MICROGREENS: Superfoods You Grow Indoors

Posted by on Aug 18, 2014 in Do-It-Yourself, Frugal For Everyone, Gardening, Green Living, Herbs, Recipes | 39 comments

It was a great day when I discovered MICROGREENS, superfoods you grow indoors the year round. Microgreens are baby herbs and vegies, very easy to grow on windowsill or counter-top. They are fast producers, harvested within two to three weeks of germination, when the plants are only one to three inches tall. I had been thinking about the produce that would be available come Fall, really just a choice between expensive organic or less expensive chemical-laced. Not exactly great choices, that is, until microgreens came along giving us another option, one that is both super healthy and inexpensive. Microgreens  Frugalforeveryone.caMicrogreens are nutritional powerhouses because all the nutrients the plant needs to grow to maturity are stored in the tiny plants, waiting to be distributed as the plant grows. But as microgreens aren’t grown to maturity, it means all those extra stored nutrients – protein, antioxidants, beta-carotene and vitamins C, E, and K – are available for consumption when the plants are cut.

Growing Microgreens:

Remembering chia pets, I decided growing chia would be good place to start. I found an old berry clam shell which would work for a little greenhouse. Since it already had drainage holes in the bottom, it just required soil, watering and seeding. It only took a few days for green shoots to appear and a few more days after that I was cutting chia microgreens to add to salads, sandwiches and hamburgers.

That was easy and fun, enough so that expansion was the next step. Knowing plants germinate and grow at different speeds it seemed smart to give each type of plant its own growing container.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, but at the same time wanted to set up a continuous use system. That actually turned out to be easier and less expensive than expected.

Preparing the Microgreens Containers:

micro=greens in tray w lidShown above: Cook’n’Carry aluminum trays make perfect drainage trays. Plastic containers of the right size were found so that two could fit into each tray. The plastic cover that comes with the tray serves as a mini-greenhouse cover during the germination stage.

  1. I started by drilling six quarter-inch drainage holes into the bottom of each of the the plastic containers;
  2. Next two inches of organic, nutrient-rich growing mix was added, watered well and tamped down, enough to smooth out the soil, but not pack it;
  3. A moisture meter was used to keep a check on the moisture content. Once the meter read 5, the seeds were liberally sprinkled on top of the soil, lightly tamped down to ensure good soil contact and covered with vermiculite. (It doesn’t have to be vermiculite, it can be a light layer of soil – I just happened to have leftover vermiculite);
  4. The containers were then placed into the drainage tray and covered with the plastic lid. The lid actually sits on top of the plastic containers, leaving almost an inch of space underneath which, as it turned out, provides good air circulation.

Germination, Growing and Harvesting the Microgreens:

Microgreens  Frugalforeveryone.ca

  1. During the germination period, the seeds do not want light. Since I use the large window in my dining-room for my ‘indoor farming’, it was easiest just to leave the trays on the dining table, away from the light, until the green shoots appeared. Once that happened, the plastic cover was removed and placed under the aluminum tray, and the entire unit moved to the windowsill;
  2. When the plants are growing, they need a minimum of 6 hours – more is better – of light each day. If a window sill isn’t available, a table in front of a window or the counter under the cabinet light will also work;
  3. The microgreens are ready to be harvested within two to three weeks after germination. Once the plants are ready – at two to three inches – I simply grab a bunch by the top and cut them off with scissors, making sure not to pick up any dirt because the plants are really too tender to wash.
  4. When the container is emptied of the microgreens the soil needs to be removed. It contains too many roots to be able to reuse it, but it’s to valuable to just throw away. If at all possible, it should be composted for future use.

Updated February 2016. I had thrown the used-up soil into one of my raised beds and was pleasantly surprised to find this had prompted volunteer lettuce and spinach to grow before anything else in my garden was showing.

