Stranded in the home due to lockdown in this time of COVID-19 pandemic with no green leafy vegetables in the kitchen or nearby shop? Thinking of what to cook for tomorrow? Then it’s time to think about Microgreens.
Microgreens also known as micro herbs, vegetable confetti are vegetables harvested when seed-leaves have fully expanded and before true leaves have emerged.
Though the concept of microgreen was first introduced by Californian chefs in the 1980s, they have gained popularity as a new culinary trend over the past few years. Recently it becomes very trending in this period of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The main advantage of microgreen is the quick availability of green leafy vegetables in a short period of time (3- 7days) with limited resources.
Microgreen vegetable cultivation doesn’t need soil, land or any vigorous manual work. You can have healthy organic green leafy vegetables within the comfort of your home itself.
Microgreens are rich in nutrition. As of early 2014, researchers at the USDA Agricultural Research Service have published that microgreens are rich in ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), phylloquinone (vitamin K), and beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor), etc. Other studies also have proven that microgreen have considerably higher levels of vitamins and carotenoids—about five times greater—than their mature plant counterparts.
Microgreens are a good source of minerals like Calcium, Manganese, Selenium, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper, etc. They are a great source of natural antioxidants.
Studies have shown that Microgreens may have a protective role against cardiac diseases, diabetes, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers, etc.
Requirements for Microgreens?
The basic requirements for microgreens are
- A container: You don’t need a new container for starting microgreen. Any container can be used for this, like the food containers we get from restaurants or some unused utensils in our kitchen.
- Seedlings: You can use most of the cereals and legumes as seeds for microgreens. Chickpeas, beans, Green gram, Bengal gram, Spinach, Mustard, Coriander, rice, oats, corn, barley and Wheat, etc. are some of them.
- A medium / Layer: A medium/layer for growing of the microgreens. Using soil as the medium for planting vegetables is the usual method. But for microgreens soil is optional. You can cultivate microgreens with or without soil. We will explain both the options – with soil and without soil.
- Water: For daily irrigation of microgreens.
Preparing the seedlings
As this is just your first attempt with microgreens, let’s start with a small volume. Take about 50-100gms of legumes/cereals of your choice which is easily available for you and keep it soaked overnight (for about 10-12 hours). Make sure to use enough big container and adequate water, so that there won’t be overflow and legumes get completely immersed when they swell up.
Drain the water on next day and transfer the legumes to a dry cloth/tissue paper. Once the legumes start sprouting, they are ready for planting.
Planting without Soil
If not using soil, microgreen can be planted by using cloths, coir husk or even using toilet tissue papers. If you are using cloth as the medium, make sure it’s a loosely woven one, so that the roots of the seedling can penetrate through the cloth.
Fold the cloth into multiple layers (or use multiple layers of tissue paper) so that medium has a thickness of half to one inch. Sprinkle some water over the layering to make the medium moist and then spread the prepared seedlings.
Planting with Soil
If using soil, we need to make small holes in the bottom of the container for the drainage of water. Add soil to the container for about half to one-inch thickness, sprinkle some water and spread the seedlings. Add one more layer of soil over the seedlings so that the seedlings are just covered.
Once planting of the seedlings is done, lightly mist the seeds with water. Cover the container lightly until seeds start growing.
Once the seeds have germinated, remove the covering and keep the container under indirect sunlight, like near to the windowpane. Avoid direct sunlight.
Make sure the medium is always moist. Rinse with water twice daily to keep the moisture content and never allow it to get dried up.
Harvesting of Microgreens
Microgreens can be harvested when they are in two leaves stage usually at 10-12cm size. If you harvest them at this stage, you can even use the roots for cooking. If you are harvesting at later stage, then it’s better to use the portion above roots otherwise it may taste little bitter.