Cultivating these wee plants requires some care and maintenance, but it’s also super fun. Once your bed is buzzing along, you'll have a ready source of nutritious greens that you can use to make elegant and eye-catching salads, omelets, soups, sandwiches, and so much more.
No garden? No problem -- it’s easy to cultivate microgreens indoors, even in small spaces, year-round. Here at ChefSteps, we have a bed of them growing in a back corner of our office! So let’s stop talking and start planting.
Shop for Seeds
First things first, you're gonna want some seeds. Before you purchase anything, figure out whether you want to customize your microgreen bed. You can buy separate varieties and design where each plant will grow or opt for a pre-mixed pack. Research each variety's growth rate, then design your garden with that in mind. You may want to plant greens with similar grow times -- beets, chard, and carrot greens, for example, take the same time to mature -- so that you can create medleys on the plate. But you can also pick plants that have different growth rates, so that you always have some greens at the ready. General guidelines for germination and harvesting aren't hard to come by (we have our own little guide at ChefSteps.com), but the performance of your plants will depend on conditions such as light, temperature, and growing medium. Keep detailed notes, and you’ll become a more effective gardener.
Start with Two Inches of Soil
You can grow microgreens in flat trays, planting pots, egg containers...any number of things will work, as long as you have at least two inches (5 cm) of soil depth to work with.
Optimize your growing environment
You don't want your soil to be dry or wet, rather somewhere in between. If soil feels dry to the touch and plants look less than vibrant, water them. On the other hand, if leaves are yellow, but not limp, you may have overwatered. (But don’t panic -- just hold off on the H2O for a couple days while they recover.) As far as sunlight is concerned, plants need light to survive, of course, but different varieties need different amounts. Like baby humans, baby plants often require additional shading from the sun. We achieve this by placing mesh, such as burlap, over them, and putting them by a window -- you'll find all manner of plant-shading mesh at your local garden store.
When microgreen varieties are growing, we pick whole plants as they look ready, hand-selecting the best ones to use on the plate. You must carefully snip the dirty root bit from the bottom with tiny scissors. This helps to keep old rootstock from taking up too much space in the garden, making room for newbies.
Store for Later
All harvested greens will last longer if stored properly. Keep microgreens between damp paper towels, and make sure they are cold and covered in a resealable bag or container. Wrapped this way, they'll last in the fridge for about a week. Keep greens covered right up until the point when they hit the plate -- this will ensure that they don't wilt or dry out before you serve them.
Oh man, there are so many things to do with microgreens. A salad composed of these little plants is a wonderful first course, and they can add beautiful color and delicate flavor to beautiful entrees, sandwiches, pizzas, and soups. Use your imagination -- and bask in the joy of serving beautiful food you grew yourself!
Get your hands dirty and try out your new skills with our Microgreens weekend project.