Microgreens are densely seeded edible plants that are harvested and consumed before they are mature. Microgreens are a nutritional powerhouse, holding up to 40 times more vitamins and nutrition than their mature counterparts. Personally, I love how a sprinkle of microgreens can instantly transform my go-to meal of nuked frozen vegetables (don’t judge me!) from slimy mush… to “Salad Nirvana: harmony of texture and flavour“, from lazy gardener’s winter meal… to a posh affair worthy of being—as Pinterest calls it— a “salad bowl“. It’s no wonder that microgreens are often used in exquisite wraps and as garnishes on dishes at high-end restaurants.
As fancy as they look, microgreens are not intimidating to grow at all. The barrier to entry in terms of material cost, time commitment, and learning curve are practically non-existent. Furthermore, since they are grown indoors, they can be enjoyed all year round. Pretty, tasty, nutritious, easy, and zone-6-winter-friendly? Count me in!
A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether you would eat the leaves of the mature plant. As long as you can eat the adult leaves, you can eat the respective microgreens. Avoid plants in the nightshade family (tomato, potato, peppers, eggplants) because their leaves are poisonous! Here are some of our recommendations, with their respective days to maturity and seeding quantity based on BUFCO’s large DIY microgreen kits:
|Seeds||Days to Maturity||Seed Quantity*|
*Based on Large BUFCO Microgreen kits
My favourites? Peas, kohlrabi, beets, and mustard! So easy to grow, so easy to harvest (no need to pick off seed husks), so colourful, and so flavourful!
How much seed you use depends on the size of the seed. Large seeds like sunflowers and peas need larger volumes of seed (1/4 cup per 500 cm2 tray), medium-sized seeds (beets, radish, cilantro) need roughly 1 tbs for a tray per 500 cm2 tray, where as small seeds like basil only need require 1 tsp for a 500 cm2 tray. (BUFCO’s small-sized DIY microgreen kit has, roughly, a 500 cm2 surface area). After broadcasting, there should only be a thin layer of seeds over the soil. Overseeding can lead to mold and dampening off.
We don’t recommend broadcasting seed mixes as microgreens. Each plant (even two varieties of the same plants) may have different maturity times, growing habits, and heights. By mixing the seeds, the fast growing varieties will crowd out the slower growing varieties and block them from receiving light. If you have a long tray, you can try dividing it into two sections and planting one variety in each half.
Coconut coir is used as mulch to hold moisture in the soil as your seeds are germinating. Having too much coconut coir can lead to mold or dampening off.
Coconut coir is also used to keep the seeds close to the soil while they are germinating. Depending on the seed variety, the seed may push itself above the soil as it is germinating. In our experience, not using any coconut coir has led to uneven germination. We’ve found that the perfect amount is just a thin sprinkling–a little goes a long way!
Coconut coir can be found at most hydroponics stores. We prefer to use the uncompressed/loosely packaged varieties with microgreens.
Some greens can regrow as long as you leave a leaf or two when you harvest them. Of course, you can only do this a limited number of times, and it only works for some of the aforementioned plants (ie. peas).
Wilting sections are likely caused by a disease called damping off. Simply pick off those parts so it doesn’t spread to the healthy plants.
Damping off typically happens because that spot has been overseeded. To prevent this from happening, ensure the seeds are broadcasted thinly and evenly over the tray. It takes a lot of restraint, but in my experience, it has always worked better to under-seed than over-seed! This ensures enough circulation between individual plants.
To prevent spreading disease from one succession to another, make sure you are disciplined about washing the pots and trays with soap and water before planting another round of microgreens, even if your microgreens did not suffer from disease, wilt, or mold.
Don’t worry, I’ve made every one of these mistakes!