Microgreens From Your Kitchen

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Fresh and affordable greens aren't always easy to come by in winter.

But what many people don't realize is that you can grow them in your own home.

Stephen Orr from House & Garden magazine shows us how easy it is to grow microgreens, the hottest new food in some of the finest restaurants. He answered some questions for us about microgreens and sprouts:

What is the difference between sprouts and microgreens?
It's a question of age. Generally speaking, sprouts have just grown their first set of leaves while microgreens are older and have grown four or more leaves. Also sprouts don't need sunlight while most microgreens do. The next step for some kinds of microgreens would be the baby greens we find in the popular mesclun salad mixes.

Are they good for you?
Yes they are full of vitamins, minerals and enzymes

Why are microgreens trendy in restaurants?
Chefs are always looking for new foods to keep their customers interested. Micorgreens provide texture, color and in most cases a nice sharp flavor as a garnish

There are many different you can grow. What do they taste like?
They range from the ever-familiar alfalfa sprouts to spicy garlic, radish or mustard sprouts and bright red amaranth. Sprouts such as sunflowers and clover have a nutty flavor.

Are they easy to grow?
Yes, sprouts are easy to grow. They don't even need soil.

Do they take up a lot of space?
No, most people can grow them on their kitchen counter. That's why they're perfect for winter gardening

You say sprouts can be grown in sprout bags or a sprout machine. How does the sprout machine work?
The only labor involved with growing sprouts is that they need to be rinsed several times a day, but a sprout machine does it for you. The seeds are sprouted in the top chamber and the bottom chamber is filled with water. You just plug it in and water sprays over the sprouts at regular intervals.

How long until you can harvest sprouts?
It depends on the variety. Usually it takes 5 to 10 days to sprout the seeds. They stay fresh for several more days if you refrigerate them.

To grow microgreens you need soil, right?
Yes, microgreens are sprouts that are allowed to grow taller or develop a set of adult leaves. They can also be sown in a moist, soil-free potting mix or on a wet sponge. Unlike sprouts, these miniature plants usually need sunlight to mature.

What is the best spot in your house to grow sprouts and microgreens?
You can start them in a warm place like a kitchen. The seeds should be dark at first (you can cover them). Then once they sprout they should be moved to a window or sunny spot. You could also use grow lights. Once they are growing you just cut them as you need them. I like to keep several trays going at once by sowing seeds every week or so. That way the harvest is staggered and you always have a fresh supply.

Are there any safety tips we should know about growing sprouts or microgreens?
Not with microgreens, but since sprouts are grown in a closed environment, you have to make sure they are rinsed properly and then refrigerated so that they don't spoil. Also, it's very important to buy seeds from a reputable company that sells seeds labeled "For Sprouting." There have been some instances when people bought packaged sprouts in the store that were contaminated with soil-borne organisms, such as e-coli and salmonella, that cause food poisoning. Reputable companies guard against such contamination. I like Johnny's Selected Seeds (Winslow, ME, Tel: 207-861-3900) because they sell only organic seed that is tested against contamination. Also, by growing them at home, you can keep a better eye on them.

Varieties
  • Cauliflower: Peppery but mild, 5 to 7 days to harvest, grow in a jar or tray

  • Bean: Harvest young at 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, 4 days to harvest, grow in a jar or bag

  • Beet: Earthy flavor, 7 to 10 days to harvest, grow as microgreens in a soil-free mix

  • Clover: Slightly spicy to sweet, 6 to 7 days to harvest, grow in a sponge or tray

  • Popcorn: Very sweet, grow as microgreens in soil-free mix, keep out of sunlight

  • Cabbage: Mild flavor, 5 to 6 days, grow as microgreens in soil-free mix or tray

  • Garlic and onion: As flavorful as the adult versions, 12 to 14 days to harvest, grow in jar or tray

  • Sunflower: Nutty taste, harvest in 7 to 10 days, before the second set of leaves, grow in a tray

  • Radish: Spicy and hot, 2 to 5 days to harvest, grow in a jar or tray


And remember: because the sprouts are grown in a closed environment, you have to make sure they are rinsed properly and refrigerated so that they don't spoil.
  • Rome Neal

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