray your tray with the water bottle 2-3 times a day. This will keep the soil evenly moist without overwatering the plants or drying them out.
  • 7. Have patience as your microgreens grow. Continue spraying your plants, providing them with light, and making sure they stay warm as you wait for them to grow.
  • 8. Reuse your tray. When you are done with your yield, you can simply pull the plant roots from the tray and reuse the soil or growing medium for your next batch.

Harvesting Microgreens

cutting a microgreen plant

Broadly speaking, your microgreens will take about 1 to 4 weeks to reach a desirable size (2 to 3 inches tall). You can either clip your greens with a pair or scissors or remove the plant and root completely. Many like to remove the entire plant because it frees up space for the roots of the other plants in the tray.

You’ll only have one yield from each tray of microgreens that you grow since you’re removing and eating a majority of the plant when you harvest it. You can make the most out of this amount by only harvesting when you are cooking, allowing the other plants to stay fresh and keep growing.

Go ahead and use your senses to decide when the plants are ready to be harvested. Look for the brightest healthiest greens, and find the ones that have created their first set of leaves. Be sure to taste-test them as well. The benefit of growing your own produce is that you can harvest it at the perfect point for your needs.

Make sure to be very gentle with the plants. They are young and vulnerable and can be easily torn or bruised.

Place your harvested plants on a moistened paper towel. Make sure to give them space and don’t stack them on top of each other. Rinse them in cool water and then return them to the towel. 

For storage, place another damp paper towel on top of your greens, and place them in a bag or container. They will last in the fridge for about a week, but of course, are best enjoyed immediately.

Recipes

One of the best parts about microgreens is that they are tender, small, and can fit into almost any dish. Here are some ways you can incorporate your plants into your meals:

  • Salads are perfect for your microgreens. In fact, you could make a salad entirely out of these small plants to really taste them all together and get a full range of flavor. This is a great option for those who want to eat their greens raw and preserve as many nutrients as possible. You can also use your little plants as an accent to a salad with matured greens, providing a lovely additional flavor to the mix.
  • Sandwiches are another great choice for incorporating raw microgreens into your diet. They are much more flavorful than a leaf of lettuce would be, which can help add to the complexity of your sandwich’s flavor.
  • Stir Frys are a great way to use your microgreens without needing a recipe. You can simply throw them in 5 to 10 minutes before the end of cooking time to have a perfectly sauteed fresh greens stir fry.
  • Juicing & Smoothies are a great way to break down your greens to access nutrients, without cooking them. Wheatgrass is the most popular green used for a smoothie, however, there are lots of great options with a variety of plants. Just make sure to balance the flavors well since microgreens can have a more potent taste than mature plants.
  • Baking may sound like an obscure use for your plants. However, these guys fit perfectly into quiches, casseroles, meatloaves, lasagnas, and other baked goods. They can add a wonderful complexity and savoriness to your dish, particularly if you are using micro herbs.
  • Soups are a great medium for your young plants. They are small and tender, which means there is very little prep needed when adding them to your soup. You can either cook them alongside the soup or sprinkle them fresh on top of the soup for flavoring and presentation. 
vegetables on six pieces of toast

Great Recipes

As you can see, it doesn’t take much to get your microgreens started. Plants are quite strong and active in their younger phases of growth, so with a little love from you, they will then do most of the hard work!

Make sure to experiment to find the perfect plants, materials, and techniques that work for you. This is a very flexible process and a great way to improve your indoor gardening skills in an enjoyable way.

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