Microgreens  Frugalforeveryone.caOne piece of equipment that is invaluable for growing the microgreens is a moisture meter. Mine is just a cheap one but it works fine. It measures from 1-10 and moisture content around 4-6 is just right. If the soil is too wet, you could end up with a moldy mess; if it’s too dry, the microgreens could shrivel up. The little plants should be misted at least twice a day (more in really hot weather) so the moisture content stays in that 4-6 range.

Using Microgreens:

We really enjoy salad, soup, and quiche, all perfect matches for microgreens. When adding microgreens to soup, you do so after removing the soup from the heat; for quiche, rather than adding cooked greens like spinach or kale, you add the raw microgreens. You can also add the microgreens to stir-frys (again, remove from heat before stirring in the microgreens), smoothies or sandwiches in place of lettuce or sprouts.

Extra-Healthy Microgreens Quiche:

Microgreens Frugalforeveryone.ca Ingredients:

  • One large tortilla (regular pie crust can be used, but greatly increases calorie and fat content) Comparison: Tortilla 180 calories, Pie Crust 800 calories; Tortilla 4.5 g Fat, Pie Crust 64 g Fat; Tortilla 480 mg Sodium, Pie Crust 840 mg Sodium; Tortilla 31 g Carbs, Pie Shell 72 g Carbs.
  • Two Tbsp. garlic butter or 2 Tbsp. butter and one minced garlic clove or just 2 Tbsp. butter
  • One-quarter cup finely chopped onion
  • Three cups microgreens – any kind you like (Kale, Spinach, Chard, etc) or any combination
  • Three eggs
  • Three egg whites
  • One-half cup milk – I used 1%
  • One and a half  cups shredded skim milk mozzarella cheese
  • One-half cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • One quarter cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Nutmeg (optional, but does give a nice bit of extra taste)

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

  1. Place the tortilla into a 9″ pie plate.
  2. Saute onion in garlic butter only until onion is soft. Remove from heat and stir in the microgreens.
  3. Beat the eggs, egg whites and milk until frothy.
  4. Mix the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses together, then spread on the tortilla in the pie plate.
  5. Spread the onion/microgreens mix over top of the cheese.
  6. Sprinkle with nutmeg.
  7. Pour egg/milk mixture over the cheese/microgreens mix.
  8. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.
  9. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes – then cover with a lid or foil – and continue baking for another 20 minutes or until set.
  10. Serve while hot.
  11. Don’t just stick with these directions but use them as a template. Get totally different tastes by changing the cheeses, spices, herb butters or any other thing. I think one of the things I’m going to try this week is start with a sun-dried tomato/basil tortilla, add the microgreens, cheeses, and instead of the eggs, use tomato sauce and pizza seasonings. I have basil microgreens growing that smells amazing and some of that will also be added. It won’t be a quiche any longer, but I’m pretty sure it will be good.

Plants to grow as Microgreens:

Vegies: Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage (red is especially good), Chard, Kale (Red Russian), Lettuce (All kinds), Green Onions, Peas, Spinach.

Herbs: Aragula, Basil, Chives, Cilantro, Cress, Dill, Fennel, Lovage, Parsley

Chia and Alfalfa seeds from the Health Food Mart.

NOT TO GROW: Tomatoes and peppers, both of which belong to the poisonous nightshade family, or any other plant that has non-edible leaves. If not sure, best not do.

Helpful Hints:

  • Always use organic growing mix and organic seeds. I purchased both through our local Farm Supply Co-Op.
  • Chia is a great microgreen to start with. It’s fast growing and lets you discover what works and what doesn’t, without spending a lot.
  • Alfalfa microgreens are superior for heart health. They prevent arterial plaque and reduces cholesterol.
  • I started with seed packages but there aren’t enough seeds in those packs for serious microgreen growing.  It’s more practical and much less expensive to purchase organic seeds in bulk.
  • It works really well to place the units inside a clean kitty-litter box when misting to avoid overspray.
  • Start small and expand as you gain experience. Microgreens should not be cut before they’re to be used. They don’t store at all and quickly wilt and lose nutrients.

