How to grow microgreens & sprouts for newbies
Learn the basics of how to grow microgreens and sprouts in no time
Microgreens and sprouts have gained tremendous popularity over the years. These small herbs and vegetables are both a colorful addition to most meals, and are jam packed with essential nutrients, flavor and aroma.
Their nutritional value is rather different from adult plants and are often higher due to the natural growth alchemy of the plants, making them well desired despite their small size.
With all the rave around them, more beginners are looking to cultivate them in the comfort of their own homes, where fresh herbs and veggies are right at their fingertips and adds an organic aesthetic to the space.
If you’re one of those beginners looking to grow your own nutrient pack microgreens and sprouts, let’s get into some of the things you should know about them, why you should grow them, and how you can have your own microgreens and sprouts planted and ready in no time.
1. What’s the difference between sprouts and microgreens?
Most plants start their lives germinating from a dormant seed. Once that seed germinates it begins to grow, first it becomes a sprout, then it becomes a baby plant and then into a full mature plant. Some mature plants like broccoli or pea shoots will then go on to produce vegetables, beans or peas.
2. How to germinate.
To germinate, you’ll start with some dormant seeds and wake it up with water and wait for the seeds to pop open. The seeds will then start to put out frisky little tails and begin to seek for nutrients around the room (if you put a camera to film them on timelapse, you’ll witness a true nature ballet).
They will begin to develop tiny roots and a stem with pinhead leaves becoming sprouts. The most typical sprouts in the USA are alfalfa and mung beans that can be located in most supermarkets.
3. How to make sprouts become microgreens
After the seeds have sprouted, you can either eat them or allow them to grow more if you planted them on some kind of medium such as soil or on a paper towel. They will then get much taller and put out their first set of leaves.
Once they start looking like small seedling plants they are at the microgreen stage and ready for consumption. However, remember if you want a bellyful of microgreens you need to plant a lot of seeds.
If you plant one seed at a time, you call them seedlings which you care and nurture until it grows into a mature plant. For microgreens you must plant a “bucket load” of seeds at a time and together, they make a nutritious addition to any meal, from salads to omelettes.
4. What seeds can you grow?
Some of the most common seeds people grow are: broccoli, beets, basic salad mix containing (broccoli, blue curly kale, purple vienna kohlrabi, arugula and red acre cabbage). Peas and sunflower seeds are also great along with amaranth, alfalfa, parsley and mustard seeds.
You have a pretty wide variety to choose from, you can go to a wholesale and get some soybeans, flax seeds, quinoa and more! Just ensure that you get raw, whole non roasted seeds, preferably organic and non GMO.
Bigger seeds tend to be a lot easier to grow and sprout. If you’re just getting started you can try to begin with sunflower and broccoli seeds which will grow very quickly and easily.
5. How to grow them
The first thing you will need to do is to decide if you want to grow sprouts or microgreens.
Sprouts are faster and can be grown easily in Mason jars, all you would have to do is to purchase special lids or use a screen or cheesecloth to place over the mouth of the Mason jar, to drain the excess water. If the Mason jar is not an option for you, you can go for specialized growing containers for sprouts like a two-tiered sprouter.
Sprouts will be ready to eat in about 3-5 days after planting, so there is no need for soil or any other medium. It makes up for a very practical and clean yield.
Microgreens on the other hand, will need mediums like soil, coconut coir or even paper towels. You can use aluminum foil baking pans or food containers to hold your microgarden of microgreens. Anything that can hold your plants will work - get creative.
There are also trays specifically made for growing microgreens. If you go with trays, a good size would be 10”x10”. Always get two trays: one with holes and the other without, this will make sure you have a catch tray for the excess water.
To get started place the soil or paper towel in the container with holes and add the seeds, then place the container with the seeds above the catch tray… and you’re all done.
As an option, to jump start your seeds, you can soak a tablespoon of preferred seeds overnight to give them a head start. On the next day, all you need to do is sprinkle the awaken seeds over the soil or paper towels add a few spritzes of water and allow them to grow.
6. Choosing the medium & covering
If you cover your seeds with soil, the end result will be a bit messier when you’re trying to clean them, you may even damage and lose some of your microgreens in the process. To avoid this, don't cover the seeds with soil, cover them up with another tray. Using the tray will simulate the same condition the seeds will experience if they were covered in soil.
This design is also great because it allows you to stack a lot of trays and make more microgreens in little spaces, like a small vertical microgarden of your own.
Spray them lightly once or twice a day with water. If you’re using soil, you can skip a day or two because they hold moisture longer. Paper towels on the other hand, will dry out a lot quicker, so pay attention to ensure that they are properly hydrated and nurtured.
Another planting option is to use paper towels on top of the soil, this combination is the best of both worlds. The nutrients from the soil and the cleanliness from paper towels, they also do not require watering as often and grows faster thanks to the nutrients of the soil.
7. How long it takes
Keep the plants covered up for about 4 or 5 days, until the leaves begin to open up, at that stage it’s time to give them some light. Since you’re indoors, you will need either a good window or grow lights.
From 7 to 10 days they will be ready to harvest. Hooray! The first yield is so exciting, you’ll always remember it. Savor the moment. You can harvest them sooner without any problem, but they will be smaller and the yield won’t be so big, but they will be tender and savory.
Wash them with a salad washer, and store them dry in the refrigerator to make sure they last as long as possible… or harvest what you need and keep the rest growing. This way, you can have fresh microgreens all the time packed with flavor, color and nutrition.
Remember that you can try your own methods and mixes… Get wild, and if you come up with something interesting, don’t forget to share it in the comments section.