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 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.
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:
Shown 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.
- I started by drilling six quarter-inch drainage holes into the bottom of each of the the plastic containers;
- 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;
- 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);
- 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:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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.
- 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.
One 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.
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:
- 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.
- Place the tortilla into a 9″ pie plate.
- Saute onion in garlic butter only until onion is soft. Remove from heat and stir in the microgreens.
- Beat the eggs, egg whites and milk until frothy.
- Mix the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses together, then spread on the tortilla in the pie plate.
- Spread the onion/microgreens mix over top of the cheese.
- Sprinkle with nutmeg.
- Pour egg/milk mixture over the cheese/microgreens mix.
- Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes – then cover with a lid or foil – and continue baking for another 20 minutes or until set.
- Serve while hot.
- 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.
- 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,
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