Easy-peasy Microgreens. Fun and flavor with minimal fuss.
What are Micro-greens?
Micro-greens are the latest craze to hit restaurants and grocery stores. They're colorful and flavorful, and small enough that you can add them to pretty much anything, including burders, sandwiches and salads.
Micro-greens are the "baby" version of leafy greens other than spinach.
Spinach is a familiar green with a healthy reputation. Baby Spinach sounds like a cute, nutrient-rich veggie packing same nutritional punch as its big brother without unnecessary toughness.
Baby Carrots evoke a similar consumer reaction. Who needs tough, full-size carrots that require washing and peeling? Baby Carrots are so cute and tasty - perfect for dipping and snacking.
The marketing solution is to label all these plants as "Micro-greens", obviating further explanation of their origins.
In their micro phase, they look pretty much the same (small, green, leaf-like), and even wary consumers treat them like a sort of gourmet mystery. 10 years later, Mesclun salad is a Farmers Market favorite. (Mesclun, by the way, is yet another way of avoiding pesky details, but it's French so that's okay. )
Micro-Greens in your Garden
Micro-greens are a great way to build a diverse garden with low start-up costs, continuous harvests and a multitude of flavors.
Setting up a household garden is a great way to save on groceries, but starting a garden from scratch isn't cheap. Outdoor gardens require tools and seeds, plants and fertilizer. Indoor gardens don't require tools, but decorative pots and potting soil soon absorb any perceived savings.
Micro-greens offer an ideal blend of cost and convenience.
- Seeds are cost-effective. Micro-green seed packets contain 5-6 varieties of seeds. Instead of purchasing six different seed packets at $1.39 apiece ($8.34, and 500 seeds to store), you can buy a single pack of micro-green seeds ($2.39), and use them up over the course of the growing season.
- Harvests are consistent and guaranteed. Micro-greens are edible almost immediately, and are equally edible through their months of growth. If they're not growing well - eat them. If they're growing great - eat them. If they're growing exactly as they should - eat them. The guys at Sprout-People eat micro-greens as sprouts approximately 5-6 days from planting. From 6-10 days, the plants are micro-greens suitable for side-salads or sandwiches. From 10-20 days, they're petite greens - great for larger salads. And from 21 days onwards, they're perfect for chopping, cooking and blendering in all sorts of culinary creations. At the end of the season, freeze leafy greens for winter meals.
- Flavors abound. Most grocery stores carry the Mild Microgreen Mix and from Botanical Interests. The Spicy mix contains Sawtooth Mustard - 30%, Peppergrass Cress - 30%, Cabbage Red Acre - 15%, Mustard Red Giant - 15%, Radish China Rose - 10%. The Mild mix contains equal parts Bull’s Blood Beet, Red Acre Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Pak Choi and Lucullus Swiss Chard. Each plant has a different flavor both reminiscent of and distinct from their full-grown counterparts. For near-endless variety, taste each plant as a sprout, microgreen and leafy green. Then start working on the edible roots. If that gets you through the winter, try garnishing salads with next year's Spicy Microgreen Mixbolted flowers.
A Taste of Heirloom Cabbage
Make the Most of Your Micro-Greens
A few quick tips will help you make the most of your micro-green harvest.
- Grow what you'll eat, eat what you grow. If you're not sure how many servings you really want to add to your diet, start small. Remember- if you sprout a large number of seeds, you have to eat a large number of sprouts. If you plant a large number of sprouts, you have to eat a large number of plants. If you let your plants grow full size, you have to eat a large number of beets, cabbage, radishes, mustard greens, kohlrabi and broccoli.
- Microgreens are tough; throw them outside and let them survive. The most flavorful greens come from hardy plants with sizeable edible roots like beets, radishes and kohlrabi, or inedible roots like brussel sprouts and chard. Plant overflow seedlings outdoors. They'll take care of themselves, and provide food for seasonal harvests. Pay close attention to the survivors, and populate next year's garden with heirloom varieties of the same plants.
- Greens go with everything. Don't hoard your veggies. Leafy greens evolved with grazing herbivores. The more you pick them, the more they grow. Leave a few leaves at the base of each plant, and you can harvest tender young shoots as "micro-greens" all season long.