Contributed by Ritamary, Plot 21
Yes, that is the title of a famous grammar book, showing the perils of wrong punctuation. This description of a Panda’s dining habits, with its carelessly positioned comma, gave an altogether wrong impression of the much loved Panda!
But fear not, this blog is not going to grill you with grammaticals. It’s about my own personal soon-to-be January experiment. Microgreens! With my Powerstown allotment holding days, if not weeks of rain, it’s a no go area for now. The garden is no better, so the kitchen window sill will have to feed my growing habit for now. So what are the possibilities? Everyone knows bean sprouts, and we probably all grew mustard and cress at some stage, (in eggshells, when we were kids), but today we can grow – Microgreens! A huge range of flavours in miniature plant form, packed with vitamins and minerals, and ready to eat in just a few weeks.
The difference between sprouts and microgreens is that sprouts are the just germinated plant, full of nutrients, true, but very tiny. Microgreens are allowed to grow on to be a bit bigger and greener. They are tiny chlorophyll factories, still loaded with nutrients, so you get more, and more varied produce for the effort.
Lots of vegetables and herbs can be grown indoors, year round, and harvested in a few weeks. They should have produced their first true leaves*, and maybe a few more – it depends on the plant, and how much time you want to give them. It may go against the grain for allotment growers to mow down such delicate little plantlets. We are economical souls, and we like a bit more volume in our crops. However, science has shown that such tiny plants contain multiples per sq mm of the nutrients that older plants contain, so it isn’t such a bad deal. And tasty too!
Microgreens can be grown in pots, seed trays, clear plastic lidded fruit boxes, and margarine tubs with holes drilled in the bottom. Just be sure to put them in a drip tray, to protect your window sills.
Put a layer of finely sieved compost in the bottom, some added plant food is beneficial, (chicken pellets ground up are good), about two/three inches is enough.
Tamp it down gently. Sprinkle your microgreen seeds on top, close but not touching. Cover with fine compost, as deep as the size of the seeds, then moisten the compost with a mister if possible. The soil should be damp like a wrung out cloth, but not wet. Be careful! A deluge of water will wash the seeds all over the place! Keep constantly damp, but not wet.
It would be expensive to grow microgreens from the packets of seed you buy for the garden, but hey, this is a good way to use up old vegetable and herb seeds, before they go out of date and you throw them out anyhow. Why not? You know they won’t grow in the packet! Peas and beans, bull’s blood beet, alfalfa, carrots, chard, spinach, cabbage and more make good micro greens, nutritious and intense in flavour. Herbs too. Tomatoes and courgettes? Maybe not! If that isn’t enough, you can plant the left over dried beans, peas and pulses rattling around the cupboard from supermarket packets. It’s not absolutely guaranteed they will germinate, try a few first before you assign a whole container. If they do, it’s a fairly cheap source. Especially if you are watching the sell by date impatiently so you can throw them out. Soak larger seeds overnight to aid germination.
NB! Don’t eat packeted garden seeds as sprouts! They are treated with fungicides. Let the shoots develop into microgreens, then cut them off to use in salads etc, leaving the whole root and seed case behind.
Put the seed boxes on the brightest window sill you have, and keep frost free.
You can harvest microgreens at various sizes. Experiment and see which size you prefer.
NB! Sunflower seeds should be harvested as sprouts, the true leaves are bitter. So don’t use garden packets.
Microgreens are a great addition to salads, or even stir fries, with their range of flavours. Pea sprouts taste like peas, fava beans have a fresh beany taste, sunflower shoots are nutty in flavour, good with avocado and shrimp, radish shoots have great colour, and a spicy, peppery flavour, mustard mixes like mizuna and red giant have a great peppery kick. Then there are the classics like rocket, bull’s blood beet, alfalfa.
If you are bitten by the bug, you can buy larger packs of seed, specially packed for microgreen growing, also seeds for sprouts, which are not treated with fungicides. You can grow these all year round, your own special nutrient bullets. Suppliers include
What can I use my Microgreens with?
Microgreens work well with:
- Goat’s cheese on thin white toast with microgreens and a scattering of pomegranate seeds. Use a drop of your favourite salad dressing, but don’t overdo it! (I like honey and mustard, with a little red wine vinegar)
- Salmon terrine: mix flaked, poached salmon with crème fraiche, finely chopped cucumber and dill and salt and pepper, press into a lightly oiled ramekin and refrigerate. Turn onto a plate and top with microgreens. Lunch for one. Serve yourself with thin brown bread or a fresh roll.
- Pate (your choice) on thin brown bread, topped with slices of beetroot, and microgreens. A blob of sour cream is perfecto.
There are some very tempting options at the seed suppliers, but first off, I’m just going to try my own left over seeds. It’s the miser in me. If I can produce a few nice lunches out of those, it’s like something for nothing, and then I can buy new seed this year with a clear conscience.
Don’t Forget! You can also grow sprouted seeds in large jam jars. Just rinse with water and drain twice a day. Couldn’t be easier.
*When a plant germinates, it first produces a pair of ‘seed leaves’. The next set of leaves it produces, however small, are the first ‘true leaves’ and will have the shape of the leaf which characterises that plant.
Acknowledgement: Much of the growing info for Microgreens comes from a site called Vertical Veg. It’s written by a man who grows tons of food in his small back garden in London, I think. Definitely worth a look. www.verticalveg.org.uk