- by Kathryn Donovan
The thought on everyone’s mind these days at High Mowing is spring, spring, spring! I find it awfully easy to get caught up in garden planning, and the balmy temperatures we had here in the 50’s last week make things seem so close! Every year Mother Nature seems to get us with that trick, so, I hate to remind you that if you live anywhere like where we are, it’s going to still be a couple months before we eat anything out of the field. Go ahead and groan; I just did. But rest-assured, I never would have broached the subject if I didn’t have a solution to suggest:
So, you wonder, what are micro-greens? Aren’t they just sprouts? The main difference is that micro-greens, unlike sprouts, are grown in soil, and they are allowed to mature to the point of having their first “true” leaf. Essentially, if harvested at the ideal time, you will end up with a pile of cute, delicious, mini plants with which you can toss with other greens, eat in a sandwich, garnish your soup or crudités, or just fill up a bowl and toss with a light dressing to enjoy!
I get crazy about micro-greens. I mean, how can you not? They are delicious, packed with nutrients, and cute as a button. Depending on where you decide to grow them and what seeds you choose, they are typically ready in one to two weeks. That’s plenty of time to give them a try before you seed your outdoor greens!
Let’s Grow Some Micro-Greens!
We’ll start with organic Cherry Belle Radish micro-greens because they are fast-growing and bigger, and yield quite a bit. However, you can use many types of seeds. To get some ideas, check out our organic micro-greens page or read on for additional suggestions. I recommend doing three or more varieties, grown in separate trays (because they will grow at different rates), which you can harvest and then mix together. In my opinion, micro-green mixes generally taste and look nicer than one single type.
- Seed starting station like the one Megen Hall built in our January e-newsletter, or something comparable,
- one each of:
- Spread enough moist potting mix in an open flat with drainage to fill it about 1 inch full. With your hands or a board, press gently so you have a smooth surface.
- For this particular case, measure 2-2.5 tablespoons of Cherry Belle Radish seed*. and with a fluid motion, shake it gently to cover the soil surface uniformly. Gently press down evenly again over the surface to embed your seeds in the soil.
- Take paper towels and cover the surface of your flat with a single layer, making sure to get the paper towels into the corners. (This acts as soil would, but has the added benefit of keeping the plants much cleaner, and easier to maintain.) Put the seeded flat into the open flat with no drainage. Water and then cap with a propagation dome, and put them in your seed starting station, preferably on a heat mat.
- Monitor your trays closely. When the paper towel starts to get dry spots, it is time to water again. They should germinate in a few days. When they do, remove them from the heat mat, if you are using one.
- Once the seeds have started to lift the paper towel up off the surface, and when the towel is moist (but not wet) gently check to see if you can pull the towel off without pulling the plants with it. If they come up too, it isn’t quite time. Just tuck them back into the flat and leave them for one more day. Once you remove the towel, watch your micro-greens grow!
- Keep their soil moist, and ensure that they are getting enough light (they can get leggy if they aren’t) and when they have their first true leaf, it is time to harvest. Although, if you just can’t wait, you can harvest them when they only have their cotyledons.
* Keep in mind that the amount of seed needed can vary significantly. For most other brassicas, I would suggest trying 1 tablespoon of seed per flat to start. You want the flats flush with greens, but over-seeding can cause uneven growth and stunted micro-greens. You’ll get a better sense of the amounts you need after you grow a couple flats.
I like to harvest when the soil is moist but the plants aren’t still wet. It is easier to keep a hold on the plants as I cut them this way. To harvest, take your sharp scissors, gently grasp a handful of micro-greens in a corner, and snip them toward the base of the plant, but high enough not to bring soil into the mix. If they are leggy, you will want cut a little higher.
Toss your handfuls into a salad spinner. Cut all varieties that you plan to mix. Fill your salad spinner with water, swish the micro-greens together in the water to mix them, and then spin them dry! Enjoy!
Expand Your Micro-Green Repertoire!
If micro-greens strike your fancy, feel free to get experimental with what you grow. Check out our selection of varieties that are great for organic micro-greens on our website.
Want to try a 5 variety good starter mix? Here is one to get you started. Just seed one tray each of:
- Cherry Belle Radish – provides high yields; a good base to for any micro mix
- Tat Soi – dark green with tiny little round leaves
- Bilko Napa Cabbage – bright chartreuse color that contrasts nicely with the darker green and reds
- Red Giant Mustard – adds some good color and rounds out the flavor
- Red Russian Kale – adds a little bit of light purple, and very fun to find quarter inch kale leaves in your salad
Or, I love to mix any of the following organic micro-greens together, and prefer to stick to brassicas for the most part. The following list offers different colors, weights, textures and tastes. Go for it!