For those of you missing a little growing why not try sowing some Microgreens (also known as Microleaves). Easy as growing Cress on kitchen roll and in a few days you will be just a snip away from punchy little flavoursome shoots. These can be used to garnish soups, salads, sandwiches or top fish, adding colour and flavour to many dishes and giving a top class chefs touch.
Microgreens are not readily available in supermarkets as they lose their flavour and freshness very quickly so are at their best when home-grown, picked and used straight away and so growing indoors in the kitchen is ideal.
Sow one variety per shallow container on kitchen roll and water. Keep seeds and cotton wool moist and after 7-14 days depending on variety, just snip off shoots at base as required when about 2.5-5cm.
Here are 4 of our favourites to sow now:
Radish Rambo Sprouting Seeds - shoots are a lovely rich red colour that will liven up any plate.
Broccoli Sprouting Seeds - has a mild broccoli taste and packed full of vitamins & nutrients.
Red Cabbage Sprouting Seeds - bright red sprout colour with a light cabbage taste.
Amaranth Red Army - intense reddish leaves with cherry pink stems and has a slightly nutty flavour.
We also have our new ‘Microgreens’ Seed Collection Box containing 10 flavourful and colourful varieties that are easy to grow from seed.
Fill seed tray with a mix of seed compost & 1/3 vermiculite as this aids drainage. Sow seeds evenly on surface and then lightly cover with sieved compost/vermiculite mix 3-5mm deep. Place seed tray in a shallow water bath & allow water to soak up. Drain before placing in a heated propagator or heated greenhouse to the temperature advised on the packet.
Careful watering is required as too much will cause the seeds to rot off before germination can begin and too little will mean they will not germinate. Germination can take anything from 10 days to 5 weeks for the Superhots and even the same variety in the same tray can be 2 or more weeks apart. So if some are not as eager as others don’t despair just keep carefully watering and keep in the heated propagator and wait for the more stubborn ones to put in an appearance.
When the seedlings have grown their ‘true leaves’ (these are the second set of leaves to appear) they can be carefully pricked out and transplanted into 9cm individual pots. We like to use a dibber to carefully support the seedling underneath and gently hold it by a leaf.
We plant them deeper than they were in the seed tray as this helps to promote roots to grow further up the stem and give a sturdier plant.
Carefully water and place back in heat and grow on until the plant reaches 8-15cm and re-pot.
The end result.
Our Jalapeno harvest freshly picked ready to be pickled and added to our Mexican dishes!
Brassica plants take a while to grow and it can be heart breaking to see the precious crop you have carefully nurtured gradually wilt from Cabbage Root Fly, or find the leaves stripped or shredded by Cabbage White Butterfly caterpillars overnight.
It is best to take preventive action early and a little time spent initially will save hours in the long run. We use simple biodegradeable Cabbage Root Fly collars around the base of each brassica plant to aid against Cabbage Root Fly and fine netting held up with bamboo canes and rubber ball connectors to prevent Cabbage White Butterflies laying their eggs on the plants. It is easy and cheap to put up and works very well for us.
Left image - shows Cabbage White Butterflies on the underneath of a cabbage leaf.
Top Right Image - Small Cabbage White Butterfly Caterpillars. Small green abour 2cms long.
Bottom Left Image - Large Cabbage White Butterfly Caterpillars. About 4cm long, hairy with yellow & black markings.
The Small variety lays her eggs from Feb-April and again in late summer whereas the Large Variety sows from April to May. So watch out for these little devils as they have most months covered through the growing season.
Cabbage Root Fly..
The flies of Cabbage Root Fly lay their eggs at the base of brassica stems and when the larvae hatch they feast away on the roots. This causes the plant to wilt and eventually die, sometimes in the early stages it can appear the plant is lacking water and it droops but failure to perk up when watered may show it has been eaten away and has nothing to support it in the ground. Unfortunately once wilt has started there is nothing to do but remove plant and put in council bin for them to take away or burn it...
'Prevention is better than cure' so net up your brassicas and pop a collar round their necks, it certainly saves a lot of time and heartache if pests attack.
Lovage is a perennial herb with a punchy, tasty celery flavour. Once a popular herb but has recently fallen out of favour, it is difficult to buy in the shops so really the best way to taste it is to grow your own.
It is a fabulous hardy perennial that dies back in the winter and re-grows the following spring producing young tender fresh leaves that are ready to pick from early-mid Spring! Once established it can grow up to 6ft but can be kept in control by regular cutting back or plant in your garden borders if you have a small herb bed.
Recipe for Lovage & Potato Soup
- Handful of Lovage Leaves chopped
- 2-3 Medium diced Potatoes
- 1 pint of vegetable stock
- Knob of Butter
- 1 Medium Chopped Onion
Melt the butter in a pan and add the onion & gently sautee until soft. Pop in the potatoes and cook for 2 mins, then add the lovage. After 1min add the stock and bring to the boil, then turn down heat and gently simmer for 20mins. Remove from heat and carefully whizz up the soup until smooth with a hand-blender. And it's ready to serve. Garnish with a few slices of lovage or a few bits of crispy bacon!
Top Tip... if you have any spare Pea seeds sow them in a deep seed tray & grow your very own tasty Pea shoots! It's sow easy & you can be picking little green shoots within 3 weeks from sowing they will add that delicious sweet pea flavour to salads, fish or top off soups!
- Use a deep seed tray & place a layer of compost in the bottom.
- Sow Pea seeds evenly & cover with 3cm of compost and water well. We just pop on our greenhouse shelving for a bit of added warmth.
- Germination should begin within a week or so and pea shoots with curly wurly tendrils will be ready to pick in as little as 3 weeks.
The sowing date doesn't matter as you will be picking these little pea shoots whilst young and tender before they mature.