Unlike sprouts, microgreens are vegetables or herbs that are grown in a shallow container of media (also known as seed-starting mix) by a sunny windowsill or under fluorescent lights. Microgreens are harvested when plants are still small and immature with a pair of cotyledons and sometimes the first set of true leaves just opening. In this tender young stage, nutrients are concentrated, textures are delicate, and you can enjoy the essence of each flavor as an accent to your favorite dish.
If you are re-purposing a container to grow microgreens, use a shallow one with drainage holes, such as a recycled plastic clam shell container, like those used for berries or cherry tomatoes in the grocery store. Make sure to first wash the container in warm soapy water to remove debris and then sanitize in a 1:9 ratio of bleach to water for 30 minutes. When the containers have finished soaking, rinse them in clean water prior to use. Fill your container up to a half-inch from the rim with media. Make sure the soil stays moist, but not soggy. Watering by soaking the tray from below will prevent soil from splashing onto the plants. Frequently misting with a spray bottle will also help to achieve the right germinating conditions, but requires more attention. Most varieties are ready in 7-14 days when seedlings are 1-2 inches tall.
Once you realize that microgreens are indispensable in the kitchen, you can get really adventurous and try growing individual varieties. Amaranth, arugula, beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, radish, and sorrel are all delicious vegetables that can be harvested as microgreens. Some versatile herbs to try include basil, cress, dill, marjoram, oregano, and watercress.
Growing microgreens isn’t just practical; it’s also fun! This winter, they will not only enhance the flavor of all your meals, but they will also give you that gardening “fix” when there’s two feet of snow outside. Liven up the dinner table by adding an interactive element. Think how fun it will be for kids or guests to snip their own microgreen freshness from the tray right onto their plates. Everyone will be saying, “Pass the microgreens, please!”