This is a fun way to grow your vegies and something that appeals to children. The plants are just their size and it doesn’t take long for them to see results. It requires very little time – I have four trays, each holding two containers with microgreens and it only takes five minutes, twice a day, for the misting.

Of course, the best thing about growing microgreens is always having a supply of  super nutritious vegies on hand. Why not join the fun and grow yourself some health at the same time?

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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39 Comments

  1. I love this one about growing microgreens. Sharing on G+ and m Facebook.

    • Hi Bindu – Thanks for the share – appreciate it.
      Lenie

  2. There is nothing like growing your own. I love Kale. Never thought of growing it. I also do grow mung beans.

    • Hi Arleen – I haven’t tried the mung beans as a microgreen but since I have some in the pantry for sprouting, I’ll give it a try. Thanks.
      Lenie

  3. Glad to see your comments turned back on Lenie! It must be cyber-hell week, right? LOL This is such a grand idea! If I had my old kitchen at my old house in FL I’d do this in a heart beat!

    • Hi Jacquie – after learning about the comments and then having them off for a couple of hours was frustrating, I don’t know how you did it for as long as you did. Microgreens really are a neat, too bad you don’t have that old kitchen, I could see you just whipping up all kinds of goodies.
      Lenie

  4. Hi Lenie; I’ve never had a chiapet but have been seeing those ads on tv all my life. Who knew they had such nutritional value. With so many people looking for healthier food at lower costs this post has to be one of your most helpful. and i like you including the recipes. thanks for sharing, max

    • Hi Max, it’s amazing how nutritious these foods are but when you stop and think about it, it all makes sense.
      Lenie

  5. Those microgreens seem like a great idea for thos who like truly organic food. You know what is on your plants when you grow them yourself.

    • Hi William – You’re right about that. I am really tired of buying vegies that you know are actually not good for you because they have been sprayed with something or other. This way I can avoid that.
      Lenie

  6. Well this is funny. Like a Chia pet you can eat! What a great way to get kids interested in eating greens. And good for us adults too. Didn’t know about the superfood Microgreens until now, Lenie. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

    • Hi Susan – I know, I can just see the kids going around giving the plants haircuts. Anyone having old chia pet containers could even reuse them.
      Lenie

  7. You could have a lot of fun with these micro-greens if you grew them as chia pets all over the patio or garden. As usual your post made me feel good Lenie and who couldn’t use more veggies in their diet; especially super ones.

    • Hi Tim – wouldn’t it be fun if some of our creative BHB members took hold of this – why we could have microgreen pets of every kind, dogs, cats, mice for the cats,and not only that, they could eat what they’ve cut off.
      Lenie

  8. Hi Lenie,

    Wow! I didn’t know that miccrogreens can be so delicious at the same time be so nutritious as well! This is like two birds in one arrow!

    Thank you for sharing the process and the benefits and the caution. This is very helpful.

    Regards,
    Kumar

    • Hi Kumar – microgreens are super – I love them, the only thing is, we’re now eating them faster than I can grown them – have to expand again.
      Lenie

  9. Thanks for the information Lenie. I have basil and rosemary growing indoors, but I never realized that you could grow all of these other things.

    • Hi Ken, I bring my herb plants indoors for the winter too but it’s fun and easy to have these other little plants growing.
      Lenie

  10. I remember my chia pet phase well 😉 I would like to give this a try sooner than later. I actually love to eat sprouts on sandwiches, but that’s only when I get one at a restaurant. It would be super-easy to grow them at home as your post shows.

    • Hi Jeri – We’ve been eating these microgreens on just about everything, so much so that I need to quickly replenish and get more seeds.
      Lenie

  11. Microgreens are the best! Thanks for this awesome guide to them and to answer your comment from before, it’s unfortunately not that easy to get certain things into Korea. Customs is pretty strict here and things like cilantro are a rarity. Anyway, thanks for another great post!

