microgreens

Fresh, fast, gourmet salad – microgreens!

Salad lover here.

For years, I’ve been growing as much of our salad as I could. I started growing sprouts about nine years ago, and not long after, I began experimenting with microgreens. They’re quite trendy now (especially in restaurants), but that the time, I’d not heard of them. I came across some information in a sprouting book I was reading, and decided to give it a try. At first I thought it was just an interesting way to quickly grow salad greens that were more lettuce-like than regular sprouts (which my children, at the time, dubbed “hair”). Then, one day, I needed a quick and easy lunch and decided to just mix up all the microgreens and serve salad. And it dawned on me… these salads I had just served my toddlers were akin to the salads my husband and I had been ordering in  fancy-schmantzy restaurants – just as tasty, but a whole lot most cost effective, and crazy easy.

If you’re thinking you wish you could do this, but you don’t have time/room/knowledge for a garden – stop worrying. Microgreens are so, so easy and you can grow them nearly anywhere. The pictures here show growing on racks, but I spent several years growing them on top of my refrigerator. In the winter, it was the perfect combination of warmth and available space!

You will need some basic “equipment:”

  • Trays (perforated). I have been started using these sturdy black trays from Bootstrap Farmer. You can get them on Amazon, and easily put drainage holes in with a drill with a small bit or a soldering iron (the soldering iron is much easier). I prefer these trays because they are firm, but not rigid or brittle. I have had really rigid outer trays in the past, but they ended up breaking too easily when dropped (it happens – especially when you have kids involved, and I want my kids involved in gardening and growing food).
  • Trays (not perforated, optional if you’re outside or have tie). If you’re going to grow your microgreens outside, you may decide to skip this step. But if you’re growing them inside, you’ll want the outer tray to catch any residual water that may drip through after rinsing. I always use the outer trays because I usually am moving my trays, and the black trays are not as sturdy and benefit from the support of an extra layer.
  • Growing medium.
    • I have always used vermiculite – mostly because, in 2008, I purchased a ridiculous quantity of vermiculite (I didn’t know how much I was ordering). Here I am, 8 years later, finally getting to the last of it. Vermiculite is good, and you can purchase it (in reasonable quantities) from many garden centers.
    • Another option are hydroponic growing mats, such as this one or this one. I have not used these yet, but I will be switching to them when I use up the last of the vermiculite. These cost a bit more per use, but they are far more practical for urban apartment dwelling than vermiculite.
    • Of course… you can use plain old potting soil, gardening soil, or compost. This is what the local teaching farm does, and microgreens are a big crop there. The difference for me is that they have a nice, big green house with large tables made of screen. The trays can be watered on the tables, without moving them. The soil is heavy, and when it’s wet, it’s heavier. This can be a great option, if you have the space. I would probably not grow  microgreens in soil on a patio, and I wouldn’t even consider it for growing them indoors
  • Water (tap water will do)
  • Space. No, seriously, you need flat, level, horizontal space on which to put your trays. It will be their “home.” The top of my refrigerator will house two trays of the size I’m picturing here. That will grow a lot of microgreens.

So, here’s my process.

First, soak your seeds for a couple hours. Just put them in a jar and cover with water.

microgreens
Left to right, these are sunflower, popcorn, buckwheat, and sweet peas.

While that’s happening, prep your trays.

I like to use a 10x 20 inch size tray. The size is up to you, but this is a common size, what I had when I started, and works great for us. The (clean looking!) tray on the left is the outer tray. This outer tray has no holes, and catches any drips and provides extra stability when I move my microgreens. The tray on the right is the inner, or growing, tray. It has holes for good drainage when rinsing the microgreens. (It looks dirty because it still has some vermiculite in it from the last round of growing.)

See the placement of the holes? Just every couple inches. The water needs to drain out completely, but not too fast. These trays from #BootstrapFarmer work great, are BPA free, strong, and work great.

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Put your growing medium (vermiculite, hydroponic mat or compost/soil) in the trays. Wet it down. Just mist it was plain water, from your garden hose if you’re outside, or your dish sprayer if you’re in the kitchen, or even a spray bottle filled with water. Just be sure it’s plain water. This step will not only help your seeds, but it will also keep your vermiculite or compost in the tray, and not floating up and out with the slightest breeze (yes, even if you’re indoors).

microgreens

Making four sections in the growing medium made it easy for me to grow equal amounts of different greens in the same tray. You would think I could just eyeball it, but that never worked very well for me! You can grow a tray at a time, of course, but when the boys were younger, I would find we’d have a glut of one type of greens at once, and then be waiting for another two weeks for fresh. Now, I stagger by trays, but this is an old picture where I would divide up the tray and grow different seeds in each section.

microgreens

Okay, if it’s been a couple hours, drain your seeds and spread them on your growing medium. Yes, the seeds sit on top. No, do not bury them. They are fine.

You may want to cover them with plastic at this time, until the seeds germinate (sprout). I do not, but I don’t think it would hurt if you live in a very dry climate. I never found it to be a problem when we lived in Texas (and it was drier there than here).

Now. Here’s where your real dedication comes in. Every morning, and every evening, rinse those seeds. The easiest, simplest way I found was to carry the tray to the sink and use the dish sprayer. Remove the inner tray from the outer one and set it over your sink. Give them a thorough shower. Wait until most of the water has drained out – you only need to wet them down, not keep them in water – and put the tray back in the outer tray, and put it back in its spot.

That’s it. In 10 to 14 days, depending on the temperature and the type of seed, you’ll have salad.

microgreens

Sometimes, the microgreens don’t quite pop off their hulls. Just pick them off.

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See that sneaky sunflower seed hull in there? Just pick it out!

Minimal washing is needed, since you having been showering them twice daily for their entire lives!

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I harvest with kitchen shears, right into a bowl. Toss with any ingredients you want to add, add dressing, and put it on the table.

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This is seriously the best tasting, fastest, and freshest salad ever.

Here’s a favorite dressing in this house:

Easy, peasy, tasty salad dressing:

  • 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning (any combo of basil, oregano, and rosemary – to your taste!)

Put in a canning jar, add a lid, and shake it up. Pour over salad and enjoy.

One more thought. Many of you, dear readers, are work at home (or stay at home) moms looking for ways to help out with the household income. Did you know that raising microgreens is becoming a veritable cottage industry? In all seriousness, microgreens are in demand at local farmers markets and high end restaurants. Try it yourself, and when you see how easy it is, check out these articles:

Permaculture Voices on Income from Microgreens

Top Ten Questions about Growing Microgreens for Profit

Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a great side line where you can be your own boss, raise income, and put great food on the table all at the same time.

 

#BootstrapFarmer was gracious enough to provide me with a discounted price on the 10×20 perforated trays in exchange for an hoest review, and I am happy to share with you how I have used them. Affiliate links are used in this post. Any opinion expressed here is mine alone.