BENGALURU: Great things come in tiny packages they say, and this couldn’t be truer in the case of microgreens. Microgreens are tiny versions of various edible greens and vegetables that pack a punch. They are not just as full of vitamins and minerals as the fully-grown plants but in many cases exceed them in nutritional content. Microgreens are very rich in antioxidants and are packed with nutrients like potassium, zinc, iron, copper and magnesium. They also contain a variety of vitamins and polyphenols.
Quite often, they are confused with sprouts. Sprouts are seeds germinated by soaking them in water first, drained and kept in the dark loosely covered with a damp cloth with no soil. Once the seed germinates, the root, seeds and shoots are consumed. On the other hand, microgreens are seeds sown densely in a tray with soil, the plants are left to grow until the first two true leaves appear and then only the stem and shoot are harvested and eaten. They are usually just a few inches long depending on the type of the plant.
Some of the common microgreens that are grown are radish, mustard, sunflower, alfa alfa, basil, arugula, carrot, celery, coriander, kale, fenugreek, beet, dill, cabbage, pea, wheatgrass, etc. Not all plants can be consumed as microgreens – plants such as tomato, capsicum, chilly, brinjal, gourds etc should not be eaten as microgreens. Their leaves are not edible and eating these can make you sick.
The best part about microgreens is that they are fairly easy to grow, seed-to-harvest duration is within 15-25 days and you don’t need a backyard or a garden to grow these. Even a balcony or a windowsill can be a great place to grow microgreens and all you need is a tray or any shallow container to put the soil media and seeds in.
Growing microgreens would definitely figure in the top 10 list of projects that are easy and extremely satisfying. It could also be a very great way to teach germination in plants to children. The first step of growing these is to select what plants you want to grow. Always remember to buy only heirloom open pollinated seeds for growing microgreens because they give the best results.
Avoid hybrids because commercial hybrid seeds are often coated with a mild poison to protect it from getting eaten by bugs in the soil. There are no special seeds called microgreen seeds. Any seeds of regular varieties of greens, legumes and certain root vegetables can be grown as microgreens. However, some varieties of seeds are better than the others because of the colour, flavour etc. For example, red cabbage microgreens are preferred to regular cabbage microgreens due to the colour. You could start off with easier varieties such as mustard or fenugreek that are readily available in our kitchens.
The second step is to find a shallow pot or any container and poke enough drainage holes at the bottom. Fill the container with 1 inch of soil mix. The soil should be a mix of 2 parts of coco peat, 1 part of mud and 1 part of compost. It should be a light fluffy mix and must drain well. Sprinkle water lightly and check for drainage. Then sprinkle the seeds densely over the surface and cover the seeds with a very thin layer of soil. Use a sprayer or a mister to spray water on the seeds regularly everyday so that the soil is moist. Keep the tray in a semi shade area and not under direct sunlight. In a few days the seeds will germinate and the cotyledons will come out. After a few more days, the first true leaves of the plant will appear.
Once the true leaves appear, take a sharp scissor and snip just the leaves and the stem of the plants. Always start your new batch of microgreens with fresh soil and seeds and avoid reusing the soil as it would be full of roots from the previous batch. Wash the microgreens thoroughly to get rid of the soil before you use them.
Incorporating microgreens in your diet is quite easy and can be done in a variety of ways – in salads, and as a dressing on chutneys, curries and rice dishes. Take care to never cook your microgreens – the point is to eat it raw and at its crunchiest best. Use it as a dressing for a ready dish – the tangy flavours and the colours of your microgreens will brighten up and elevate almost any dish to the next level.The author is CEO, Farmizen, a platform connecting organic and natural farmers to urban consumers with same-day farm-to-fork delivery.