    • Hi Carl, I agree – If I had known how easy and good microgreens are, I would have been growing them much longer. Your comment about Korea is suprising – the Asian food here all seems to have lots of herbs and spices but that could be just because it’s geared to our appetites.
      Lenie

  12. Hello Lenie

    This was wonderful idea.
    I was on my holidays for 2 months and I enjoyed the taste of fresh vegetables and fruits. Everyone grows vegetables not only spinach , coriander, garlic , onion , lattice etc but also red kidney beans , zucchini etc. From the time I came back I really missed the great taste and freshness. I am really happy to know about indoor growing of micro-green , It will really help …. My main quest now is to find the place for seeds around and little bit of soil.
    Hopefully I will show you the results soon. Thanks for sharing recipe as well.

    • Hi Andleeb – I hope you find the seeds and soil – I would love to see the results.
      Lenie

  13. Hi Lenie,

    This is a great idea. We live with farms all around us in PA and fresh produce is amazing from May to late October. Past that and we have to find other ways to get it fresh.

    This is a great idea and I’m going to share it with my wife as we love to cook and eat very healthy.

    Thanks again for sharing!!!

    ~ Don Purdum

    • Hi Don – Here in Ontario we have the same situation – we can buy fresh local produce or get it from our gardens but come winter the choices are really limited, including the taste. This is so much better. Enjoy.
      Lenie

  14. Thanks for your guide. I haven’t planted herbs for a while but will be trying out some herbs this Autumn.

  15. Leni – I have to admit as a city dweller that I had never heard of micro greens. I could have my own indoor garden! My father was a great vegetable gardner. He’d come home from work and go right out in our backyard to pick weeds and check out the veggies. We always had tasty fresh tomatoes, string beans, carrots, etc. Your post reminded me of those days gone by.

    • Hi Jeannette, you absolutely could have your own indoor garden. Microgreens take up just as much, or as little, space as you want. And they take so little work. I think they’re amazing. Isn’t it nice when something brings back precious memories?
      Lenie

  16. I love microgreens! I get them almost every week in my CSA right now and I just put em on everything! My favorite is on toast with almond butter – so healthy and so delicious. Thanks for sharing the nutritional info – great to know!

  17. This looks fun and yummy! Love the quiche. I bet my kids would enjoy this, since they don’t have to wait as long for harvest. We’ll have to give it a try. Thanks for the tutorial to get us started!

    • Hi Meredith – I’m pretty sure your kids would like to do this. It’s so fun, fast and easy and if you start with chia you can’t go wrong. It’s almost instant results. Have fun.
      Lenie

  18. I absolutely LOVE microgreens but don’t eat them as often as I would like because they are so expensive… You’ve inspired me to grow my own. I think this would be a really fin project to do with my 7 year old. She was part of an organic gardening club at her school last year and as much as she loved it, it was a bit hard to wait for the veggies to grow strong and tall enough to be harvested… I loved seeing her come home with arms full of fresh kale, chard, celery and other fabulous greens. Every mom should read your post so I am going to share, share, share!!!

  19. Excellent post about microgreens. They look very easy to grow. I may need to give this a try.

  20. I have to try! It looks so easy! Thanks for your visit. xoxo Rita Talks

  21. Using the tortilla for the quiche was brilliant, Lenie! You have such a gift. My green of the week is kale for my flatbread turkey burgers. Maybe I’ll try a microgreens garden. Thanks for the advice about washing and cutting.

  22. How cool! I never thought of growing microgreens but having a garden that’s been successful gives me some confidence to do this too! Wonderful directions and that recipe sounds amazing too!

  23. I’ve never grown microgreens because I didn’t know they were so fast-growing and easy to take care of. it’s a super idea and I love the idea of having really healthy greens available for all sorts of dishes.

  24. Awh, these microgreens look so cute. I’m a sucker for anything in its mini form. I was surprised to learn these pack such a wallop of nutrients.