Have you never heard of "microgreens" or know very little about them? You're in the right place! Microgreens, also known as micro-vegetables, are tiny multi-colored seedlings of vegetables and aromatic herbs that are gaining popularity in the world of modern cuisine.
What makes microgreens unique?
These little greens are not only famous for their deliciousness and nutritional properties but also because they are incredibly easy to grow. They are perfect for everyone, whether you have a green thumb or are a complete beginner in gardening. You can cultivate them at any time of the year, wherever you are, and in very little space. In other words, they are the ideal solution for those who love to have a touch of green at home and want the satisfaction of growing something with their own hands in no time.
So, why not start growing your microgreens now? You can enjoy all their benefits and advantages in a short time. It's not just us saying this; science confirms it. Microgreens are considered "superfoods" for many reasons.
What are the benefits and why are microgreens considered a superfood?
Microgreens are considered "superfood" due to their versatility and easy cultivation. This means you can always have a source of healthy and nutritious food on hand, regardless of the availability of fresh products in your area. If you want to improve your diet, microgreens can be an excellent choice for preparing a wide range of dishes, from salads to smoothies, for a fresh and delicious nutrient boost.
The key to microgreens is that they are exclusively consumed raw, and they are often harvested from the tray in which they grow to keep them alive. This preserves bioactive substances that would degrade and preserves enzymes essential for digestion, thus playing a pre-digestive role.
Secondly, they have a high antioxidant power, which helps maintain healthy skin and prevent premature aging. Being young seedlings, they contain higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants compared to mature plants. For example, some types of microgreens can contain up to 40 times more vitamin C than their mature counterparts.
What do microgreens need to grow?
To grow microgreens successfully, there are some essential conditions to meet. In general, these seedlings need only a few tools, some seeds, fertile soil, and a little care and attention. With some patience and practice, you can enjoy a source of fresh and delicious nutrients to enhance your dishes!
Choice of seeds, strictly organic
Most plant seeds used for microgreen cultivation are safe to eat. But if you buy generic "non-specific for microgreen" seeds, choose only organic seeds and avoid those treated with chemicals to prevent consuming plants containing harmful substances. There are also certain species that cannot be used. For example, nightshades like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers are not usually grown as microgreens because they contain toxic alkaloids like solanine.
The substrate used to grow microgreens can vary depending on the farmer's preferences and material availability. However, it is advisable to use an inert material like coconut fiber, perlite, or rock wool. These substrates are very light and suitable for microgreens. You can also use regular potting soil or peat, which are more readily available. If you want to be more sustainable and achieve better results, explore more about coconut fiber.
Selecting the right tools
For the growing base, a perforated tray of approximately 57x35x6 cm or a low, wide container is the best choice to ensure good drainage and prevent seed rot. Alternatively, you can start experimenting with traditional plastic trays containing blueberries, cherry tomatoes, or other small fruits. They work perfectly!
Light, but not direct sunlight
It's essential to expose microgreens to bright but not direct light to avoid burning the delicate leaves. A south-facing window or artificial light can be excellent light sources. Even though they are not mature plants, it's important that after the germination phase, microgreens are exposed to bright but not direct light. Direct sunlight can burn the delicate leaves. A south-facing window or artificial light sources can provide good lighting.
Water, preferably from below
You'll need to keep the soil consistently moist but not drenched. Avoid soaking the seeds and leaves. A useful solution to prevent overwatering the microgreens is to water the soil from the bottom using a perforated tray and a colored tray underneath. This allows the water to penetrate gradually without flooding the seeds and leaves. If you see excess water in the substrate, drain the perforated tray to remove the excess water.
How to grow them?
You don't need extravagant tools or materials to grow microgreens, as you've read, so what are you waiting for? Here are the steps to cultivate your little green beings:
1. Sow: thoroughly cover the soil surface with organic seeds. Water them well, and then you're good to go!
2. Germination: place the tray in a dry and dark place during germination, or better yet, cover it to expedite the germination process and maintain constant humidity and temperature.
3. Transition to light: once you see the first sprouts emerging, move the tray to a bright but not directly sunny spot, and keep it covered to maintain humidity.
4. Maintain moisture: water your microgreens regularly to keep the soil moist but not soaked. Remove the transparent cover once or twice a day to let your plants breathe and avoid mold formation.
5. Wait for growth: in a few days, your microgreens should start growing exponentially. Keep watering them and maintain proper humidity.
6. Harvest your microgreens: once your microgreens have grown enough (5 or 9 cm), you can harvest them with a sharp knife or a pair of scissors. Cut the plants at their base and use them immediately in your cooking, or store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Now, let's move to action and understand how to use microgreens in the kitchen!
- Garnish for cold dishes: They can be used as decoration to enhance the color and flavor of cold dishes.
- In salads: add them to salads to provide higher nutrient content and a more intense flavor.
- In sandwiches and wraps: use them as an alternative to lettuce leaves in sandwiches and wraps for a crisper flavor and texture.
- As ingredients in warm dishes: they are also used in warm dishes like soups and risottos to add a fresh, crisp flavor.
What are the favorites in the kitchen?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as preferences can vary based on personal tastes and nutritional needs. However, some microgreen varieties are particularly popular and appreciated. For example:
- Radish: slightly spicy and crunchy, ideal for adding a touch of freshness to dishes;
- Red cabbage: slightly sweet with high levels of vitamins A and C;
- Celery: crispy texture, perfect for adding a refreshing note to dishes;
- Red swiss chard: sweet and delicate in flavor, with high antioxidants and minerals;
- Watercress: spicy like arugula and works well in salads, sandwiches, and pasta dishes.
In general, microgreens are a healthy and cost-effective choice for increasing the nutritional value of your meals and enhancing their flavor. Furthermore, as they are grown in confined spaces and require minimal water, they are an environmentally friendly and sustainable option. So, we should definitely consider using them more in the kitchen to enjoy their numerous benefits. Rest assured that in no time, you'll enjoy their advantages and delicious, nutritious dishes. Give them a try and let us know how it goes!