Microgreens: Quick Returns on Minimal Space
This time of year commercial growers try to push sales of the last of storage crops like onions, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and winter squash. These sparse offerings of the late season often result in a customer base oversaturated with storage vegetables.
So, how do you set yourself apart and get the most “bang for your buck” at winter markets and wholesale opportunities? One quick and relatively low-labor way to add flavor, color and specialty appeal to your offerings is to plan harvests of microgreens.
Averaging just 11 days to maturity, High Mowing Seeds’ microgreens appeal to the procrastinator in us all. These quick-growing baby greens will re-introduce bountiful color to your market booths. An easy crop to fold into CSA distributions too, these delicate greens are sure to impress.
What are Microgreens?
Microgreens are small, tender greens, usually sown at a high density and harvested when they reach ~2” tall. Originally prized by chefs as a garnish, microgreens have now been widely adopted by markets seeking fresh, nutrient-dense and visually appealing foods.
Why the Hype?
Despite their size and minimal real estate requirements, microgreens pack a nutritional punch. According to the USDA, these “tiny but mighty” plants contain about five times the levels of vitamins as their mature plant counterparts. To consumers fixated on fresh, healthy foods these microgreens sell themselves.
How to Grow
Planning for microgreens is easy for most commercial growers. Unlike high profile annual crops that require extensive planning and long-term care, microgreens can be seeded, harvested, packaged, and distributed all within two weeks’ time.
For planting, use plastic flats with drainage holes in the bottom and fill with potting soil. Broadcast seeds over the soil surface and lightly cover with vermiculite or very fine potting soil.
Keep your trays well watered, but avoid overwatering to prevent rot; watering from below after germination helps discourage fungal growth. This time of year, microgreens grow best in greenhouses with natural light or under grow lights. Soil temperatures for germination range from 55° to 70°. For a mix that will germinate well in low temperatures use mustards, beets, broccoli, chard, cabbage, arugula, and radish.
How and When to Harvest
Once the greens have developed their first true leaves use sharp scissors to clip their stems at the soil line. Microgreens can also be sold as flats for customers to clip just before using. Wash and store refrigerated in plastic bags as soon after harvest as possible. Microgreens are highly perishable and have a refrigerated shelf life of 5-7 days, though they are best fresh.